Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Response To The Netflix Series, Thirteen Reasons Why

WARNING: There is a lot in here that is very personal. I have debated not posting it, but I think this topic really needs to be discussed. I think that holding back, and not sharing my story because I am afraid of what people will think is silly. So I am taking the risk. Please do not attack my opinions, or anyone else’s opinions for that matter. If you disagree with me, that is 100% okay. If you feel the need to comment, make sure that you are setting up a constructive conversation.

Perhaps I am just too old now for shows like this. Maybe my high school experience was just far too different to relate. Or maybe my feelings about suicide are just too extreme for me to look past. But I had some issues with this show.

Now, don’t get me wrong. High school was NOT a cakewalk for me.

I got into various really crappy situations with friends and boyfriends, my grandfather committed suicide, a friend from school committed suicide, my parents got divorced, we had to put down my favorite dog, I developed major trust issues, I was wicked depressed and had problems with anxiety, I had many suicidal thoughts, and so on, and so on.

I was in a very dark place. But I hid it. I hid it from my friends, from my teachers, from my doctors, and from my family. I told one person in high school, and they turned around and threw it in my face.

It really didn’t seem to help that our school was so tiny; 82 kids for the entire K-12 school when I was a senior. So everyone pretty much knew everything about each other. Didn’t like a person? Too bad, you were stuck in the same classes and after school activities with them. I used to think that this made me a stronger person because it forced me to work things out with people and then move on. After leaving high school and going out into the “real world” I realized that it was actually a disservice. I kept a lot of really toxic people in my life because of this mindset.

When I hit an all time low, I absolutely terrified myself. Finally, I did the one thing that was luckily a gut-instinct to me: I talked to my mom.

Please, if you are struggling with depression, reach out to someone. Whether that someone is a loved one, a counselor, a stranger on the internet (seriously, feel free to reach out to me!), or a hotline. Just talk to somebody. I know, I know. It’s so much easier said than done. But I can personally tell you that it really does get easier to talk about the second you make the first comment. And you don’t even need to TALK. Write a note and hand it to someone you trust. Write an email. Don’t wait until things get worse. Just please reach out.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255

Thirteen Reasons Why- The Netflix Series

I first heard about this show from fellow book bloggers that had read the book and couldn’t wait to watch the adaptation. But when I learned about the main topic of the show, I thought that I probably wouldn’t watch.

However, after the show aired, I saw the huge boom of discussion from various people and sources. It was very obvious that two sides were forming; one side saying that this show is important to watch, and the other warning people to avoid it. This had me very intrigued to see which side I would fall on if I watched. I finally caved and watched the whole series.

Needless to say, my feelings are complicated.

Let’s start with what I personally liked:

I thought that the characters were wonderful. Whether they played a “good” or “bad” person, I thought each of the actors did really well portraying their character.

The flow of the storyline was well done. I liked that each episode centered on one of the tapes. I also liked that it moved back and forth from present day and the past to help the viewer really get to know the characters and understand the situation.

I really appreciated the underlying message to be kind. I would certainly hope that any teen watching this would walk away with that message.

I thought that a lot of this was so realistic, and I really appreciated that factor. Though of course, some was a bit too dramatic where it wasn’t necessary.

I felt that the rape scenes were incredibly well done. Yes, they were hard to watch, but they absolutely should be hard to watch.

My problem with the show:

I definitely had a number of issues with this show. But I have decided that I don’t even want to bother with all of the little things because they all seem so pointless compared to my main issue.

My main issue is simply how this show handled the topic of suicide.

I know the producers of this show worked with a number of specialists. But the way it was portrayed just will not sit well with me.

Right from episode one, when the first mention of blaming someone for her suicide was mentioned, I was set off. I know she’s a teen. Teenagers are angsty and dramatic. But even so, I didn’t like the blame game.

This is going to ruffle a lot of people’s feathers, and please do not tell me that I am wrong, or try to convince me otherwise. I felt this way before anyone I knew committed suicide. I felt this way when a loved one committed suicide. I felt this way when hit rock bottom. And I still feel this way today. I understand that others disagree, that others have mixed feelings, and that is totally fine. I can see the way that other people think and feel about suicide. I can empathize with various viewpoints. But I personally feel that suicide is the most selfish thing that a person can ever do. Yes, there are a number of things that can push someone in that direction. But no matter what, I do not believe that you can ever blame someone for another person's suicide.

But most importantly, it really does not sit well with me that the show didn’t throw in resources for help. That is partially why you see the prevention hotline included in various places in this post. Yes, I know the show put a warning before the episodes that included rape scenes. But I really feel that there should have been bits at the beginning and end of each episode that gave viewers resources for depression, self harm, and bullying.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255

My final thoughts:
For as many issues that I had with this show, I think there was also a lot of really important features as well.

I really hope that this show will result in some great discussion between parents and teenagers, teachers and students, and whatever other combo it could reach out to.

I would recommend giving it a try if you are debating whether or not to watch. Though I would also keep in mind that there are some rough topics included that may not be suitable for many individuals; bullying, underage drinking, sexual assault, rape, depression, suicide, etc.

I would also urge any parent reading this to watch the show with your teenagers if they are interested in watching it. I say this, because thinking back to where my head was when I as a teen, I don’t think I would have reacted to this show very well.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255

Thanks for reading!


  1. Really great discussion, Erica. I haven't seen this show or read the book, but after seeing the ads first appearing, as someone who also has been having problems with depression, I had major concerns, particularly as it does appear to be targeting the teenage audience. People can just internalise so much, it really is difficult to take that first step in reaching out to talk to someone, and teenagers with mental illness are particularly vulnerable. Thanks for sharing your story and your thoughts on this show.

  2. Erica, I love your thoughts on this. I struggle with depression even as an adult, and I have serious mixed feelings on this book/show. I appreciate the help resources includes here, and they should have been includes in the show. While I understand the position that suicide is selfish, I can't help but disagree with that. I hit rock bottom in my depression when I had an argument with my husband, it was witnessed by my sisters, and the whole thing spiraled out of control. I still have not forgiven them for what they did that night, though my husband and I have spoken since and obviously come to terms with one another. My sisters took my car (my personal property which I bought and paid for out of my own funds), citing I was too hysterical to drive anywhere, even if my only intent to drive was 24 hours from the time all this was happening. They then took my dogs away from my home forcibly, saying they did not need to be around this. I was hysterical, but only because they escalated it to that point. Now, this is only one part of the story, and certainly not the whole background, so there should not be judgement made from these comments on any actions of that night. But when they took my things and my dogs, who are my children and calm me in situations like this, they took away things that were important to me. I was starting a new job the next day, and needed my vehicle for transportation. They took my dogs, who help level my mood. And my husband let them. So in that moment I was stolen from and betrayed by people I should be able to trust with my very life. My choices were taken from me. I felt as if I had no reason to live. Everything i cared about was blown out of the water in minutes. I truly wanted to die. I marched out back to the railroad tracks, and I waited to be hit by a train. The only thing that brought me off of them was my husband begging forgiveness for what he had just dine and allowed to happen and him agreeing to drive to my parents house immediately, where my sister's had taken the dogs (because at 30 and 40 they still have no jobs and live at home with my parents), and take them to a place I deemed more acceptable. Maybe it was selfish of me to be willing to accept death on my own terms at that moment. I felt I had nothing left, no one who cared, no choices, and it is the absolute worst I have ever been in my life. I saw no reason to live when those things, those acts, had been perpetrated against me. I talk with my sister's now but only just barely. My relationship with my husband has forever changed. Yes, I learned to set boundaries with family. I learned that even family can be toxic and May need to be shut off from your life. But the experience broke me in a way I did not know I could be broken, and I still don't know if I am better for it. I don't know if it made me stronger. I regret, and I hurt. I am still alive, but to what end I sometimes wonder. Is the "greater good", the hope that I may be impacting someone's life inadvertently or in some way I am unaware of, enough to keep me going? I guess it will have to be, if I can't follow through on suicide.

  3. I love this post. I've been wanting to write something similar but without having any experience it didn't feel right to talk about it like that. I've read the book a couple of times both times really enjoying it's honesty. I haven't watched the series because I refuse to watch something that makes suicide into a tv drama. Since seeing some of the nasty things about the representation in the show I realised the book was super dodgy too. I hate the blame Hannah puts on people. Imagine having that. I hated that she put Clay through all that for him to have not really done anything at all. Most of all, I hate how people are making memes out of it and jokes. I'm a teen and I have a lot of friends who love the show but I don't think that's they way suicide should be represented to us. I can't imagine how someone with these experiences would feel watching this and seeing it being made into a joke.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! If you end up writing a post about your thoughts, I'd love to read it!