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franciscanheart

13 Reasons Why (or why not)

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franciscanheart

Has anyone watched the new Netflix series "13 Reasons Why"? Did you like it? Do you find it valuable / useful / helpful? Would you recommend someone else watching it? Would you include any caveats? Why or why not?

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Nihil Obstat

I watched it and found it extremely valuable. I would recommend it to adults or to older teenagers with parental involvement, and with the caveat that it is a show meant to be discussed, not simply consumed alone. I think also many parents of young people could benefit from watching it and reflecting on some of the themes.

It is a show that should open up discussion. It is a starting point to something more important than a Netflix show.

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PhuturePriest

I watched it and enjoyed it. While I can sort of see why some would object, I don't think the show ultimately treats suicide as revenge but rather as something which is seen as a last and only option.

It definitely touched on a lot of very important topics that need to be discussed. What struck me most of all was the really deep effect sharing compromising photos can have on a person, and the simultaneous relaxed approach that the matter can be treated with by unthinking peers. Sharing those images around is sometimes just seen as something entirely normal, even when access to those photos wasn't consented to. It's almost as if there's a mentality of "It's available, therefore I have a right to see it." I remember that type of mentality vividly when such pictures of famous actresses were shared across the internet and they exploded with millions of views.

I concur with Nihil in that I would recommend it for the sake of wider discussion.

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Nihil Obstat

Before the topic comes up, I have access to an academic review on the subject of suicide clusters specifically relating to portrayal of suicide in fictional media as opposed to the more widely studied effects of non fictional reporting.

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beatitude

Until recently I worked in a child and adolescent psychiatric ward. Staff there had concerns about this series, as some of the young people in our care (teenagers with very high levels of need - it's a secure ward) developed quite a morbid fascination with it. As Nihil says, it's something to be discussed rather than watched solo, and I don't think it's a good idea for young people who are actively feeling suicidal to see it - it's better for raising awareness among people who aren't unwell in this way.

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Nihil Obstat

One of the major themes I found in that show was that so much could have been avoided if young people and their parents set aside their pre-conceived narratives for a moment and established mutual trust with each other, met each other on the same level, and actually talked about the issues they were dealing with. There were so many times in the show where characters like Clay or Hannah were desperate for help from their parents, in a sense they are calling out for help, but at the same time they do not know how to ask for it, and they push it away when it was offered. On the parents' side, they were not asking the right questions and not listening to the answers they got.

There was that scene where Hannah was practically begging her parents not to let her go to some party, because it was late and she had homework, but they just told her essentially to relax and go out and have fun with her friends. Or how many times did Clay's parents ask him how well he knew Hannah? But even admitting that he was close to her was, for some reason that does not even make sense in the mind of a teenage boy, too difficult for him.

Here was another interesting thing I noticed. The parents and teachers and school administrators spent the entire show talking about "bullying", bullying prevention, cyberbullying, etc. "Was Hannah being bullied at school?" Just about all they talked about. Do you know how many times the kids used the word bullying? Not once. It was a massive failure of communication.

Ultimately, everyone screwed up and should have done better. That is why I think it is a rather shallow critique to say that the show glamourized or romanticized Hannah's suicide. The moment you look just a bit harder, you can see that she screwed up just as badly as anyone. She let down a lot of people, and a lot of people let her down too. In a better world, there would be enough layers of support that when a failure occurs on one side, another can pick up the slack. When Hannah met with the guidance counselor right at the end, the whole time she was looking for an excuse to back out, give up, run away. She asked him for help, but she still wanted to run. When she did run, that was a failure on her part. But it was a failure on his part for not stopping her, not listening, not giving her the support she needed. Her tapes may have been cathartic for her, but they were also an exercise in selfishness. If everything on her tapes had come out before she killed herself, it would be a very different story. 

Romans 3:10-12

Thus, it is written, There is not an innocent man among them, no, not one.
There is nobody who reflects, and searches for God;
all alike are on the wrong course, all are wasted lives; not one of them acts honourably, no, not one.

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franciscanheart

@beatitude, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think anyone in the medical community believes people with suicidal ideation are selfish for having those feelings, as you seem to suggest Nihil.

Having known several people who have taken their own lives, I do not believe any one of them was selfish in that moment of despair.

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Nihil Obstat

That was really not what I was getting at.

Edited by Nihil Obstat

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Nihil Obstat

What I was getting at is that Hannah is not perfect, nor is she portrayed as such. She made mistakes, she bears some responsibility for what happened, as does everyone else. Not necessarily equal responsibility. Her suicide is not portrayed as a 'right' action, nor as a glamorous or romantic one. It is the culmination of failures and injustice and omissions on everyone's part. "We all killed Hannah Baker". Including Hannah Baker.

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PhuturePriest
3 hours ago, Nihil Obstat said:

What I was getting at is that Hannah is not perfect, nor is she portrayed as such. She made mistakes, she bears some responsibility for what happened, as does everyone else. Not necessarily equal responsibility. Her suicide is not portrayed as a 'right' action, nor as a glamorous or romantic one. It is the culmination of failures and injustice and omissions on everyone's part. "We all killed Hannah Baker". Including Hannah Baker.

It bears noting that even the author of the book in a documentary about the series said Hannah didn't do everything right and that she bears some responsibility.

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Nihil Obstat
3 hours ago, PhuturePriest said:

It bears noting that even the author of the book in a documentary about the series said Hannah didn't do everything right and that she bears some responsibility.

I am also thinking of the interviews with Selena Gomez and some of the other creators of the show in that extra Netflix episode, they were very much of the same mindset.

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beatitude

I didn't read Nihil's post as accusing suicide victims of being selfish. But Nihil, your analysis does highlight one of the other reasons why staff at our hospital were concerned about the show - in reality, people don't compile a bunch of different elaborate tapes before going off to kill themselves. If they were capable of doing that they would be capable of reaching out for help. And by the time teenagers were brought into our care, often following serious suicide attempts, they were mostly long past the point where they could ask for help. A simple question such as, "Are you feeling OK?" wasn't simple to them. They often couldn't put what they were feeling into words - many struggled even to identify their emotions, and just let them build up until the point where they became unbearable - and part of their recovery was all about learning how to notice what they were feeling and to express it in a healthy way. Not all teenagers who take their own lives are like them, of course, but kids in the psychiatric system are more representative than the character of Hannah. I still think people could learn useful things from this show, but it shouldn't be viewed as an exact literal portrayal of a typical suicide victim.

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Nihil Obstat

Yeah, there certainly seemed to be a bit of suspension of disbelief for the sake of literary effect. I mean, we do not know exactly how long the tapes were supposed to be, but 13 tapes could easily be six hours of recording time, so our timeline seems a little bit strained there. And I believe we are told explicitly that she did not prepare them in advance. My own reflection implies to me that your average suicidal teenager would not reflect in depth on her life for half a day or longer, and then still kill herself.

On the other hand, my understanding is that there is usually a strong feeling of desperation, being trapped, simply not having options. I think that was portrayed very well. I certainly got that sense from her character. I just think that many hours of running around town recording elaborate tapes strains credulity a little bit. :P 

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franciscanheart

I'm sorry I misinterpreted your post, @Nihil Obstat. It was likely a reaction to the word itself than the context in which you used it. I'm so used to reading about how selfish suicide is that I clearly couldn't see beyond the assumed implication.

Here's the thing: I haven't watched it. I haven't read the book. Having experienced suicidal ideation, having lost a number of people to suicide, I heeded the warning not to watch. I ask this question mostly because I figured some of you here may have watched it and could help me to know just how bad (or not bad) it would be to sit through.

I think your analysis has helped settle my nerves a bit in that regard. I guess my answer is to proceed with caution.

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Nihil Obstat

Changing gears for a moment: first of all, season two is confirmed. Second, and related, thoughts on the character of Tyler? I think it would be a really interesting/challenging/valuable endeavour for season two to deal with themes surrounding a school shooting, because to me it is obvious that Tyler was planning, or close to planning, a school shooting.

Franciscanheart, to be more specific, there are a handful of scenes that will be very upsetting to someone with sexual assault in their past, or someone with trauma relating to suicide. They will warn you before three episodes. I found all three scenes, but one in particular, to be incredibly difficult to watch, and I have not dealt personally with those things. But that was also the point, those scenes were meant to be hard to watch.

So yeah, I think it is fair to say proceed with caution. You can always stop watching, or at least take a break. Even though, being a thoroughly modern, Netflix original, it was clearly designed with the assumption that it will be watched in one or two sittings.

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dUSt

My daughter watched it and told me it is not a good show to watch for people who may have suicidal thoughts. 

Also, God is completely absent from this show.

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Nihil Obstat
2 minutes ago, dUSt said:

My daughter watched it and told me it is not a good show to watch for people who may have suicidal thoughts. 

Also, God is completely absent from this show.

Frankly I am hesitant to say that minors should watch it at all. If they do, I think it should be with a parent and with quite a lot of accompanying discussion.

Yes, God is really not in the show at all. It is unfortunate. To some extent it is also an accurate portrayal of current teen culture.

If I remember correctly, not that it matters directly, the author is a liberal Anglican or Episcopalian.

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hotpink

I'm on the fence.  I agree with the summation that 100% this is not for minors.  NOPE.  For college students in the right context? Mayyyyyybeeeee.    Where I think it's only value lies is for parents of pre-teens, school admins and others who have power over kid's lives.

What I advocate for is access to resources.  While this show lacked God, it also lacked any help for the hurting.  It didn't offer any solutions.  It didn't counterbalance any of her points with the help available.  I would call it a "useful fail"

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Nihil Obstat
2 hours ago, hotpink said:

.

What I advocate for is access to resources.  While this show lacked God, it also lacked any help for the hurting.  It didn't offer any solutions.  It didn't counterbalance any of her points with the help available.  I would call it a "useful fail"

Well I mean, it was not an extended PSA about suicide. The actors are not suddenly going to stop and say "if you need help, call this suicide hotline." I think it is the nature of a dramatic piece like this, if you want to find that message you have to be able to interpret. But I think it was there, if you do put in that effort to see it.

Basically I think the nature of the medium lent itself to interpretation, not something more in your face.

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hotpink
1 hour ago, Nihil Obstat said:

Well I mean, it was not an extended PSA about suicide. The actors are not suddenly going to stop and say "if you need help, call this suicide hotline." I think it is the nature of a dramatic piece like this, if you want to find that message you have to be able to interpret. But I think it was there, if you do put in that effort to see it.

Basically I think the nature of the medium lent itself to interpretation, not something more in your face.

There's ways to do this today that are unobtrusive.  Pop-up ad type devices, links and numbers displayed like product placements, integrated ads with help information.

It was created to bring awareness, and it failed at that.  It did end up being a drama, but drama without meaning is just candy.

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