“13 Reasons Why” in Real Life.
- **This may contain spoilers***
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already binged or watched most of the new Netflix hit, “13 Reasons Why”. This new show has captivated audiences and centers around a protagonist named Hannah Baker. What you find out at the beginning is Hannah Baker killed herself and the rest of the series is the why. Each episode centers around another person that Hannah credits her suicide. Whether it is the awkward school photographer or the captain of the basketball team, each character, in Hannah’s eyes, gave her a reason to end her life. I won’t continue to delve into for the sake of not giving away too much, but why is a show about a high school student committing suicide a new American craze?
The reason? We can ALL connect with the characters in this show. IF we’re honest, at some points in our lives, we been the bully, the bullied or both.
Think about it, most of you reading this blog have been in a high school atmosphere. We know what it feels like to be bullied. We know what its like to question if the world would be better without us. We also know what it feels like to bully others for the sake of popularity. We know what it feels like to cut other people down to hide our own insecurities. This idea isn’t new but when it is thrown in our face via a new hit television show, we have no choice but to face our own mistakes.
I will be the first to admit. I was the bullied that became the bully. As an affluent, overweight kid that dressed incredibly awkward, I can still remember what it felt like to be called “Baby Buddha”, “Big Blob of Gold”…and the list goes on. I can remember crying my eyes one Halloween because my glasses kept fogging up. I remember all of that…and that was only in elementary and middle school. Everything changed when high school came into the picture.
As a Jr. High and High School student, I remember turning into the bully. Relentlessly picking on the kids that were different. The kids, much like Hannah Baker, who saw life differently and were sacrificed to the great gods of popularity. I remember being on a hit list, #2 in fact, and not thinking twice about it. In fact, I bragged about it as if it were going to give me more street cred in my private school. Hell, we even had a list very similar to that found in 13 Reasons Why.
Looking back now, I see how awful I was. I see how incredibly hurt I made people feel. And as I watched “13 Reasons Why”, it all hit me at once. The parties, the drunk athletes, the girls, the idiotic things high school students do, I did. At any point the in the show, you could’ve placed me there, and it would’ve been an almost perfect fit. At times, I would’ve been Clay, at other times, Jeff, and even worse yet, Justin. Could I have been Bryce? Absolutely. And that’s not easy to say at all. I chalked it all up to part of the high school experience, but looking back now, that wasn’t the case. I was just never held responsible for the things I said or did. I could hide it pretty well.
BUT this post isn’t necessarily about me or how much of a douche bag I was in high school. It is about the fact that even through these fictional characters, we can see and address a very serious problem in the USA today. Students deciding to kill themselves because they been bullied one too many times.
I think one of the most powerful quotes of the show is when Hannah decides to walk out of the school for the last time, the same she took her own life and she says:
“Some of you cared. None of you cared enough.”
Just this past week, I read a story of how a kid killed himself because of a social media prank. Not just any kid, an 11-year old. What? 11 years old. Let that sink in.
At some point, we must not only continue care, but care more than just talking about it. We can no longer chalk it up to “High school is hell for everyone” because that is continue to dismiss the feelings of those considering suicide. We can all continue to blame technology, other people, or the culture for youth suicide, or we can start bigger conversations about how to make every kid feel he or she is valued.
Some will say bullying will always exist and that may in part be true. BUT, that doesn’t mean we can’t start teaching kids that every person is just as good as the next. We can teach them that every life is valuable. We can teach them that words are powerful and can be either used as an encouragement or a weapon. We can teach them to stick up for those that are different, better yet, to befriend them.
And for the guys, we can teach them about consent. If you’ve seen the show, you know why I’m saying this. We can teach the guys, starting at an early age, to respect women. We can teach them that no means no. We can teach them that the way to get a woman in bed is to do so after putting in the hard work of dating and marriage…not after they have passed out at a party.
I don’t have kids yet, but I can promise you that I will do my very best to instill human decency into them. I will teach them to value life, diversity, and love. I will teach them that sometimes people are just down right mean for no good reason but to attempt lift themselves up. I will try my damnedest to teach them not to be the teenager I was.
Are we all attempting to do that, or are we just saying it is all part of the experience? If that’s the experience, then for the sake of the next youth suicide, we need to change it.
We need to no longer just care about our youth, we need to care enough to listen to them. Listen to their hurts. Listen to their pain because believe me, it is there. We need to care enough to show their worth and value.
Let this not be just another television show that we all binge. Connect with it and let it change you. We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced “13 Reasons Why” in real life.