The Reasons Why I Won’t Be Watching 13 Reasons Why

Before I get into it let me say that this is not an argument for or against the series. In fact, because I have not watched (and do not plan to watch), I don’t feel like I have the right to comment on it’s existence a right or wrong thing. I am missing facts, and I know this. 

However, in my quest to determine if I was going to watch it I have read countless articles about the series – recaps, articles arguing for the series, articles against the series, opinion pieces, articles by the author or producers. I have also spoken to many people who have watched it, Lu included. And I have ultimately decided I will not be watching. And here are my reasons why. 

1. I believe it isn’t going to help me heal. My goal for this year is deep healing, and I promised myself I would not consume content that leads in the opposite direction. 

2. It takes place in high school, a time that was really confusing for me.

3. My job does not require me to be informed (if I was a teacher or counselor or someone working with young adults and teens, I’d watch, if only to be better able to discuss it).

4. The explicit and graphic nature of it’s content. I can’t watch most graphic movies or television shows, and this one would be no exception. 

5. The number of suicides and suicide attempts that have affected my life, and the possibility of those being brought up in too much detail into the present time.

6. I am concerned that ultimately the show will reaffirm beliefs I am spending thousands of dollars a year trying to get rid of – and that I am slowly shedding – beliefs that I do not deserve to be heard, that I am not good enough, and that the struggle will never end. I worry Hannah’s struggle would be too relatable. 

I believe that the show has it’s good moments. I believe it highlights a discussion that we desperately need to have. But I will never know if it accomplishes that goal because I am not the right audience. 

And I finally know enough about what I need in order to keep myself safe. And so while I am sure there is much to learn by what it has to offer, I will not be watching. And I am really quite happy with that choice. 

I’m curious if you’ve watched it or plan on watching it? If you have, I would be interested in your reactions. Let me know.

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11 thoughts on “The Reasons Why I Won’t Be Watching 13 Reasons Why

  1. I’ve heard a lot about Thirteen Reasons Why, and none of it has been good. I have DID so I’m not about to put my system through watching something that ignored psychological advice from trained professionals (they had a psych team to advise them and they ignored pretty much everything they told them), and puts a pretty face on trauma and mental illness. I know sure as hell that when we were in high school/secondary school, we were not well at all and the problems we had were left to fester because of the pervasive weird attitudes people seem to have about teenage girls and how they’re supposed to be depressed. We agree with you and also with the above commenters, and we won’t be watching it either. Love, 27 x

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  2. I’m not going to watch either. I’m trying not to watch things I think might be triggering.

    And (not having seen it and knowing I may be off base), I am concerned that the idea that the girl commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes designed to make others feel guilty just feeds into that “they’ll be sorry when I’m gone” thinking that can go with some impulsive suicide attempts. This seems to me like a potentially dangerous idea to spread around.

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  3. I watched it, and my biggest problem with the show (other than it was quite drawn out and at first really poorly acted) was that it really romanticized suicide. It depicted a suicide that was solely based around bullying and being poorly treated in school and by peers (these are absolutely real problems) but never once hinted at any aspect of mental illness. We know that most suicides happen to those with elements of mental disorders, usually depression or bipolar, and we know that those illnesses are treatable. So to leave that out is a terrible thing, in my opinion, and leaves out a very key component in any discussion about suicide and depression. The other thing that really struck me was that there was no aspect at all of any adult or source or support that could have helped any of the kids in the show. Not a single parent, teacher, counselor, hotline….in real life, adolescents absolutely feel and may well be entirely alone, but there are many resources available, including those that are anonymous. I was disappointed that a show like this did not mention let alone detail a single one. Finally, the idea that “getting back” at someone after suicide is a terrible concept that really disturbs me. There were only two lines in the entire series that alluded to Hannah ultimately making her own decision; the entire rest of the series blamed the other people in the film. Now, don’t get me wrong, high school sucks and bullies do terrible damage and peers can be awful, but in the end of the day, a suicide is the individual’s decision and no one else’s. What a terrible message to send to people watching this show, that they can “get back” at anyone who hurt and shamed them by killing themselves and leaving notes or tapes or whatever.

    My opinion: Not a responsible series at all.

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  4. I’m happy for you that you are asserting a boundary and doing what’s best for you. I think I’d do the same if I were you.
    However, I do plan to watch it, as soon as I’m done with my current show, so I’ll probably start it within the next couple of days. Your Point #3 explains why. I have friends in the counseling program who have watched it and read the book and have told me about it. I want to be informed for my clients, if they are concerned because of it. Also, the show, from what I’ve heard, paints counselors in a really, really bad light (in the book, the school doesn’t have a counselor so a teacher has to step into the role, but this isn’t portrayed in the show; it’s just a sucky counselor). So I’m also watching it for professional advocacy reasons.

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  5. Well PD, it’s a wise choice on your part, for the reasons you’ve outlined, I also wouldn’t recommend that you watch this show…

    I’ve watched all of it, a few weeks ago, and have mixed feelings about it. Overall, I didn’t like how the show gives off the message that it’s “ok to blame others” to justify a life-denying decision such as deciding to commit suicide. On the other hand, I think there was some good intention behind the show, that the producers (especially Selena Gomez) made it in order to raise awareness of mental health topics/issues.

    Just my 2 cents.

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  6. I started watching it without really knowing what it was about apart from what was on the netflix intro. I mistakenly thought it might be a sensitive handling of a teen suicide story, without all the overt violence of adult tv shows. That was also before there were a whole lot of news articles about it, and I didn’t read the online synopsis until I was at episode 6 and started to get worried where it was heading. Once I read about how explicit it got toward the end I dropped it like a hot potato.

    The basic premise is also rather unbelievable, that you can somehow influence people or make them sorry after you’re dead. It’s wishful thinking. In my experience, people who bully or abuse or rape you aren’t sorry. They take no responsibility for contributing to your misery or death. They’d be the first ones to say you did it just because you’re a crazy bitch (not my choice of words, but something I’ve heard one time too many from nasty little pricks).

    On the other hand, I don’t really agree with some of the criticisms – I think that the idea that suicide can be the outcome of an accumulation of traumatic experiences is probably closer to the mark than claiming it is all down to ‘mental illness’, I agree that even if your parents aren’t shit you can *feel* isolated enough from them that you can’t really go to them for help, and I also think that one rejection of reaching out for help really can be enough to be the final straw. I do agree with Sirena though that on an emotional level it is a very sanitised portrayal.

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    • I have invested in getting to the end of this show, I have 2 or 3 episodes left. And online there seems to be fantastic reviews, and I just don’t get it!! People who are unhappy enough to genuinely commit suicide don’t generally have the time or mental capacity or need to talk into 13 tapes and produce an elaborate “fuck you” plan to be distributed to all who hurt her feelings. I would argue that you are mentally ill A) if you do plan something like that out and B) Can’t see a way out and need to slit your wrists. If being suicidial isn’t having mental unwellness… then what is?
      The topics this show tackle are very real for teenagers; school is one big shit show that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to repeat. It is brutal. The bullying, the humiliation, the nasty words used and now the social media – 24/7 trolling of each other, I get how that could lead to a teens suicide…. it’s just that this show has dumbed it down, muted the dark side of it all and made it pretty. How is that helpful or relatable? If you’re going to tackle isolation, bullying, slut-shaming, rape and even suicide…. then get real with it. Show it as it is, show how scary and traumatising and terribly lonely it is. Show how little help is out there. Don’t make it pretty, don’t sanitise it, don’t fill it full of pretty little teens, with cute outfits and expensive bedrooms, and nice lives and then throw in a little bit vague bullying and call it a real portrayal.
      For me it just feels like Disney made a film about suicide. Yet others love it, so maybe I’m just dark. But gimmie a netflix show that really shows the grim reality of the spiral down to suicide, gimmie a show that makes me uncomfortable, that isn’t pretty, that makes me squirm in recognition of just how hard it is to be plagued with thoughts of suicide or feeling so alone, of how a mind can be driven to the worst thoughts. That I will watch.
      In the UK this was rated an 18, yet somehow it was clean enough to appeal to a much younger audience. In many ways children of 12-13 could benefit from a lot of it but then it would thow in a curve ball of very adult themes like the rape scene and graphic suicide theme (which is probably why it got the 18 rating) so it just seems like a very confused show which isn’t sure who it wants to appeal to. It’s not deep and real enough to resonate with adults or people who’ve truly experienced mental health issues and it’s not really informative enough to really give people clueless to this side of mental health, a real grounding and understanding and empathy of it. So we are left with kids watching this (many unsupervised) and it all just feels a bit voyeurisitc and empty.
      As you can see from this monlogue, I have strong feelings about this LOL Sorry!

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      • I’ve thought about your (Sirena’s) comment on suicide/mental illness. What you say is exactly right. I guess my gripe with equating suicidality with mental illness is more to do with the construct that’s built around the idea of mental illness in current society – particularly the ideas that it is something external that you ‘get’ and is primarily biological, that particular symptom clusters reliably correlate with specific diagnostic labels and that those diagnoses reliably predict what treatments will work, that there even are ‘right’ treatments at all, and that the responsibility for getting well ultimately rests with the individual, who is (whether people admit it or not) blamed if they don’t get better. Especially in the case of suicidality, this seems to lead to treatments focussed on confinement and drugs and conveniently ignores the need to treat the person holistically and to treat’ the profoundly unhealthy society around the affected person. I get really pissed off when I see announcements that the government is ‘taking suicide seriously’ by putting X amount of funding into short term mental health programs, while suicide helplines are staffed by unpaid volunteers and funded primarily through donations and they’re simultaneously cutting funding to unemployment and sickness benefits, education, public housing, family court and domestic violence services and anti-bullying programs, and cutting sex ed and funding religious pseudo-counsellors in schools instead of funding trained secular counsellors. (I have my own soapbox :p )

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  7. I’m watching it. And I have to tell you… it’s sanitised horseshit. It is mental health, all cleaned up to look pretty; pretty faces, pretty lives with more than a sprinkling of teenage angst and a little bit of bullying. It is not reminiscent of the dark places I went in my mind as a struggling teen or that of many teens who have tremendously difficult lives.

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