Why “13 Reasons Why” Is Important

13

In the fine arts we are encouraged to go big with our ideas, to allow emphasis on the issue, the illusion, the piece of art being presented on the stage. The purpose is designed to get the point across to the audience, or keep them engaged. The true compliment to an artwork, no matter the venue, is that people continue the discussion beyond the actual event.

Watching 13 Reasons Why, a controversial Netflix series really blew my mind. I felt like I was back in my high school again, experiencing the turmoil that a teenager goes through trying to adjust, fit in, survive the utter chaos of peer rejection and acceptance, all in the same day, every day.

About half way through the series, episode 6, or tape 3 I was riveted to every moment. Watching Clay struggle with the reality of losing his friend was compelling. I watched the behavior of his circle of people, I won’t call them friends, because so often in this period of a teenager’s life it is difficult to define who a true friend is. 13 did an excellent job exploring that aspect of high school.

I felt like I was the student in the room, experiencing the pain that comes with pressure and bullying. While the world goes on around a teenager, their internal struggle is never really revealed, and 13 explored that well enough to suggest this is real behavior. I thought all the characters fit the proper stereotypes.

The parents of each character as they unfolded in the show seemed normal. What I mean is they depicted the dysfunction of raising a family, holding a job, keeping up with or losing touch with their responsibility. I think the relationship that tore me up the most was Justin and his mom, I felt his pain as he leaned against the wall and she closed the door on their communication.

The administrators of the school seemed effectively overwhelmed by their task. There was the initial counselor who basically didn’t get tenure and then the new guy came in and gradually established their grounding as a central figure. In the end, it was clear things were beyond his control. Imagine the guilt we feel as teachers when we realize we missed something, that if we had just … we can settle behind the reality that our role in the classroom is to deliver our curriculum. Clearly that was demonstrated in 13 Reasons Why, but at the same time, we could recognize the vulnerability that children experienced around adults that were not involved. Or, if they were, they didn’t have a clue.

As I suggested in the beginning, in order to keep an audience, a piece has to have big moments. In television plot lines are imperative, and this is where I began to lose my direct connection to the characters in 13. Everything that could possibly happen, did, all impacting this small group of peers. Why such a micro-managed focus on the energy of a typical high school? Because the ability to attach pain and suffering to familiar characters helps get the point across to the audience.

If we accepted our buy in to the characters then everything they went through was plausible. Much like the movie Crash years ago where a diverse populace all experienced tragedies and successes within a literal block of L.A., though perhaps not possible, the experience the characters endured was certainly believable in the right context.

In 13, the key to this story is they deal with every aspect of being a teenager – confusion with sexual identity, clear cognizance of sexual preference and the societal scrutiny, the lifestyle of a jock, of a nerd, a geek, an outlier, a weirdo, In every aspect of student or teenager, the experiences seemed real and tragic.

What is an important takeaway is to recognize the behaviors demonstrated throughout this series were pretty spot on for the most part. The story line of the tapes could actually happen, though the possibility of getting through a dozen involved students probably not likely. But, they all maintained their characters with a haunting consistency.

Finally, let’s not forget this is about suicide, and the helplessness that everyone feels with a loss they believe they are responsible for. Even though in the real world we always blame the person who takes their own life. The movie itself defined the act as weak. I found it interesting that the young woman who revealed her cuttings on her arms, suggested she was doing it right, that suicide is a cop out. I’ve worked with cutters in my hospital work, and there was always a distinction between real and attention seeking, vertical and horizontal cuts as so eerily demonstrated in the series.

13 might be perceived as a segment of peers in a typical high school all being responsible for Hannah’s death, but if that is a takeaway, it is possibly wrong. It really is the remarkable telling of a young person’s struggle to define themselves while walking through life in a world of hurt, and having the fortune to play out the process with direct and frightening evidence, ironically replayed in cassettes with haunting truth.

I believe this series, beyond the embellishment and soap opera moments, is vitally important, certainly not for the eyes of children under 12 – not yet, even though we think they’re ready. It is a wonderfully tragic piece to create healthy dialogue, whether the characters are realistic or not. I was moved.

Rules of Tragedy

‘I will light you up!’

( the death of Sandra Bland )

~

What harms your world designs mine

I react when I can see your life unraveling

before my eyes, while listening, hearing about travesty.

I too have inconsolable outcomes

to the unnerving reality of that which we all must endure,

without ever being given a rational reason.

We can all remember that time,

life changed at the drop of a dime,

and all we believed was suddenly placed into question.

We got past it, and moved on,

didn’t even imagine that in the

immediacy.

Yet we all do go forward,

early on the minutes slowly emanate hours,

to next mornings,

following later on, weeks ago,

and years go by,

yet memory remains,

far too many minds are left still winding the clock

trying to find where the seconds before suddenly

turned upside down until there simply was no telling

how ludicrous this loss, this happening, this life changing

travesty would befall our simple, safe, and seemingly

private lives.

Are we so capable to know

that what it is out there that designs our daily motives

will truly be waiting for us

later on or shan’t we be compelled

to strive beyond that which we can be decisive.

Suppose we wish not go there,

that path of optimism or in some eyes,

forced acceptance of cynicism.

Once when the local cynic was cool,

we all laughed, rolled our eyes and went on

about how clever,

how outstanding their insight,

how entertaining …

Yet waking up this morning,

the news left my eyes pouring.

Control, Control!

I can hear the mid-shipman

making the demand

we need to communicate

where is control?

Could you imagine

the guy on the other end

just sitting back with a smile

listening to the squawk

Have we all had a moment

where rather than concede

we held on til the final

scream merited our appearance.

I want to say I love you

with all my heart and soul

but opportunity to value

our courtship seems flawed.

I sit in complete darkness

looking feverish for some

indicator, some symbol

of truth that lights my way.

Today, while I struggled

you kept going forward

I envied your resilience

wished my envy were denied.

Somehow is it more I want

that need for control. Control

what ye may, for some time,

ye might find they’ve all gone away.

When Control Steps Away

The sunset looks marvelous
Activities seem attainable
Love is in the air
Without disturbing your peace of mind
We all know love
That feeling of release
Unbridled response to the moment
Shedding all fears
The mystique drives our passion
Yet
In a moment
We might lose that notion
To feel alive
To want to react, grab onto the essence
With a playful coyness that suggests
Human desire
What aspect of inhibition
Might describe your desire to let go
Of personal passions
And allow mechanics to again
Step inside your dreams