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.

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Public Reaction ( a prayer for Bruce Jenner )

jenner

I don’t understand you,

so rather than try,

I will do my best to desecrate you,

I hope you can respect why.

When I can walk away from truth

I find it far easier to be freely uncouth

I’ll criticize the color of your eyes

if then general masses consider me wise.

I’m not troubled by this at all

I think a lot of people seem to be

getting all over the reality of your fall,

seems they think that life’s rewards come free.

Yet we haven’t really watched you,

beside a paparazzi trail of blood

they’ll trap you right out of the blue,

take no prisoners, one dead, one beloved.

We live in constant scrutiny by our peers,

a society that learns to hide their tears,

I cannot imagine any other way,

I was taught to be critical with dismay.

whenever I cannot understand some event

I will always seek a way I might secure,

my own ability to openly and gaily resent,

the fact that anyone might desecrate the pure.

I remember you as a champion, broke records, a winner.

Today, crumble barriers, run forward, Bruce Jenner

Marital Bliss is on Equal Ground

Tonight our world will ring a new bell

A notion we have intimately embraced

Tonight is the wealth of our predecessors

Everlasting faith and will to believe; to live

~

We are human

We are real

We stand tonight

We are surreal

~

In the lovely arms of equality

Life has been patiently moving forward

Suggesting who we are may be acknowledged

We are progressive in the eyes of the law

~

And you are my partner

And I am your lover

And now ours is forever

And we are together

~

The world will hold court today

We watch hands held together

At the strike of a twilight hour

In that first minute change is real

~

For even in our childhood when love

Seemed only generated by family

As we grew old and shed innocence

There arose a new confidence in love

~

Tested in our every walk of life

Tested by our friends and family

Tested by our will to understand

Tested and passed when love …

~

Watch close, we reference the human condition

Society has challenged itself to be the agent

Creates a new path that everyone in His eyes

Evolve with deeper, heartfelt, delicious love

Yesterday (Today)

I began my day hiding

Typical drill

Waiting for nothing to change

Unusual peace

Just out of reach

Every day my mind

Would react to a world

Out of sync

With my reality

We were wistful

In our love

We would whistle

Lovely whispers

We will win

Private hugs

Today

I stood outside

Smiled

Rejoiced in your arms

Together our eyes

Would appear beautiful

In such Grace

Quiet solace

Delight, Elegance, Passion

In our reality

We are wistful

Our love speaks

Whispers of love

Audible praise

We win with

Real love, law love

Tomorrow all of our discreet yesterdays

Begin to make allowances within our virtues.

I decided

A moment ago

I was a child

Playing in dirt outside

Until a scrape

A pebble created a blister

And now my knee hurts.

With the little red mark

The fragment of stone

Dug into my skin briefly

Enough to help me

Let me recognize

There is a feeling of pain

That exists when we move

~

Uncharted waters

Bring certain adventure

A storied once recognized

Journey respects change.

And today I traveled

Among peer and adult

With a new agenda

We would hope respect

Relies responsibility.

What question might infer

That you think me alright

About such sudden alteration?

~

The world knows me

As something defined today

No speculation

Simply circumstantial

Evidence to indicate

My psyche just entered

New waters

Mixed emotions

Frail reactions

Angry notions

Quiet disparity

That would allow

Anyone

My neighbor

Locker peer

Health class hitchhiker

To destroy our weak bond

~

Being needy I would advise

Your life be simply more wise.

Bully

I don’t like you

You scare me

When you look happy

I feel threatened

I don’t care about you

Just give me attention

When I hate you

People think I am happy

You understand right?

When I slap you it matters

You’re my investment

I have to hurt you …

So I, uh, well I’m not ready

I won’t apologize

For living this way

Not caring about you

I mean

I don’t know how to

Any more

Than you know how to

Prevent me from

Treating you like a

Discard

Discord

Distance

Dis me

And I will slap you …

People watching

Need to know

I won’t back down

Until you are crying

Until you recognize

The lies that you believe

Are simply the

Why

The why

The lie is why

I want to feel strong

People like me

People choose me

I’m a safe bet

I’m an American boy