"13 Reasons Why" - glamorizing suicide or bringing awareness?

I binged it in two days. One night, I just didn't even bother to sleep. Whenever you have sensitive topics such as suicide and rape, told by teenagers, its bound to be coated in layers of controversy. I see schools putting up trigger signs and warning parents. I see people criticizing the subject matter and the way it was portrayed. I haven't read Jay Asher's book. I've seen it on Goodreads and Amazon with excellent reviews, but my interest in Young Adult genre at the time was specific to medieval fantasy, science fiction & dystopia. I guess I just wasn't attracted to real-life, sensitive topics. With all that said, I'm no longer interested in just...escaping.

The buzz over 13 Reasons Why is REAL. I can't remember last time I saw something that was on exact same spectrum of love & hate. And I'm right there with it: I love it...and I hate it at the same time.

If you haven't seen the show, beware: this post will be spoiler heavy

Before I express my thoughts on a show about suicide, here are some real facts about suicide:
*38,000 people die of suicide every year in US. 
*Depression is the leading cause.
*80 to 90% of people who sought treatment are treated successfully. (This number is HUGE and telling of how important mental health and available resources are.)
*More males commit suicide while more females experience suicidal thoughts and episodes.
*Its a THIRD leading cause of death for young people between 15 and 24. (This is terrifying to me.)

There are more facts and numbers out there for you to research. I wanna dig into the show itself. More often than not, when someone commits suicide, the big question is WHY. Why would someone do that? What drove them to that? Why? Why? What were the signs? Why? 13 Reasons Why gives you just that. And I think its what shocked the people the most. You can always speculate, judge, make guesses, assume...never really know what exactly happened. Hannah Baker tells you: here are 13 reasons that drove me to that bathtub. Do not for ONE second think that the subject matter is watered down and diluted for "sensitive" eyes and minds. Hannah slitting her wrists was by far one of the most disturbing, heart wrenching things I ever watched. I caught myself looking away because its so graphic and devastating. That doesn't even include the emotional and physical abuse, rape, slutshaming, bullying, drug & alcohol abuse, poverty, homelessness, male privilege, internalized misogyny, sports worship over human beings, parental ignorance ("my special, perfect snowflake could never do such thing" - kind of bullshit), cyber bullying, etc. 13 Reasons Why covers all those bases. 

On the surface (and maybe the main reason I "hate" the show) its just that its too simple. Boys are mean to the pretty white girl and she can't have any friends since she's so pretty, other girls ignore her. So she kills herself. Please bare with me for a moment. 

Personally, I know what depression feels like. I know how badly it can alter your world view and how it can make you feel hopeless, lonely, isolated and worthless. I've been there and for a long time too. High school was a living nightmare for me. But a quiet sort of nightmare. Right at the brink of technological evolution, my high school generation was probably the last one that was cell phone free. My misery ended the moment I left that godforsaken property. Teenagers today don't stand a chance. Bullying does not end with exiting the school property. The world is brutal and it will do whatever it can to rip you to pieces. As much as I love technology, I see the deadly side of it as well, so yes younglings of today: I empathize and sympathize with you more than you can image. And no, I will not dwell into the specifics of my youth and every factor that plagued it. Just know that I was too invisible to be harassed...and please take that with a grain of salt.

I do think 13 Reasons Why is not complex enough. 

The issue of rape, suicide, depression and bullying is not to be taken and treated lightly. But maybe its not meant to be in this case. Maybe it is supposed to represent teenage fragility and cruelty down to its most basic definitions. After all, its from a POV of a teenager. I'm not saying teenagers are not complex creatures (quite opposite) but in terms of storytelling, it would be unrealistic to expect teenage mind frame on an adult level. That was one of the main issues I have with writers like John Green. His teenagers are 40 year old wise men. I don't believe in them or that they exist. I do, however, believe in girls like Hannah, Jessica, Courtney and boys like Clay, Alex and Bryce. While the show lacks complexity, it makes up for it with very cruel and real reality:  Bullying was and IS attributed to suicide.

For Hannah, it wasn't just slam to the locker room, dunk your head in the toilet - your corny cartoon type of bullying. She was sexually harassed, slutshamed, abused emotionally and brutally raped.


Is the show triggering? Potentially yes. I do feel like it made light of Hannah's tapes. I think that a suicidal person might follow this step and take the tapes to heart. Because the focus wasn't so much Hannah's mental health, but rather "This is all your faults" (which, don't get me wrong, it most certainly was) too many teens contemplate suicide out of "I'll kill myself, that'll show em!" reasons and that is problematic as fuck. I got the vibe that if you leave tapes or notes behind, people you left behind would come together in a kumbaya everyone-hold-their-hands and realize how much they've grown from someones suicide. Its bullshit. Its no longer Hannah's story, but a story of Clay - average, shy, awkward boy finally learns how to express himself. When he approached Sky in the conclusion of the story, I got the "white savior" vibe from the whole scene. Am I supposed to forget Hannah and her dead body in a tub? Motherfucker no. I feel like the balance shifted away from her, from her mental health...from her ordeal into super cheesy drive off to sunset category and rest of the teens.

I 101% agree that parents & teens really need to approach this show with an open mind and extreme caution. Its powerful story telling but its also very triggering. Some of the suicide parts may be glamorized - such as the mix of Hannah's blood with water in the tub, the way it spilled. That image CAN be construed as romantic. But then its followed by the mind and body numbing pain and her parents finding her. That anguish took breath from my lungs while watching. I've never seen anything more devastating than that particular scene.

Yes, 13 Reasons Why is FULL of flaws. Number one being the oversimplification of a complex issue. Second, the triggering aspects behind the tapes and her motivations. Third, the romantic imagery of some of the darkest moments and fourth, slew of minor characters whose overall character development was either non existent or so minor, it contributed truly nothing to the overall story. Why have them there in the first place? Why waste time?

But it also has some truly valuable lessons to be learned. When I was done with it I told my husband how important words are. How you NEVER know what's going on with someone and just how little can it take to push them over the edge. I mean, this is not something new. Don't be a fucking asshole to people - its really that simple. Also, if it took a problematic show on television for you to realize that: you are the problem and its time to re-evaluate because WORDS MATTER. Whatever you might think of 13 Reasons Why, one thing is certain: We are finally having a conversation about suicide & mental health.

To conclude: 

To find a support group, visit this website



Not ready or unable to attend a support group in person? Consider these online support groups:

http://www.pos-ffos.com/
http://www.solossurvivorsoflovedonestosuicide.com/online-groups.html

If you are a victim of sexual assault, please visit RAINN website for all the resources.
https://centers.rainn.org/

If you are a victim of bullying, please call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide is never ever ever evvvvvvvver an answer. NEVER. Please seek help. Someone out there cares for you. 

Stop asking when is someone getting married or having a baby.

I'm about to come of as a complete jackass, but what's new? Being at the age that I am (30 gasp!) happily married for over 2 years to a fantastic man, I guess its natural for people to ask but seriously, QUIT ASKING. Its "natural" because of centuries of propagating typical and stereotypical roles for different genders. Women are conditioned to discuss men, other women or babies. I have never seen a man get asked when is he finally getting married or having a baby. Mostly since men don't have an "expiration date."

I cannot tell you what it's like to have a child since I don't have one. Just as you can tell me how life is finally worth living just because you have a child. My worth is based on myself alone. I do not place my value on the role that I play in other people's lives. I refuse to place my worth in someone else's hands. They will drop it EVERY TIME.  I'm a human first....daughter, sister, wife, cousin, friend etc second. I don't want anyone to give a fuck about me just because I'm someone's mother or wife. I want you to give a fuck about me because I'm a person.

People will confuse your feminism with dangerous and hilarious propaganda that we are all lesbian witches who eat babies and kill men. But I'm not here to lecture you or teach you about feminism. You are a big girl/boy. Read books. Read articles. Talk to people. Experience things. Open your mind to different points of view. Or stay stagnant, I don't give a shit.

With all of these different topics convulsed into one possibly confusing opening statement, I'm here to ask you...wait no...to TELL YOU: quit asking other people when are they getting married or having children. Why? Its absolutely NONE of your business. 7 billion people are experiencing life differently every day. Grasp this fact, wrap it around your brain and maybe, just maybe you will realize that the center of the universe does not revolve around you and your terrible opinion on how someone else should live their life.

I guess my other goal in this post is to come up with reasons why we ask these questions to begin with and why is it that mostly women get asked, so don't even come to me with that #notallmen bullshit.

Marriage and babies are personal decisions. They work for some and they most definitely do not work for others. Asking these questions only propagates that marriage and children are the ULTIMATE goal in life. Maybe they are for you. Nothing wrong with it. It becomes wrong when you tell others to have the same goal. Stop telling people what to do. Since marriage was one of the goals for me personally, I got married. Do I want children? (Even when I ask myself that question, it feels...off.) Some days I do...some I don't. Its called human complexity. I have other goals. Marriage was just one of them. My life and my fight does not end with a shiny ring on my finger. I want to do well at work. I want to network. Be a good sister and daughter to my family. Save a couple of animals. Participate in Slutwalks. Be a decent friend. I have ton of goals. Important ones and not so much. Most people do.

When I fuck up royally...and we all do, I want to be able to recognize it.

I'll admit right now that I'm guilty of asking both of those questions multiple times to multiple women (yes women only - depressing as fuck.)  I admit that I had placed the value of my female friends on their inability to get married. I admit how wrong I am and how sorry I am.

"When are you gonna get married?"
"When will you have a baby?"

And I have never ever asked men in my life these questions. I recognize that now. I recognize my own internalized sexism. Aside from sexist tropes placed upon women, the main reason you should quit asking people about marriage and babies is simple: you have NO clue what people are going thru in their life. If someone chooses to share details of their life with you, ask away. Other than that, just stop.

Infertility, miscarriage, abortion, bad financial situation, bad marriage, domestic abuse, rape, mental illness, physical illness, illness of a parent, caring for elderly parents, career, traveling - there are MILLION reasons why someone is not married or is childless. You never know what kind of wound you are opening by asking these questions. You never know who is grieving over a miscarriage or a stillborn infant. You never know who got out of a terrible relationship that left them with scars, physical and/or mental. YOU DONT KNOW, therefore quit asking. It is none of your godamn business.

The questions might be innocent, but you don't know the pain, grief, stress and frustration they might be bringing to someone. It does not matter how well you mean....someone's fertility, marriage and lack thereof is NONE of your business. Unmarried woman over 30 is not worthless. That idea needs to die painfully.

These questions are intrusive, they can be painful, they can open serious wounds, but why would you give a fuck about other people? What matters is your life, your opinion and how will you shove it down someone's throat. Get the fuck outta here.

If you are truly and sincerely interested in someone's life, ask them what was the best part of their day.  To end this post, I'd like to apologize to anyone whose privacy I have violated. I had no bad intentions. I also had no business asking. You will never hear me ask those intrusive questions again and I will with just as much ease, tell you to quit asking.