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12 april 2017

13 Reasons Why Made Me Think About It (Part 1)

If you are an avid Netflix watcher, like me, then you must have heard about the new Netflix series: 13 Reasons Why. 13 Reasons Why is what I would call a thriller, with the vibe of the series Pretty Little Liars and in some way it also reminded me of the movie The Fault In Our Stars. It is about a girl that committed suicide. However, she left tapes on which she recorded her story and the reasons that led to her decision to end her life. Each tape is dedicated to a specific person that she believed broke her. 

This blog post is in no way a review of the series. I will say I was impressed, but that is it. I want to discuss the topic or rather topics that 13 Reasons Why touches on, namely: teen suicide, bullying, slut-shaming, rape and the fall out all these individual topics. Heavy, right? This post is the first of a set of two, so be sure to check out part two next week!

This intro is longer than any intro should be, but I want or need to include some disclaimers:

  1. I will share my honest thoughts and opinions. The initial ones, but also the more thought out ones. Not all of them might be the most positive or understanding.
  2. I am by NO means an expert. The fact that I was fortunate enough to lack any experience on these matters definitely colors my thoughts. However, 13 Reasons Why made me think and changed my views for the better, I would say.
  3. Because these topics are quite heavy I feel that I should state in advance that I don’t mean to offend, hurt or upset anyone. I also don’t mean to make light of these subjects, although my tone or writing style will be more on the lighter side. Finally, I don’t mean to come off as self-righteous, as I’m obviously not anywhere near perfect myself.

Okey, ready? Here we go!

Why?

The title of this new series is amazingly fitting. Not only because this often seems to be the question loved ones that are left behind and everyone that knew someone that committed suicide are left with, and they will want to know specifics, but also because ‘why’ is or I should say used to be my question. Let me elaborate. Every time I used to read or hear a story about someone committing suicide, someone not necessarily of high school age, my question would be ‘why’? Not the type of ‘why’, where I would care about the specifics. Often there are some ‘facts’ (when it comes to the media one should be careful with this term) shared in a story. The person was slut-shamed, bullied, molested, raped, et cetera. Although all of these situations are horrible and sad, I would think of suicide as, dare I say it, weak. Because I would make some unfair comparison and think about war victims, woman raped for years on end, that are able to go on and live. For example in cases of slut-shaming, I would think: “Slut-shaming? Ok, people think you’re easy…that is why you decided to end your precious life?” As if to say that of all the reasons someone could have had for ending their life, slut- shaming was not a good enough one. If you are wondering…yes, I realize the fault in my line of thinking.

This is not an uncommon line of thinking, I’m sure. In the series one of the characters (for the fans: Skye) that talks about suicide as an act of weakness. To be fair the solution of this character to deal with her pain is cutting herself. The point is if you lack the experience of feeling so utterly alone or useless that death feels like the only way out, I am not sure you can ever fully understand why and how someone comes to an act as sad as suicide. 13 Reasons Why opened my eyes to the fact that I was, and probably still am, too opinionated with regards to something I can’t fully understand.

Human Nature

Weak. There is that word again. Weak in this case I use as the opposite of brave. 13 Reasons Why was successful in showing this part of human nature. So how do people show weakness? By lying, by hiding the truth, even if telling the truth could help another, by laughing and or acting with the crowd to blend in, at the cost of someone else, by gossiping, and by staying quiet, when you see someone is being mistreated.

Looking at the choices the characters in this series made, made me take a good look at myself. I am not the type of person to go out and purposely hurt people. When I fear for someone’s life or someone is being physically mistreated, speaking up or finding help comes naturally. However, in most cases, think of someone that is the target of name calling, or someone that is getting laughed at, I walk away. To be fair… these types of situations are not always necessarily bad. However, determining if you are dealing with an instance of bullying or ‘good fun’ is something I usually don’t take the time for. This is something I could work on. Because walking away…because staying quiet… both are a sign of not caring. One person that cares could make a huge difference for someone that believes the world is better of without them.

I still believe suicide is a choice, a bad one, made by a person that feels or is lost. I keep pondering on definitions like guilt, fault, and accountability. My current conclusion is, that yes, ultimately the choice an individual makes to end his or her life is in the hands of that person only. Other people are not guilty, but they can be held accountable. Accountability implies responsibility, and I believe it comes back to the responsibility each and every one of us has to look out for each other, seeing how humans are social beings.

13 Reasons Why made me think about human nature and the way we interact. Do you know that amazing saying: ‘We rise by lifting others’, I truly believe that is true (side note: in my case this is the result of how I was raised and the fact that I’m Mormon), however in the world we live in today it often seems and feels like you rise by being a douche, meaning by making others feel smaller. As long as we, societies, keep rewarding or condoning certain behavior nothing will change.

What are your thoughts? I know (teen) suicide is a heavy subject, but I’m curious as to what your take on the matter is. Comment on the blog, Facebook or Twitter!