A Guide to 13 Reasons Why

A Guide to 13 Reasons Why

* Warning: Spoilers of 13 Reasons Why Season Two and discussion of graphic content ahead.

 

The popular, controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why returned two weeks ago with Season Two. It was as interesting, graphic, provocative and disturbing as the first season. I can see why teenagers identify with it and parents fear it.

Last year, we received several questions and concerns around the first season of 13 Reasons Why. As an avid Neflix fan, I decided to watch the show to have a better idea of what teenagers were being exposed to and to help parents, teachers, and other helpers have positive conversation in the midst of a controversial series. After watching Season Two, I have a few thoughts, tips, and questions that I hope will help you have educated, positive, and relevant conversations with the teenagers in your life.

 

What is 13 Reasons Why?

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix Original Series about Hannah Baker, a high school student who chronicles her inner struggle and the 13 reasons why she chooses to kill herself on 13 cassette tapes. Season One revolved around these 13 tapes and the individuals (both teenagers and adults) who appear on the cassette tapes she leaves behind after her death.

On the show’s site 13ReasonsWhy.info, Netflix describes Season Two as follows:

13 Reasons Why Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of Hannah’s death and the start of our characters’ complicated journeys toward healing and recovery. Liberty High prepares to go on trial, but someone will stop at nothing to keep the truth surrounding Hannah’s death concealed. A series of ominous polaroids lead Clay and his classmates to uncover a sickening secret and a conspiracy to cover it up.

This show is suspenseful, entertaining, relevant, and revolves around issues many of our teenagers see in the halls of their school. While the series is set in a public High School, I believe the target audience ranges from middle school students to young adults. Not just teenagers are exposed to the situations portrayed.

To start a conversation about 13 Reasons Why, ask your teen the following questions:

  • Have you heard of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why? 
  • Have you or any of your friends watched the show?
  • Would you be willing to talk about what you have seen or heard?

 

The Content of 13 Reasons Why

The content of 13 Reasons Why has been described as graphic, disturbing, dangerous, tragic, and intense. At the beginning of the first episode of Season Two, the actors of the hit series also give the following disclaimer:

13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation. But if you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. And if you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor, or an adult you trust, call a local helpline, or go to 13ReasonsWhy.info. Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier. 

The stated purpose of the show is to start conversations, but I want to make you aware that the conversations can come with a price when watching the show. 13 Reasons Why includes bad language (the F word is used often), female nudity, sex scenes and other mature content.

Besides this, it also portrays intense scenes and conversations about substance abuse and the detox process, rape, gun violence, anxiety attacks, suicide, self-harm, bullying, homelessness, pornography, and masturbation. The scene that many people have a problem with this season includes a graphic depiction of a teenage boy getting sodomized by three classmates.

If your teenager is aware of the show or has watched 13 Reasons Why, ask the following questions:

  • Who would you talk to if negative feelings were triggered by the content in 13 Reasons Why?
  • What scenes and conversations seemed accurately portrayed?
  • How could the show and/or characters have approached the situations differently?

 

Watching 13 Reasons Why

I am not the parent of the teen, and I am also not recommending 13 Reasons Why for you or your teen. However, if your teen has already watched the show or is going to watch it, please don’t let them watch it alone! I have heard from several teens that the content mentioned above can trigger negative thoughts and actions.

Melissa Henson, the Program Director of the Parents Television Council, warned parents and adults by saying:

For kids who are already at risk, who are being bullied or abused, the show may only serve to trigger those feelings and create dangerous real-life circumstances. We urge parents and schools to be alert and on guard in the weeks and months ahead.

I understand that we live in a dangerous world where teenagers have access to Netflix on their televisions, phones, gaming systems, laptops, and tablets. We would be naive to ignore this show by saying, “My child would never watch that.” I would encourage you to set guidelines, have a discussion, and ask your teen to watch it with an adult if necessary. This series might not be right for you or your teen, but whether you watch the series or not, it can start a positive conversation about what your teen is exposed to every week in the halls of their school.

At 13ReasonsWhy.info, there is a discussion guide that has helpful tips and questions for watching the show and engaging in conversation. Some of these include pausing to talk about issues in the moment or skipping scenes that feel uncomfortable. This could be a great resource if you choose to watch the show!

Start by asking:

  • What would change if you watched the show with an adult present?
  • How can this show start a positive conversation between teens and adults?

 

As I said above, many teenagers and young adults identify with the characters and situations portrayed in 13 Reasons Why. For this reason, it can be extremely dangerous. As teenagers see themselves and their friends in the characters, they may also seek the show for answers, guidance, or understanding. Let me be clear – while I do believe this show portrays relevant content, it is a scripted drama. It was made to draw people in, shock audiences, and make money. Some pieces may look like real life, but it is not real life.

A final note: For season one, we wrote a series of blog posts. This year, be looking for a series of podcast episodes that will take a deeper dive into the topics and issues raised in season two of 13 Reasons Why. Check out The Teen Life Podcast to subscribe so you won’t miss these episodes! If you have any other questions, thoughts, or concerns, please leave a comment or send an email to info@teenlife.ngo.

 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Is The Bachelor Female Porn?

Is The Bachelor Female Porn?

Before you freak out about the title of this blog, give me a chance to explain.

I am a hopeless romantic. My favorite movie is still Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I love the stories where the princess falls in love and lives happily ever after. When it comes to books, I read anything and everything with a love story – Nicholas Sparks, The Twilight Saga, The Selection Series, anything by Karen Kingsbury. I have iron-clad opinions on whether Katniss should end up with Gale or Peeta. I cried my way through The Notebook and even read the less-popular sequel.

I admit that I am a faithful watcher of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I can tell you the names of the couples that are still together, watched all their TV weddings and even follow a few of my favorites on social media. I love the romantic dates, seeing who will get a rose each week, and watching the guys pick out the perfect engagement ring. I live for that final episode when the man gets down on one knee, and you see their love story come together for the perfect finale. Have I mentioned that I love all things romance?

But “porn,” really?? “Porn” can be a taboo word for our culture. Yes, we know it is out there, but we are not always willing to talk about it. Why would we want to bring up such an awkward topic with our teenagers? They don’t struggle with pornography addiction…and especially not my daughter!

Think again. According to research done by Covenant Eyes, 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 18. That is your teenager. They are growing up in a culture where they can access pornography 24/7 on their television, laptop, or on the tiny phone that is attached to their hand. Pornography is a problem for adolescents and an issue that we do not ignore, but this blog is not about that type of pornography – naked pictures, sexting, magazines and x-rated movies (we will save that for another day).

For today, I want to speak mainly to the girls out there. Whether or not you connect with my story (or know someone else that does), I believe that our culture encourages girls and women to fall in love with these fictional men and their perfect relationships where arguments and morning breath do not exist.

In their book, Dateable: Are You? Are They?Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco write:

“This is the #1 thing that distorts a girl’s view of reality, men and relationships. Maybe you haven’t heard it called female porn. Maybe you know it by the softer, more acceptable terms of “chick flicks” and romance novels…Your porn isn’t sexual, it’s romantic. But it gives you a warped view of men…if you have a man in your life, you begin to look at him in light of Mr. Perfect, and he can’t compare. He’ll never be as beautiful or romantic as the movie star with all the makeup and good lighting…It creates men who rescue you from out-of control buses and shower you with rooms full of roses. They fly you off to Paris for the weekend and save you from the evil villain bent on destroying the world. These men don’t exist…you are imposing an impossible set of demands on your guy.”

I am not saying that we need to ban romance movies or books – what would I do in my free time? But I do have a few suggestions for how we can combat this culture where girls are looking for a Prince Charming who will never come, and where guys feel like they can never live up to the romantic standard set by Hollywood.

 

1. Discuss realistic expectations. 

When you talk to teenagers about the latest romantic comedy, make sure that they know that those are unrealistic expectations. While it is not unrealistic to expect a man to open your car door, hold your hand or treat you like you deserve to be treated, men (just like women) are imperfect. They aren’t going to bring home flowers every day. Their lines aren’t written by a producer who makes a living by making you cry. They probably aren’t going to stand outside of your window with a boombox to win your affection. They sometimes smell, they don’t always enjoy everything you do and they probably don’t have the bank account to support your love of diamonds or to fly you across the world for an exotic date.

It is okay to give a reality check. Encourage them to write down what they are actually looking for in their “perfect mate.” Focus on qualities and characteristics, not necessarily on their physical appearance or ability to give great gifts.

2. Set realistic boundaries.

You know your teenager best. If you see them falling into this romantic porn trap, set a few boundaries. Maybe they need to take a break from Nicholas Sparks. Perhaps you set a boundary where they have to sit down and have a discussion with you after they watch or read anything in that romance genre. Encourage them to find new, age-appropriate TV shows, books, or movies to invest their time in – try watching The Voice or Fixer Upper. Protect their hearts by limiting their exposure to romantically-saturated forms of entertainment. Maybe it is time to start a new hobby, like knitting!

3. Model realistic relationships.

Real relationships exist, so don’t hide the realities of marriage from your teenager. You are doing a disservice to your children if you pretend that your marriage is as perfect as the ones we see on-screen. It’s okay for them to see you argue every now and then.  Start bragging about the little things that your spouse does – show that romance can come in the form of a well-timed kiss on the cheek, or coming home to clean dishes, or a text asking how your day was. Surround your teenagers with healthy relationships, in and out of the home, where they can see how marriages work on a day-to-day basis.

What do you think of this idea of female, or romantic, porn? Do you have any other ideas for how we can protect and encourage teenagers?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.