If you have kids in high school, chances are you’ve heard about 13 Reasons Why.
Netflix’s teen drama is a HOT topic of conversation among Flea and her friends. But it’s a show that’s controversial. With themes of suicide, self-harm and sexual assault, it is something our kids should be watching? How old is old enough to watch?
I’m not generally a big censor of TV shows. I love teen shows, and I’m pretty happy to let Flea watch mature content on the proviso that we watch together, and can talk about the issues raised.
When it comes to 13 Reasons Why, we watched Season 1 together.
My only rule was that we skipped certain scenes (which I’d watched ahead) that I considered to be unnecessarily graphic and not appropriate for Flea’s age.
We had planned to take the same approach when Season 2 came out on Netflix recently. But having watched ahead, here are my (not quite) 13 Reasons Why I’d advise skipping Season 2.
Season 2 has Plot Holes Galore
I’m kicking off with a small reason. Maybe a petty reason. But I love TV and I expect the people writing it to make stories that seem real.
The first season of 13 Reasons Why was based on a hugely successful novel. It had structure, pace, dramatic build.
Season 2 seems like it came out of a frantic meeting where some Netflix exec decided this show was too profitable not to merit a second season.
The plot lines are – frankly – lazy.
A huge part of the story revolves around a clubhouse that’s been used by Bryce and the other popular kids for years as a hangout. How is that Bryce’s former best friend, and popular jock, Justin, knew nothing of its existence?
Makes. No. Sense.
Hannah’s Mum Has No Friends
Another small reason. But as Mum, it bothers me.
I get that Hannah’s Mum is grieving and focused on her daughter. What I don’t get is why the only people she seems to have to talk about this with are children.
Nobody ever seems to question whether this isn’t a bit weird or creepy. And nobody ever mentions her scary conspiracy wall? Only that seems like something a friend would mention.
Her relationship with Tony in particular is bizarre. Why is he so wise? Is it because he looks about 37? (I’m too lazy to google the actor here, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money that he’s a long time out of high school).
Get a therapist. Actually, this could apply to SO many characters. Why are these people so damaged but nobody is seeking treatment for their mental health issues?
13 Reasons Why is Needlessly Graphic
Season 1 was graphic, specifically the scenes where lead character Hannah is raped, and where she takes her own life.
The show’s makers would argue that it needs to shine a light on topics we don’t talk about enough.
But does it have to be a huge spotlight and a magnifying glass?
In this season in particular the scene where Tyler is assaulted was enough to make me look away from the screen.
The assault is incredibly violent, and comes out of nowhere. And then he’s brutally, sexually assaulted with a mop – and the camera work is designed (I feel) to be as shocking as possible.
For me, the scene wasn’t important or enlightening. It was gratuitous. And at the same time unrealistic. A fairly one-dimensional bully decides to take revenge by raping a fellow student in the bathroom. Hmm. Okay.
But NONE of the other students watching events unfold utter a word? Nobody says it’s going a bit far? Or checks to see if the guy is okay?
This show is seriously bleak.
Clay is Boring
Season 1’s narrator was Clay. This made sense because Clay was listening to the tapes.
I’m not sure why Clay is so hell-bent on getting “justice for Hannah” in Season 2. Or why he’s so invested in everyone else’s business?
He’s especially annoying when trying to persuade female characters about the importance of taking action against sexual assault while simultaneously being RIDICULOUSLY STUPID and sabotaging any hope they ever had of a successful conviction.
Positive Message 1: It Doesn’t Get Better
Quite apart from the graphic content and story holes, I have a bigger issue with what this show tells kids about life.
People in this show experience terrible things – self-harm, suicide, rape, bullying – and it NEVER gets better. Nobody gets justice. Even those who begin to heal are pulled back under again without time to take a breath.
I think this attitude goes to the heart of why I wouldn’t want my daughter watching this show.
It’s depressing. Seriously, 13 Reasons Why Season 2 is SO BLEAK IT HURTS.
Positive Message 2: Adults Are Useless
It’s a well-known cliche in teen drama that kids work out their issues between themselves.
But when you’re dealing with issues THIS big, then I think that’s actually quite a dangerous idea to present.
Being raped isn’t something that another 16 year old is equipped to help you with. See also self-harming, heroin addiction, owning a secret stash of guns, finding a box of child pornography – and so on.
It’s obviously more dramatically satisfying to have kids work things out themselves, but come on, writers! At some points, you need to go the police. Talk to a counsellor. A teacher. A relative.
It’s true that sometimes the first person you ask can’t help. But isn’t the point that you keep asking?
So many of the issues in this season could have been solved so much more quickly and easily if the kids had involved adults.
Positive Message 3: Don’t Bother Reporting Rape
As viewers, we know that Bryce is a compulsive sexual predator.
He’s raped at least two girls (Hannah and Jessica). In this season there’s evidence implicating him in assaulting multiple other girls, including his own girlfriend, who was unconscious at the time.
When Bryce is finally brought to justice and convicted, what happens? Three months probation. He’s back at school on Monday. For me, the message to girls watching the show was – why bother reporting rapes? You’ll just get called a slut, possibly become suicidal, and nothing happens to the guy anyway.
Positive Message 4: Guns are Fun
Sure, the overall message in 13 Reasons Why about guns is that they’re dangerous. Alex uses a gun to shoot himself, and Tyler’s got his whole school shooting thing going on.
But this show has a LOT of guns, and the kids get them remarkably easily. I’m not sure I’m cool with that. Even less with the idea that shooting guns is a fun way to relax in the woods after a hard day at school.
If you’ve watched 13 Reasons Why, I’d love to know your thoughts on Season 2. And especially if you let your young people watch. How old do you think kids should be when they watch this show?