Over the last month or so I have been hearing from the Shine girls about a new release on Netflix called ‘13 Reasons Why’. In today’s teenage world ‘everyone’ is watching it and according to them it is amazing. Originally a book, ‘13 Reasons Why’ was adapted and released on Netflix on 31st March 2017 causing the largest social media response Netflix has ever seen.
Both the rave reviews and my own daughter’s decision to watch it got me intrigued enough to have a look.
Firstly I was surprised to discover ‘13 Reasons Why’ is classified as an 18. At least half my Shine groups are watching it and they are aged 12 – 15. It is clearly aimed for a teenage audience but ‘13 Reasons Why’ is an 18 for some very good reasons. The subject matter is mature, shocking and brutal to watch.
For those of you who, like me struggle to keep up with what is #trending and have completely missed this phenomenon here is a quick synopsis of the story:
Hannah Baker a 17 year old high school student has committed suicide and her friend Clay receives a set of good old fashioned tapes with messages she recorded before she died; thirteen reasons why she has killed herself. During the series we journey with Clay and Hannah discovering the course of events leading up to her eventual suicide.
I have to say when I read the description I was not desperate to watch it, but a combinations of Shine girls enthusiasm and a boring Thursday night led me to start the series.
And - wow! Anyone that has a teenager in their life should watch this, especially if you know that they have seen it. And any teenagers reading this should encourage their parents to watch. This series opens up so many areas of discussion; suicide, rape, objectification of women, owning mistakes, fear, loneliness and depression. This series gives us a glimpse into the darker side of the teenage world.
So here are my 5 Reasons why you should watch ‘13 Reasons Why’
#1 The little things can build to be big - This program acts as a reminder not to dismiss the little things. The small set backs, the minor insults and thoughtless comments can build up. Do not mistake indifference or lack of feeling for resilience. During this series we see Hannah spiral into despair until she ultimately writes a note “what if the only way to not feel bad is to stop feeling anything at all forever”. ‘13 Reasons Why’ reminds us of the importance of human contact and that the little things can work both ways. Build up others with little things, just a comment, encouragement or a moment out of your day could mean so much to another. At Shine we ask the girls to write compliments about themselves and we have feedback that these are kept for years. Do not dismiss the power of the little things.
#2 Listen to each other - Possibly the most harrowing scene is when Hannah’s parents find her; their shock and horror is palpable. We all knew that this was coming but they did not.
The parents in this series are either constantly asking their teenagers to talk to them, assume that their child is perfect or are completely absent through work/substance abuse. This program reminds us of the power of communication. If you do not feel heard you feel isolated, alone, lonely – Hannah describes it like this,
“You feel like you have nothing left, nothing and no one, like you are drowning and no one will throw you a line. When you are that kind of lonely you reach for anything.”
At Shine we tell the girls that listening is the most important skill in having happy and healthy relationships. Are you listening?
#3 Rape Culture - Without giving away too many spoilers many people argue that this show is not so much about mental health but a general rape culture in the US. The girls in this show are subjected to a series of comments, touches and assumptions about who they are and what they want sexually. So #3 is all about asking ourselves how are we treating our girls? Do we dismiss ‘most attractive’ lists as inconsequential or worse tell our girls it is a compliment! Are we teaching our boys to look at girls as human beings rather than sexual objects? Do we let our girls know that they have a right to not be touched, stared at or have sexual comments made to them?
At Shine we recommend that everyone watch the Tea and Consent Video on youtube. http://www.videoexa.com/v/kka99dej1-tea-and-consent-a-british-educational-video
#4 Taking responsibility - This series is ultimately about taking responsibility for your own actions. Each of the individuals involved in Hannah’s story have to learn to own their mistakes. Do you demonstrate taking responsibility or do you blame others? Do you apologise when you lose your temper with your teenager or do you just tell them that it was their fault? I tell a story in Shine about a road rage incident involving me, a convoy of learner moped drivers and one very angry instructor. I use this as an example about how stress can make you lose your temper with the wrong person. But I think the most important lesson about this incident is that I managed to apologise, no excuses, no explanations, just sorry. How often do we take responsibility?
Lastly #5 Timing - Picking your timing to talk to someone is essential and what is more natural than discussing a program you have both watched? Most of us can recall those awkward ‘conversations’ with our parents or maybe your parents didn’t bother and puberty and sex were a series of surprises. I recently tried to talk to my 12 year old daughter about pornography which resulted in her curled up in a fetal position with her hands over her ears – I got the impression she wasn’t ready for that discussion. On the flip side you teenagers - I know that you like to reveal a deep and meaningful truth just when your parent is leaving for work, so you also have to remember. Timing. Is. Everything.
So, one quiet evening (as long as your are over 18 of course) I would recommend putting on ‘13 Reasons Why’. Immerse yourself in the world of teenagers and have a think about the issues raised – have these been discussed with your son or daughter? Do you dismiss the little things they are going through? Do you listen to the teenagers in your life? Do you demonstrate taking responsibility? Lastly have you given them the opportunity and time to talk? You may, like myself surprise yourself and also actually quite enjoy it!
If you would like to support The Shine Project in transforming the lives of your teenage girls please visit www.shineproject.org.uk and click on the crowdfunding link.