Most of you know that 13 Reasons Why season 2 came out on May 18th, 2018. There has been controversy over the show about how the show has handled the important topics within the show. As a parent, a survivor, and someone who knows how hard it is to speak when issues are shut down, this show is groundbreaking, daring, and brave.
As a parent, I know I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to watch the show with me. I don’t want my son to be unaware of issues, I don’t want him to feel like he can’t talk about these things, I want to create a safe environment for the conversation to happen.
Mental health is so important to talk about these days. I’ve always thought psychology should be required in high school as part of the main curriculum, to teach kids about what they are going through, the changes that are normal, the risks associated with their age group, and how to get help if struggling.
13 Reasons Why is a very courageous show, giving voice to silent victims everywhere. So let’s break down the issues and start a conversation not only with ourselves, reflecting on any of our own bias’ but starting a conversation with our children, friends, co-workers, and family.
Bullying, Suicide, and the Schools
Suicide is a tragedy that many teens fall into. Our schools are the perfect breeding grounds for bullying with cliques and crowds. If a kid doesn’t fit into one of those boxes (jock, cheerleader, theatre kids, etc.), they can find themselves not only feeling isolated but like somethings wrong with them. Many kids aren’t aware of the impact of their actions when they are young, and some are aware. Some kids, like Bryce or Monty, are malicious in their actions. Depression is something that should be talked about at home along with bullying. The trick is, the child has to feel safe to talk about these issues with their parents, and if there isn’t an open environment at home, the child may not speak up about what they are going through.
Schools need to be more aware of what’s going on at school. If there are kids that are routinely bullied, reaching out, getting them resources and help. For the kids who are bullying, those kids need to be held accountable for their acts. This is where one problem arises. Sports and money. If the child is on a sports team that is doing the bullying, that child should not be treated any different than a kid in theatre or in the band. A bully is a bully no matter their skin color, socioeconomic status, or gender. Bullies need to be held accountable at school, which means the school needs to stand up and do their job. If the school loses money because they held a bully responsible, then that is the case. But not holding a bully accountable because of their status, wealth, color, or gender helps no one, especially not the victims who might be suffering on a daily basis, or even multiple times a day.
In 13 Reasons Why many people could have helped along the way. The school teachers, counselors, the students, and her parents. Hannah Baker’s death was a perfect storm of one thing adding to another- being called a slut, being isolated, being teased, being raped, being disbelieved, and more. Suicide is on the person who chooses that act, but we cannot just end there. Looking into what made the person come to such an indelible decision is important. How do we solve the problem if the conversation stops at, “It’s horrible she committed suicide.” We need to look further and ask, “Why? What brought her to that decision?” because when we know the “why” we can start changing things. We can’t address the root problem without knowing the factors that lead to a decision.
Suicide contagion is a documented phenomenon but not talking about suicde increases the stigma, shame, and feeling of helplessness for those experiencing those thoughts.
Rape, Rape Culture & Victim Blaming, the Schools, and the Courts
In 13 Reasons Why season one shows that not only Jessica but Hannah as well, has been raped by Bryce Walker, a white, wealthy, school jock. In season 2, it’s revealed that this goes far beyond just Jessica and Hannah, but that the jocks have a “clubhouse” where they routinely sexually assault and rape girls (sexual assault is defined than short of penetration, rape is penetration).
In this “clubhouse,” the jocks, for years, have taken pictures (evidence/trophies), of what they’ve done to these girls. Some of the girls are unconscious during the rape. Most if not all girls were drunk and under the influence and could not consent. For those who’ve been reading Millennial Mrs. and Mom, you know I am very well versed in rape, rape culture, and possible solutions. I cannot get into all the things that need to be changed in this post, but if you are interested in learning more about rape in our society, you can read my paper here. The school was seemingly unaware that these rapes were taking place on school property in a sports shed right off the field.
The school handled this case of Bryce Walker like most schools handle it: blame the victim, protect the rapist. Bryce, again, wealthy, white, and on the sports team looks like the perfect guy on the outside. Hannah, because of vicious rumors, looks like a “slut” and is not the “ideal victim.” This is where rape culture comes into play.
Rape culture is where we as a society make rape normal, by joking/normalizing about it (“Don’t drop your soap,” or jokes like, “if you have sex with a prostitute against her will, is it rape or shoplifting?” or, “why are girls scared of guys raping them? Y’all should feel pride knowing a guy risked his life in jail just to f*** you”). Rape culture is believing the rape myths out there (like rape is by strangers or “lowlifes” rather than someone you know and is of good public standing. Like thinking if a girl was drinking “she automatically consents to sex by taking a drink” [this was something a student once said in class about rape laws to a prosecutor teaching the class]. Or blaming the victim like, “she was wearing a short skirt, so what did she expect?”). Like it or not, these things are happening all around us. 13 Reasons Why just sheds light onto an evergrowing problem that needs to be taken more seriously.
Outside of the school, we enter the courtroom, which is tainted by rape culture as well. Rape culture is everywhere. Not only are students affected, but there are teachers, principals, judges, police officers, lawyers, and worst off parents. Some people obviously know that rape happens because of rapists. But there are others out there who might not even realize they are falling into rape culture by thinking just because an individual is naked they should expect to be raped.
13 Reasons Why did a brilliant job shining light onto the injustice that happens every day. In Beyond The Reasons, one of the experts said only 16 out of 1,000 rapists who go through the court system get convicted. Rape is the only crime where the victim gets blamed, and rape does not have a higher false report rate than any other crime.
With addressing the Bryce Walker case against Jessica, sadly what they portrayed happens all the time. A young white male wealthy athlete is given 3 months probation for committing the second worst crime against a person (first is murder, rape falls second to murder). This verdict reminded me of the Brock Turner case. When a rapist rapes an individual and they get probation, or only 3 months in jail, when in some states they face 10, 15, or 25 to life… that just isn’t right, but it happens all the time. This is a clear example of rape culture, and it needs to change.
Bullying, Trauma, and School Shootings
The season finale of 13 Reasons Why shows Tyler getting brutally attacked and sdomized in the boys bathroom at school, all because Monty and the team lost their season privaleges to play sports. The sheer entitlment Monty shows is horrendous, thinking that not being able to play for a season means he is allowed to brutally assault a student and follow the assault by raping the student is incomprehensible. Yet, it happened.
Tyler Down, was on his first day back from the diversion program where he was to learn coping skills with his anger. Tyler tried implementing what he learned, making peace, trying to de-escalate the situation, but Monty brutally smashed Tyler’s head on the mirrors, then on the sink, and tried downing him in the toilet, with finalizing the brutality by raping him with a mop stick and leaving Tyler for dead in the bathroom.
Tyler was trying to turn his life around after the bullying he endured, the trial about Hannah, and the injustice he saw all around him. But that final act of getting violated in the most personal way sent him over the edge. We as the audience, in that scene, have no choice but to empathize with Tyler, and experience the pain he is experiencing.
I think the most painful part was knowing his mother asked him about his day, and he didn’t tell her one thing. He didn’t reach out for help, because he felt he couldn’t. This is where parents come in. Parents, you have such an essential role in creating a safe open environment, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Do look out for signs of withdrawal. If you know your kid has been bullied, follow up, and don’t just listen if your child says everyhing is okay. Sometimes kids don’t want to create drama, get in further trouble, etc. Let your child know that it’s always safe to come and talk, that there isn’t judgment. Tyler was a male victim of rape. Male victims, much like females, are terrified to come forward and say what happened to them, but with males there’s extra stigma around male rape. Please, believe your child if they come forward to talk about any abuse they’ve been going through.
Tyler felt the only way to stop the injustice was to use guns. He saw no end to the bullying, abuse, and misery for him and for other students who were victims out there. Clay Jensen, convinced his friends not to call the cops and went outside to talk Tyler down. This is where the show has gotten a lot of criticism.
Clay Jensen is an emotional character who always acts before thinking. Thinking about Clays actions through his character traits, his actions make sense, in the show. If Clay didn’t confront Tyler, it would not line up with his character in the show, hence why Clay did what he did. But in real life, a student is never to confront a shooter. If anyone suspects a school shooter, or knows, then calling the cops immediately is the right action that needs to happen. Protect yourselves and other students by locking yourselves away safely, locking school doors, closing blinds, hiding behind objects.
Let’s Have A Conversation About 13 Reason Why
As the audience to the show and after reading this article, let’s start a conversation. Comment below, engage, and challenge idea’s. Not talking about bullying, suicide, rape, or school shooting does not prevent nor protect us from it happening. Whether we talk about it or not, it happens. But talking about it, gives it less power, gives voices to victims and those who are struggling. So, please join in with me, and let’s create a space place for victims and those who suffer to talk, open up, and tell their stories. Let’s not judge them, but embrace them with empathy and support, letting them know they are not alone.