My daughter is a typical teenager, only she doesn't turn thirteen for another three months. She had been urging me to watch 13 Reasons Why on Netflix because she wanted to talk about it. I had my marching orders, so I dove in.
Initially, I treated the task as if it were homework. There are thirteen episodes, each about an hour, so this was going to take some time. I only really have two or three hours a night for television, depending on the night, and I wasn't going to miss a Maple Leaf or Raptors playoff game. So my wife and I started watching an episode or two a night, a significant time investment.
13 Reasons Why was not written and produced for guys in their forties, so it was tough sledding at first. It employs this trick I hate where something happens and then it's revealed the character was just imagining it. I didn't like it when I saw it on The Sopranos and I don't like it when they do it on 13 Reasons Why. I never disliked the show, but I'm not certain I liked it. But it was homework, so I soldiered on.
Then, almost by surprise, I found myself invested in the characters. It got heavier and heavier and by episode nine I was completely hooked. There was no longer any doubt. I was enjoying this show and looking forward to each episode.
------> Spoilers below <------
Last week, I had CBC's Here and Now on while I worked. Someone from the school board was on talking about concerns they had about how this series treated suicide. Remember, the only reason I invested 13 hours in this program is because my 12.75 year old daughter watched the series and asked me to do the same so we could talk about it. I have four children, which actually gives me four reasons to watch. Here are my thoughts on this recent controversy...
Suicide is not glorified in any way. In fact, you not only see a promising young life cut short but you see the many people who suffer in the wake. Initially I thought the counsellor at the school was being blamed unfairly, but upon further reflection, I think it's a great catalyst for conversation.
And that's precisely what I love about this series. It's thirteen tremendous catalysts for conversations between parents and our children. My oldest daughter and I have been conversing about Hannah's suicide and her cassette tapes all week, and there's more discussions to be had.
It's this conversation that's so important. It's not whether Hannah was being vindictive or putting unfair blame on the school counsellor, it's about communication and knowing when to ask for help and how to spot someone in trouble. It gets heavy, as does life. Being a teenager can be awfully shitty and sometimes we forget that.
My homework assignment morphed into a thought provoking bonding experience between me and my daughter. That's as rewarding as television gets.