So, I just finished binge watching this new series on Netflix. The show conveys the fictional story of Hannah Baker, who left behind a series of audio cassettes detailing the reasons why she chose to end her life. Based on a book released by Jay Asher which became hugely popular.
I had tried to read the book when it was first released in 2007 but realized quite early on in the text that I just wasn’t in the right headspace to continue. That seems a little strange to me now because though I hadn’t thought of it til just now, I don’t very often not finish a book when I start. Even if its utter rubbish, I generally continue because I like to have hope that the by the end it will have proven its worth. This was a difficult series to watch for a lot of reasons. It was difficult because I watched and thought of my children. About how damn terrifying high school can be, how cruel kids can be to each other……. It was difficult to watch and not see myself in some of those characters. I know I am not alone when I say it, but I knew how Hannah felt. So many of her experiences were totally normal teenage experiences – but that doesn’t change how totally fkn shitful those experiences can feel.
I still feel that way at times and it can be a mission to find your way out of the darkness. I am in my mid 30’s and I still have a pack of those razor blades, tucked away in the box of all the stuff (hidden in the safe) that I cant bring myself to look at anymore. I have even thought so far ahead that I am the only person who can get into the safe. Not that I think I’ll ever use them but they are there. I should probably go through that box someday when I am feeling strong. Isn’t it strange that we all keep these memory things tucked away because they are so important but don’t go through them because its too hard to deal with the emotional stuff that goes with it.
The series was beautifully made and the cast were incredible. I was so moved by the message in the series and there were certainly some elements of the series that were confronting and made to encourage the viewer to analyze the reasons behind why suicide rates continue to rise, even with major government intervention and millions of dollars being invested in anti-bullying campaigns. But honestly, the series was incredibly overwhelming. The suicide scene was graphic and in the moment watching it, my first thought was ‘shit, is this a fkn instruction guide for every teen who has ever considered it’?. It was intense and gave me chills. Her mother found her in the bath, having cut her wrists open. And that scene was horrifying, like something I imagine is every parents nightmare. Years ago, a girl I went to school with took her own life and that was back in the day when suicide was heard about but nothing like as common as it seems to be these days. And through her entire funeral, I couldn’t take my eyes off her beautiful mum, who looked… haunted.
Overall, I am torn by the entire concept of the show/story. Hannah wanted to ensure that the people who she thought contributed to her decision to end her life, knew exactly how they had influenced her. But in the process of leaving those tapes, she aired the laundry and secrets of 13 people, information that could destroy people along the way. 13 peoples lives who are forever changed, good bad or ugly, because she felt the need to make sure that each and every one of them was never the same. (And then she ended her life and wasn’t there to explain, or do damage control). I am torn, and I am unsure how I feel about it all. I know that I had considered the kids watching this series, after all they are teenagers living in the same world as the main characters – but I cant allow my kids that sort of experience without having to do some damage control myself. I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the kids to read the book, at least the scenes could only be as graphic as their imagination allows.
Parenting is hard. I strive everyday to do the best I can, but watching this made me feel powerless. Its a scary world we live in.