The usual debate over what to allow kids to watch on TV or in movies has intensified recently, as parents learn about the new, controversial Netflix drama series “13 Reasons Why,” which some say romanticizes suicide. That’s a scary thought for any parent, especially to the mother of teens who are vulnerable to the pangs of adolescence and who have heard about two tragic suicides in their own high school this year, as mine have. Now that teens know all about the show, they want to see it, of course, whether it is TV-MA or not.
I reluctantly agreed to let my daughter finish the first episode, after I caught her watching it. I took a break from the busyness of life to sit down and join her, to see what the series was all about. I watched the second half of that initial episode with her. I don’t know a lot about the show, though I’ve read that each fictional episode chronicles 13 alleged reasons that led up to the decision of the main character to take her own life.
I am no expert on suicide or depression or mental illness and have never personally experienced such tragedies in my family. But I just keep thinking about the people left behind and the life never lived by this character. I wish the producers would create a sequel called, “13 Consequences Of.”
I’ve come up with my own plot line for those episodes. This version would show the real consequences, episode by episode, of that one horrific act. One of the main things that kids and teens — and even some adults — have a very hard time understanding is CONSEQUENCES — until they are actually confronted by them. Many people think that potential consequences will NEVER happen to them. But we all know that consequences can — and do – happen. And many times we will never truly know the consequences of our actions on the future.
Here is my proposal for the 13 episodes of “13 Consequences Of”:
- Hannah’s family is devastated and comfort each other; the community comes together to console them. Everyone sheds tears for Hannah and her family. But six months later, everyone else’s lives have moved on — except Hannah’s parents and siblings. There is terrible discord in the home; everyone seems to be blaming each other for Hannah’s death. Her dad loses his job because his concentration is shot, and her mom is seeing a shrink. Her brother started doing drugs because he acts like he doesn’t care about anything any more. Her parents divorce, and her little sister is lost among the dysfunction. At the end, the little sister whom Hannah loved so much says to the camera: ‘Because of Hannah, I feel like mom and dad don’t love me any more.’
- Hannah’s crush Clay goes away to college and meets a girl who looks a little like Hannah. Their relationship blossoms, and she eventually gets pregnant. Clay marries her even though he’s not sure he is in love with her. Flash forward to 15 years later, when they have three kids and are achingly unhappy. The family is on edge constantly, and the son, Court, (who was conceived in college) is in and out of juvenile detention. He gets involved with an ill-conceived plan to rob a convenience store, which results in the clerk getting shot and killed. At the end, Clay is at prison visiting Court, who is serving a life sentence, and telling him he is divorcing Court’s mom because he never loved her. He admits he had one true love who he believes he would have married if she hadn’t killed herself. Clay says to the camera, ‘Because of Hannah, I will never experience life with my soulmate.’
- Hannah’s crush Clay takes a long walk in the park where he spied Hannah enjoying her first kiss, and fantasizes what life would have been like with Hannah. He spends years being her go-to buddy, while she dated the jocks and cool guys. After college, they end up running into each other in a funky building in the city where they both have loft apartments. The romance finally blossoms, and they fall deeply in love. They eventually marry in a beautiful ceremony attended by all of Hannah’s happy family. Flash forward to 20 years later, when they have two kids. The oldest daughter, Holly, is involved with a youth group at church that takes underprivileged kids on field trips. During a field trip, a handful of children wander away from the main group. Holly sees this, and runs to catch up with them, telling them they shouldn’t meander into the back section of the zoo without an adult. Holly lags behind playing on her phone but keeping the kids nearby. A little while later, a child Holly is chaperoning starts choking while eating a corn dog. The kids in his group run over to Holly, the only adult nearby. She frantically yells for help and looks around and realizes they are in a very remote area. She does the Heimlich maneuver on him, and the piece of meat comes flying out. The little boy ltakes a big breath and jumps into Holly’s arms, crying in fear and appreciation. Then Holly fades out of view and the boy falls to the ground. He is convulsing while the kids are watching and screaming for help. By the time an adult arrives, he is blue. Paramedics try to resuscitate him, but eventually cover him in a sheet. He is gone. Flash forward a few days to his funeral, where his mother is screaming in agony, “My baby is gone.” The boy’s mother says to the camera, ‘Because of Hannah, my boy will never grow up and be a man.’
In episodes 4-13, the show follows this boy, named Cole, and what his life would have been. Eventually he joins an elite military agency and uncovers a plan to detonate a dirty bomb in Los Angeles by one of his co-workers, who is actually a double agent. In the final episode, we see Cole confront the terrorist as he is about to press the button to launch the attack. A scuffle ensues, and Cole subdues the maniac with a taser and handcuffs, holding him down triumphantly as he waits for back-up to arrive. But Cole suddenly fades from the room, and we see that the terrorist just fell down because he is drunk. The terrorist gets up, and presses the button. Through the window we see the results of the explosion, as thousands of people fall to the ground in a slow, agonizing death. The terrorist says to the camera, ‘Because of Hannah, I completed my mission and killed thousands of Americans.’
Maybe it’s over the top, but the point is we don’t really know what courageous, beautiful, loving, life-saving accomplishments each of us is capable of, unless we all live out our life until old age, illness, injury or tragedy outside of ourselves ends it. When someone ends it sooner, there are so many consequences of that act we may never know. That’s what I believe should be part of “13 Reasons Why.”