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Netflix series 13 Reasons Why Echoes Thoughts on Empathy

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Netflix series 13 Reasons Why Echoes Thoughts on Empathy

Netflix series 13 Reasons Why Echoes Thoughts on Empathy

Let’s revisit 13 Reasons Why because you may have missed the point….

Quest Blog from Lashe Brockington 

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes”

Netflix series ” 13 Reasons Why” is a television drama series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The plot follows the main character Clay Jensen, two weeks after his classmate and love interest Hannah Baker commits suicide.
Clay finds a box full of cassette tapes left on his porch that contain 13 audio recordings of Hannah Baker describing the bullying and sexual assault she experienced by her classmates and teacher ultimately causing her death. We follow a story of past and present, watching as Clay listens and investigates Hannah’s past encounters with himself and 12 other classmates. Each cassette tape addresses a different classmate and gives details of how they were involved in her suicide. We listen to Hannah’s story with Clay feeling his anger as confronts his classmates and teachers who come to accept their role in this tragedy realizing the damage their words and actions left on this young woman.

I found it so thought provoking how each one of these stories (though some may seem minor compared to others) lead to a bigger picture of just how the things that seem so small can greatly affect those around us. I won’t disclose what happens in the series, that’s not the point of this. The point I took from this incredible series is how powerful what we do or say can affect someone.  If you watch this series I hope this message reaches you like it did me. It shows how powerful an unkind word can be to the receiver, and in contrast, how a minor act of kindness can go such a long way.

Do we often think how what we say or do can affect other people?  After the act, we have since forgotten and moved on, but has the receiver of the unkind words or act moved on? NO!

I think of a time when I was that receiver of unkind words. Probably around second grade when I got teased endlessly by a boy in my class because of the color of my skin. How did I feel?  I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed to walk around in this skin. I felt like it represented a major flaw in me, in my parents, and I needed to get rid of it. But how does a 7-year-old or any person for that matter change their skin color? And if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a dark skin black woman. Ironically, the boy that teased me was dark skin also.  I’ve since grown to idolize this ebony skin and embrace my coiling curls but what if I hadn’t? What if I allowed his words to lead to skin bleaching or a path of self-hater? What if I like Hannah Baker became so drowned in the pain placed upon me by others?  Would I have become so engulfed that I would have considered a fate as Hannah’s?

I can’t say for sure and I don’t believe any person that has ever experienced torment like that could say sure either. Someone reading this may think my experience is minor in comparison to the experiences this young woman faced that caused her to take her life. But that’s just the problem we have as society, a lack of empathy. Of course, there is always someone on walking this earth with a worse experience than you but who are we to judge the experiences of others and determine how a person chooses to deal with the pain? Some of us can stich up our wounds while others continue to bleed out.

As for Hannah Baker, by the end of the series we are left wondering how different things could have been if one individual offered some kind act or truly cared if she was ok. How many times have we asked each other “how are you?”  But do we really listen for the answer or even care about the answer to that question? When asked, we respond with common phrases like “fine” or “I’m good“, but are we fine? Are we good? It seems so much easier to carry our burdens alone than admit ” I’m not ok”. Are we inquiring regarding someone’s status because we truly are or are we just asking because we are raised that this is proper etiquette?

One teenage girl’s fictional story made me wonder about myself and how much empathy I have for others. Could someone be walking around with a crushed spirit based on the words I’ve spoken? How much differently would they feel if I offered a kind word instead? Perhaps the next time I use the words “how are you”, I will take the time to really see if the person is doing well and create an environment of comfort that allows more room for truth rather than a dismissive response. Hopefully, my words can make a difference for the Hannah Bakers of the world.

Instagram: @shaeshaymarie

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