[REDACTED]… Welcome to Your Tape

In my life I’ve found that inspiration can come from the very strangest of places. When I worked at the Home Depot one of my co-workers was a web developer and took on a contract with a guy who needed his website modified, but the database was in XML. My buddy figured he’d be able to tackle it so he took the contract, but a week later he felt like he was in over his head. He heard that coding is what I used to do and tossed the code over to me to work on, and I too was stumped… Until two girls I worked with, both sharing the same name, stood next to each other. One was short and the other was tall and I was immediately reminded of something: XML is case sensitive. I went home, fixed the problem, and sent the code back. All of this to say that the reason I’m not continuing to tell you guys about our making a movie, is because something inspired me and I felt I had to go with it.

I also need to warn you about something; I’m going to talk about 13 Reasons Why, a book and now TV series on Netflix. There will be spoilers ahead, though not major ones. I figured you should be warned though. If you’re like me, even the most minuscule detail is important and should not be spoiled. But the other reason I want to warn you is we’re going to talk about suicide. This subject is sensitive for a lot of people, but… I dunno, I feel like I have to tell this part of my story. So if you don’t like spoilers or reading about suicide makes you uncomfortable, I will not be upset if you click this link instead.

What inspired my talk was this post from Tumblr, shared by a friend.

I’m not sure who the original poster was, but I can say that this person seems to be the root of it going viral in my neck of the internet. So we gotta talk about a few things here and the first thing we need to talk about is triggers.

I’m not a guy who normally condones triggers, mostly because the few people I’ve heard claim that they have been triggered have used that to justify physically assaulting someone. But my experience has taught me that for many, this is a real thing and this much the picture gets right: they very accurately depict a suicide in one of the episodes. Not only that, in one of the episodes they graphically depict a rape as well. Like, you watch it happen. And these two scenes… they’re intense. But you also know they’re coming. Not like foreshadowing or anything — though it is foreshadowed to the nines — the show warns you with a black screen and white text that displays for 10 seconds at the beginning of both episodes. This I appreciate. I have worked with at least a dozen clients who would be triggered by these two events, and that the film makers decided to warn us at the beginning of the episode, as well as several key hints along the way? I just want to say thank you. But that’s where my agreement with the above ends.

Now some people would argue that the scenes are not necessary for a myriad of reasons. Of course, much like how “Making a Murderer” turned everyone into a “legal expert”, this is also making a lot of people “mental health experts”, so please take it with a grain of salt when someone decides to preface their opinion on this show with “I’ve been working in mental health for [X] years”. Because I’ve also been working in mental health for [X] years and I can tell you that this sort of thing is not as cut and dried as what’s being made out here, and that’s important. For some of my clients I would absolutely watch this show with them, for some I wouldn’t. For some even mentioning suicide can be dangerous. Even uttering the phrase “I just wanna die” can be enough. But this is not a monolithic truth, it doesn’t apply to everyone, you can’t even say it applies to the majority, and that’s worth noting

That last comment at the end there from queenoftheimps is something I want to touch on as well as well “hey if you die… they will regret everything they did to you.” As I’ve trolled around FB and the like looking at people who have complained about this, I’ve noticed that they are very focused on the character of Hannah blaming people and I think that’s a serious misinterpretation. Her suicide is no one’s fault, and she isn’t blaming anyone for her death; her 13 tapes that describe the events leading up to her passing are describing chaos theory. Because any one of those events on their own… she clearly survived them except potentially for the second to last one. But all of these events together? These self contained moments that each had a point where something minor could have been done differently to turn it around? That’s what lead her to take her life. It was no-one’s fault… It was just a cascade of events brought on by a culture of bullying that inexorably lead to a single conclusion…

And you might be thinking to yourself, “c’mon. That’s ridiculous. That’s not how it happens” and you would be wrong. Because that’s how it almost happened to me.

In my grade 8 year a series of events culminated into me walking to the second floor of my school with a device I rigged up that would ram a knife through my chest after I jumped off the roof. What brought me there? A sharp collapse of all my supports, all the things that generally feed into your self worth. My family life was beginning what would become a very long and hard downward spiral. As things collapsed at home and as I entered puberty making what was already a bad situation for my parents a great deal worse… I felt like an orphan.

3 years earlier my parents pulled me out of public school and put me into private school which created two more problems. The first is the social situation at the private school became very venomous very fast. I lost every friend I made in public school when I left and as a culture of bullying came over the private school I didn’t have any friends by the time I returned to the public school system. The other problem the school created was my academics; I was almost 3 grades behind in everything my first year in junior high. After being leaps and bounds ahead of my peers nationally in math and science before I went to private school, I was barely managing passing grades in public school. 3 years later I would get my groove in math and science back, but at this particular point in my life… I felt like I didn’t have family to support me, I definitely didn’t have friends, and my self confidence was shattered by constant failing grades.

Between this and the bullying — openly and without regard for any consequences as there often weren’t any, kids would run up and kick me in the balls right in the middle of the hallway. This was a weekly thing — that hatch they always forgot to lock seemed like a far better option than what I had to look forward to for the next 5 years… And then my chaotic downward spiral stopped. It stopped because a guy who would become a very good friend of mine for the next 5 years asked me on the way to the hatch “Hey, how’s it going?” This was literally the first friendly words spoken to me in almost a year. I don’t want to reveal his name, as I don’t even think he knows this happened the way it did, and we very sadly haven’t spoken in a very long time… but in every sense of the phrase I owe that man my life.

This TV series made me cry. Not because it was sad, but because I felt like whoever wrote this was sympathizing with me. Like… yeah man, I know how you felt. I understand this isn’t something based on a true story but… Never the less… It was like someone was legitimizing my pain and what I went through.

The series, while graphic in several key moments, should be shown on a case by case basis to as many junior high and high school kids as humanly possible. I think this should be mandatory viewing in health classes. If people could understand how bullying cascades, how it’s never one thing that causes a tragedy, that its a dozen people who all stand by and allow awful things to happen or do awful things themselves… That’s what can bring someone to the brink.

Not one thing. A bunch of things.

Anyways.

Not sure if there will be a Sunday Edition next week as I will be at the Calgary Comic Expo. So if I don’t see you before then…

Have a good’er.

2 thoughts on “[REDACTED]… Welcome to Your Tape

  • April 26, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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    I am not a person who reads blogs. But after seeing what the subject of your blog was I actually wanted to read a blog. I know that you OST (Brother) Bear know me and my personal history with suicide and I know of yours and I would agree that yes it rarely is just one thing that leads someone down that path. I too loved this show in moments for its truths (related to me) but also had moments where I felt it was out of line. But here’s the thing, like you say it is about your personal truth. This show may help a lot of teens in trouble and may hinder others. Like anything you need to decide what is important for you to take in and throw out. Everyone’s experience is different. I think looking at this show in black and white is missing the point (closing your mind off to how others might feel) .

    Reply
    • May 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm
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      Hi Jewels, sorry for the late reply.

      It’s very true that there are no blanket answers on this subject, on nearly any subject and I hope I got that across. When I said we should show kids this on a case by case basis I think I should have perhaps said it as case by case basis because you’re right, the show isn’t for everyone.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply.

      Reply

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