Gomez and her mother, Mandy Teefey, are executive producers on the Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. Both the novel and the show revolve around teenage girl Hannah Baker’s decision to commit suicide, following the journey of her family and friends as they discover the 13 reasons that influenced Baker’s decision to take her life. Baker’s explanation includes bullying in a variety of forms and sexual assault.
On a panel for the new show, Gomez talked about how she relates to the story and her view on its importance in helping young people and their parents understand more difficult emotions.
“I was actually going through a tough time when the show started production,” said Gomez. In reference to the 90 days she spent in a treatment center for the depression and anxiety associated with her lupus diagnosis beginning last August, she said, “I went away for 90 days and I actually met tons of kids in this place that we are talking about. A lot of the issues these characters are experiencing, I would say yes, I’ve had to deal with it on a different scale.” She later added that the story “definitely hits home.”
Gomez admits that a significant amount of her motivation for this project is wanting to influence a younger generation and help them understand emotions that they might experience or see someone else experiencing. Believing that the story must resonate with young people for them to truly understand it, Gomez said, “They have to see something that’s going to shake them. They have to see something that’s frightening […] I want them to understand it. I would do anything to have a good influence on this generation.”
Gomez praised the show’s authenticity, claiming that social media can turn teenagers’ perception of reality into an illusion and that the show shatters that illusion with genuine emotion and life experiences. “I can’t stand social media. I can’t stand what [teenagers are] looking at,” Gomez said. “[They] think [they] have to look a certain way […] I can’t stand what they think is reality, and the show is as real as it could possibly get.”
For parents, the show serves as a tool for understanding the emotional obstacles that their kids might face. It stresses the importance of parents talking to their kids about how to handle such emotions before they can become as severe as they did for Hannah Baker. If parents and their kids watch the show, then it can serve as a tool to help guide these sorts of conversations. Teefey, who was also on the panel, said, “I think the parents are going to have the hardest time watching this because they don’t want to see their kid being that bully or see themselves miss signs of the loss of Hannah.”
Although the show adaptation took years to come to fruition, the creators never shied away from the project because they believed in the story’s emotional impact. When the show premieres on March 31 on Netflix, they’ll share that story with the world.
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