Whether you're getting pushed around on the playground or someone spreads a scandalous rumor about you, bullying is no fun for anyone involved, and sadly, Hannah Baker's (Katherine Langford) story in "13 Reasons Why" is more common than we'd like.
Netflix's newest series shines a light on the insidious nature of high school bullying, and the many different shapes it can take. It also shined a light on the bullies and how they justified their own behavior to themselves, especially in the wake of Hannah's suicide.
When we sat down with Justin Prentice, who plays the worst of bullying bunch, we were curious about his own history with bullying, and if any part of Hannah's story stuck out to him in particular.
"It wasn’t in school," Prentice says of his own childhood bullies. "I was on a basketball team as a kid, and there were two twins who were a little older and a little bigger than I was, and there was some bullying going on there. I was a late bloomer, so I was a little smaller in stature ... I would talk to my parents about it, which was great because they were always very close and insightful and whatnot, and they were like -- this is the South, so they’re like, 'Just stand up to ‘em! Tell ‘em you’re going to knock their teeth in, then you won’t have a problem anymore.'"
Standing up to your bullies (and even giving them some of the violence they dole out themselves) is a common bit of advice parents give kids when they're getting pushed around. Most bullies don't know what to do with an unexpected show of force, and that usually gets them to back off.
"I did that," Prentice says, "And it worked, but that doesn’t always work in real life ... Guys are just like, 'Give me the lunch money!' Girls, it’s like a manipulation sort of thing..."
Girls do tend to go for the emotional torture rather than actual physical violence, which is why it's a lot harder for young girls to resolve bullying issues. In Hannah's case, she was getting it from girls and guys alike, and it turned into a torrential downpour of cruelty from anyone and everyone who could tear her down to hide their own insecurities.
One of the things Prentice says "13 Reasons Why" depicted especially well is the new dangers of online bullying.
"I think this series does a great job of showing the many facets of bullying, and how a simple, 'Hey, back off,' doesn’t always work," Prentice says. "Especially in the world of cyber-bullying, once something’s out there, even if you confront the issue, it’s still out there. So that’s one of the things that almost needs to be nipped before it can start, and that’s what we hope this series does. It starts the dialogue and the conversation, so people know that all of their actions have consequences, and people need to think through what they’re actually doing and if it’s going to affect someone negatively."
We certainly got to see the consequences of bullying in graphic detail in "13 Reasons Why," and can only hope kids who watch this series take it to heart and keep the tragic consequences of bullying in mind.
"13 Reasons Why" is available now on Netflix.