*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS*
It’s one of the most talked about shows of the year so far and for may different reasons. 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix adaptation of the novel written by Jay Asher. IMDB’s brief description of “[viewers] follow teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah (Katherine Langford), and her decision to end her life.” While IMDB gives an accurate summary, they fail to mention the complexity of the story.
While the show has good intentions, it has become one of the most controversial shows to date. Why? It leaves little to the imagination in a very heavy and, at times, gruesome way. It deals with heavy issues such as bullying, rape, and suicide while also being graphic enough to contain warnings at the beginning of some episodes.
While it is important to bring attention to these issues, it is equally important to give information on how to end these events which is something the show didn’t do to it’s fullest potential. For anyone who has ever watched shows such as Degrassi, you may be familiar with PSAs at the end of episodes dealing with suicide, gun violence, LGBTQ+, and more that provided helpful information and contact groups if you or anyone you knew was going through a similar situation. 13 Reasons Why could (and should) have easily added in contact information for anyone dealing with similar problems in the show but failed to do so.
Of course I’m just nitpicking but what bothered me the most about this show was the story behind it all. Before the main character, Hannah, commits suicide she makes a collection of tapes containing the 13 reasons as to why she decided to kill herself. But every reason was about someone else, and that’s what was disturbing to me.
This has nothing to do with the show, but rather the book it was modeled after. I understand the concept of the idea: don’t bully or judge someone because you don’t know what else might be going on in their lives. Absolutely true and I completely agree. However, suicide is not something that can or should be blamed on people. Most cases of suicide have underlying reasons such as a mental disability (i.e. depression). It does become clear that Hannah had depression but this idea of the tapes, to me, is not something that should have been done.
I thought of it this way: say my first friend from elementary school committed suicide and I received a tape telling me I was a reason why. At this point in my life, there is nothing I can do to change that. I may have been completely oblivious to something I did. Perhaps it was a rumor I spread or we just stopped being friends. But does this make me responsible for the action?
It is a very heavy topic, no doubt about it. But blaming someone else for something like this isn’t okay. Can you imagine? Receiving a tape saying you’re a reason someone died? It would ruin you. To some, this might be triggering and they too might commit suicide. That person would then be on their “reasons why” tapes. Its a vicious circle that I don’t support in any way.
Again, I understand what the message is: don’t bully. Be careful about what you say or do because it can and will affect someone else. But to blame someone else for your misfortune is not something that should be supported.
You later find out Hannah was raped and this is not something anyone should have to go through. I understand why Hannah’s rapist was on the tapes, but why the others?
To put this in perspective I’ll use one of Hannah’s ex-friends, Courtney, who is a closeted lesbian. Courtney is on one of the tapes after she is caught kissing Hannah before she has come out as gay. In an effort to avoid attention for the photo, Courtney begins avoiding Hannah and starts rumors about her. I’m not saying Courtney’s actions were okay, but I do understand them in a way. We really only learn about Hannah and see the world through her eyes, but as Hannah says in the beginning: every story has two sides. So is it fair to blame Courtney for, basically, not wanting to come out as a lesbian? Yes, it sucks but is it worth losing your life over? But each tape is a “domino effect” and she says if A hadn’t happened then B wouldn’t have happen and so on and so fourth. I get it, its a butterfly effect. But is it fair to blame Courtney for a rape she had no involvement in?
I can go on and on about this show but basically I just think it is important to remember that suicide and depression is no ones fault. It is incredibly unfortunate it happens but instead of blaming, we should be educating ourselves on the issues. What’s great about this show is that it is getting people talking, whether it be good or bad. After all, all publicity is good publicity, right? People are learning despite its controversial messages. All in all I did really enjoy this show. It is very powerful and well made and I think it is worth watching. It can be hard to watch at some points but I think its very important to watch what modern bullying can look like these days. With technology making bullying easier than ever it is so so important to remember that we’re all just human. We all make mistakes and get sad sometimes but you are loved. You are supported. You mean more to people than you think.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with any of the issues mentioned, please contact any of the numbers below. You are not weak for getting help; you are stronger for it.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse: 1-800-799-7233