By Molly Swartz
Many people have watched, or at least heard of, the Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why . This show depicts a group of high school students, who throughout the show discover information and secrets about themselves and others through the recorded tapes of a girl who committed suicide. As the name of the show implies, the tapes discuss the thirteen specific reasons why the main character, Hannah Baker, decided to take her own life. As is evident through any type of search of a review of this show online, its contents are exceedingly controversial. Many popular news outlets such as the Chicago Tribune , LA Times , CNN , and USA Today are all inputting their views on this show.
For the most part, the reviews have come to a consensus: that the contents presented in this show are either too graphic for young viewers, or not handled properly as the sensitive subject that they are. Grace Shrestha, a Junior at Glenelg, summed up this view perfectly- “Some people say it raises awareness about suicide, but it glorifies it.” This show, as Shrestha stated, goes above and beyond to fabricate and elaborate on a story all about suicide. By taking the show to this extreme, many people believe that 13 Reasons Why has become a glorification of suicide, and a story of seemingly plausible proof and encouragement as to how a person could get revenge on those who have done him or her wrong in the past. Basically, as Corynne Wolven, a Sophomore at Glenelg stated, “This show can give people bad ideas,” because people watching this show might be more likely to develop suicidal thoughts.
By maintaining the mindset that 13 Reasons Why has improperly balanced fiction and reality when discussing sensitive, harsh topics, it is clear to see how many people could be disturbed by the concept of suicide, or even rape, as it is presented in the series. Overall, if the directors of the show wanted to raise awareness about the tragedies that are suicide and rape, they could have succeeded “in a more formal setting,” as Shrestha argued, through more informational shows or articles. Because of this new and cruel romanticization, many ignorant viewers (as in those who are too young to have learned about such tragic events or those who have simply chose to repress their knowledge about them) have an extremely construed view of how suicidal people think and act, and furthermore how the people surrounding the suicidal individual would be expected to act both before and after his or her death.
As is evident through massive amounts of research, suicidal individuals often suffer from mental illnesses, such as depression. Kathiann Kowalski, an author for the Current Health Magazine , describes in her article “Dealing with Depression -- Beyond the Blues” some causes of depression and suicide, stress being chief among these reasons, as well as the physical, sexual or emotional victimization of an abused individual. Furthermore, Kowalski analyzes specific examples of people with depression, and then describes the brain chemistry, signs, and treatment of a person with depression or suicidal thoughts. In this article, the reality of suicide is faced, in close context with Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why , because of her status as a victim of rape and other sexual and emotional harassment. The show lacks these explanations of mental disorders associated with suicide. Without understanding the scientific viewpoints regarding the contents so casually placed in this show, it is near impossible for proper awareness to be raised about suicide and rape.
13 Reasons Why fails altogether to even mention the actual mind and body experiences or processes Hannah Baker was going through as a depressed suicidal individual. The directors chose to focus solely on her elaborate, fictitious plan to get back at the people who were mean to her, instead of choosing to bring to light the brain deficits she was experiencing as the neurotransmitters in her brain were imbalanced. These imbalances caused her to make irrational decisions. In this way, 13 Reasons Why completely failed at properly raising awareness about the unfortunate topics presented in the show.
This show, due to its failure to properly inform and educate people on suicide and rape, does not deserve to uphold the popularity it currently possesses. Children viewing this show could potentially be, and will most likely be, traumatized with its intensely graphic depictions of scenes of both sexual harassment and Hannah Baker’s suicide itself. At the very least, this show should only be available to those individuals mature enough to handle the topics of suicide and rape with the background knowledge of why they occur and how they could be prevented.
Clearly, suicide and rape are extremely serious and sensitive topics. It is best to approach them in a more formal nature, in order to increase the knowledge and awareness of these subjects without providing hyperbolized or unrealistic expectations as to what situations involving them could entail. In real life, it is imperative to get help if a person is experiencing any thoughts or concerns relating to suicide. Therefore, it is important to know the helpful resources available to all students, such as school counselors or other trusted adults, and even the suicide hotline. As most students have learned in school, these trusted resources will provide a student or any person with the assistance he or she needs.*
*For those who need help, or know someone who may need help, please seek out a counselor or other trusted adult, or call the Suicide Hotline, at (410) 531-6677.