Reasons to talk about ‘13 Reasons Why’

If you’re anything like me, you binge-watched Netflix’s new series “13 Reasons Why” over spring break. The show is adapted from Jay Asher’s novel of the same name and centers on high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide and the aftermath affecting the people in her community. Warning: spoilers ahead. Although at the start of the novel Hannah is already gone, the show includes her as a present character portraying the different experiences that she has gone through, and so as an audience, we can actually see what happens. Viewers listen to the tapes along with Clay Jensen, a character who didn’t realize the impact that these experiences had on Hannah while she was alive.

There has been a lot of praise for this show because of the importance of suicide prevention and emphasizing how people shouldn’t shy away from the topic of suicide. The show is emotionally heavy with the situations that the characters are put in. I constantly found myself yelling at the characters and crying along with Hannah and Clay.

However, along with the praise there has also been a lot of backlash about the show. While the producers of the show had good intentions, some people believe that the way the show portrays the issues is not the right way. First of all, while the concept of suicide can have a lot to do with mental illness, the show does not touch on this topic at all. Instead, viewers have issues with Hannah playing essentially the ‘blame game,’ by passing the tapes to each person who she believes is responsible for her death. One of the issues with this is the thought that blaming others is not right in dealing with situations. Yes, Hannah dealt with horrific situations in her high school experience, but blaming others can lead to these people struggling with this in the future and it’s not actually fair. Another problem which viewers have brought up about the show is regarding the trigger warnings involved. Although not described explicitly in the book, Hannah’s suicide is graphically shown in the final episode of the season. Past research has shown that the display of suicide can be a large trigger and can lead to an increased rate of suicide. There are also graphic displays of sexual assault and rape included. The show does have warnings before each of these episodes in case of issues displayed.

My main issue with viewers’ responses to the show is the jokes that have come out of it, especially on social media. If a person has said something someone doesn’t like, people will comment “Welcome to your tape.” Netflix has even made this joke in relation to their competition with Hulu. It’s cruel and needs to be stopped. People are forgetting the seriousness of the show and shouldn’t joke about death. Instead of joking about the show, people should be talking about why they like it and why they don’t. Any type of talk about suicide, mental illness and bullying is important in society. Many people deal with things in private, just like Hannah did. The last episode of the season portrays Hannah asking for help from her guidance counselor at school. A lot of people, myself included, were horrified of the man’s ignorance of Hannah and her issues. My advice to people who watch this show is to not think everyone is like this. If you are struggling, please talk to someone. This could be a friend, family member, or a trusted adult. Know that you are not alone. Talk about “13 Reasons Why” and how it angers you. Don’t let your voice be silenced.

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Megan Kennelly is a writer and copy editor for The Lorian.

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