13 Reasons Why
Caution: Spoilers ahead (obviously)
There's been a lot of talk recently about Netflix's new show 13 Reasons Why. Some say that it's too confronting and that it glorifies suicide and others say that it's great for teenagers to learn from and is an invitation to discuss the issues it raises.
If you've been living under a rock (or maybe don't have Netflix - in that case, who are you and how do you live?), 13 Reasons Why follows the story of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes to specific people, explaining the various events and reasons that led her to that decision.
I think one aspect that it did romanticise was the idea of "getting revenge" on the people she included in the tapes. I was annoyed by the damage that Hannah had caused to the people she left behind. To me, it seemed a bit hypocritical of her to hurt the people that hurt her and potentially impacted them in the same way that their actions caused her to feel. I will also add that this show conveys a very different portrayal of suicide that we're usually exposed to - where the people close to them are told not to blame themselves. Hannah places a certain amount of blame on the people involved in her story.
One critique of this show is that it glorifies suicide and encourages or triggers others to consider committing suicide. From my point of view, this show had a different effect on me. I felt encouraged that other people "get it"; that I'm not alone when I become overwhelmed. Watching Hannah experience some things that I have experienced was actually comforting. In one episode Hannah reflects on the series of events that have combined to lead to her decision. She said that her life had become overwhelming. And I totally understand this feeling. While I've never been suicidal, I have struggled with anxiety. When things go pear-shaped in my life, I become overwhelmed and anxiety strikes. I think this show effectively explores that a lot of little things can have a big impact on a person.
There is still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness and I can appreciate that it's difficult for people to understand if they haven't experienced it themselves. It's not a "normal" thought process. Sometimes things are thrown out of proportion and unrealistic, negative thoughts take over. Some people see this as attention seeking which further prevents people from reaching out. Heck, at some points in the show I too thought that Hannah was an annoying attention seeker but was reminded of my own experience. Sometimes I worry that people will think that I'm just seeking attention which adds to the whole anxious spiral! If you don't speak up, people will understand you even less and they can't help you if they don't know what's going on in that head of yours.
I think this is where the show missed a key element. They neglected to explore mental illness and address the stigma associated with it.
I do appreciate that it has been such a great conversation starter to discuss the issues presented throughout the series but some aspects lacked depth. However it's also important to acknowledge that it is a young adult fiction. All in all, I have very mixed feelings about 13 Reasons Why.
I feel like I could talk about this forever and there's other thoughts I didn't delve into, so I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on this series - please leave a comment below!
'Til next time,