Season 2 of the Netflix original series “Thirteen Reasons Why” was released a week ago and it has already sparked a wide range of controversy among past and current viewers. The show is based off the novel by Jay Asher. Season one left viewers with conflicting thoughts about the show’s purpose and execution, and season two did not fall far behind the criticisms. This season has received more backlash than the first.
The show is about a teenage girl named Hannah Baker, who moves to a new town, meets the wrong people, and goes through some wretched situations. She kills herself and makes tapes for each person who hurt her, so that they can listen to the 13 reasons why she killed herself.
These are the reasons why this show has sparked so much talk.
1. The message it sends is negative
This is a topic that is up for debate among viewers. Some people genuinely think that the show is advocating for suicide awareness and prevention, while others have a very different outlook on the message the show gives viewers. I have seen season one of the show in its entirety, and not once did I feel like this was a show that was trying to help people struggling with depression, self harm, or thoughts of suicide. Instead, I viewed the message to be, “If you are depressed you should kill yourself so that the people who made you feel bad can feel guilty.” I am in a mental state that is well enough to know this is wrong and it is not how we should think, but any young viewer who is battling with depression can see this and think, “I should do what Hannah did, maybe then they’ll care.” This is so scary to think about. There have been reports of kids committing suicide after watching the show. I am not sure how valid these reports are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were true. The mind is very powerful but can be influenced by anything.
2. The adaptation of the novel was done badly
I personally have never read the book, but I have a few friends who have. These friends did not enjoy the show at all. They have told me that the book talks about issues more in depth, which is of course expected from any book. It is common for TV show and movie producers to cut out parts from books to accommodate screen time, but a good adaptation always has the vital parts in the visual form of the work. From what people have told me, the show is very rushed with the events and does not explain things that are evident in the book.
3. It goes against the guidelines for showing self harm and suicide
As a Netflix show, the creators did not have to follow the guidelines that are put in place for TV shows so that they do not show explicit self harm scenes that can be triggering to viewers. Legally, they did not have to abide by those guidelines, and they clearly chose not to. Hannah’s suicide scene was bloody and graphic. It gave me a lot of anxiety to watch. I looked away most of the time because otherwise, I knew I would not be able to get through it. This was my reaction and I do not struggle with self harm. I have anxiety when seeing things like this, however. Many people who do have gone to social media to say that the scene was extremely triggering for them. Seeing Hannah mutilate her wrists in that way made them want to relapse and gave many viewers anxiety. Some viewers argue that the show was warnings and viewer discretion signs, and that is true. People are watching at their own risk, but I don’t think everyone who did watch knew what was going to happen in that final episode. No one knew how graphic it would get. They continued to make extremely graphic scenes in the second season, not caring at all about the feelings of viewers.
4. Rape scenes and flashbacks happen very frequently
Season one contains a few scenes of rape, scenes that can also be triggering for viewers who have gone through similar situations, or are simply prone to anxiety when seeing rape. Season two, from what I have seen, has a ton of rape scenes and flashbacks. There is a tweet that contains a list of triggering scenes by episodes and I remember seeing a rape scene labeled in nearly every episode. Again, viewers are warned, but this constant play of rape does not help the story or anyone watching.
5. Depression is not explained well at all
This is probably the thing that I have the biggest issue with. The way they show depression through Hannah, is awful. As someone who has definitely been in a state of depression, I can tell you that this show does not even know the meaning of depression. I am sure that if you ask anyone who has been depressed if this show accurately portrayed the illness, they would say no. I’ve seen short films on Youtube that have covered the topic in a quicker and better way than this multi million dollar show. Hannah goes through bad situations, awful ones, yet she never is seen to show signs of depression. Yes there is the argument that everyone reacts differently, which is true, but no one acts like Hannah did. She went through hardships and then suddenly, only a few months after, decided that she had enough and wanted to die. She didn’t just want to die, she wanted everyone to feel bad for her death, so she made tapes that can be seen as revenge tapes. Her actions did not match those of someone who suffers with depression for years.
6. The show makes it seem like seeking help won’t help
Hannah went to her school’s guidance counselor after she was raped, but got no help. They showed her trying to get help, but no one listened to her. This does occur, but I feel like a show that claims it is trying to help people suffering with suicidal thoughts, should strive to at least show viewers that seeking help does not always have to be in vain.
People say “it’s just a show, get over it!” but I think they are wrong. This is a show that deal with many sensitive topics that can be triggering for many. They should have gone about the production of it differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think this show is good, to each their own. But I feel differently and I know that this show is extremely controversial for all the reasons I’ve listed. Social media is split about this show in a way that I’ve never seen. I hope the producers realize the damage it is causing some people and do something about it if they make another season. I hope they do not continue the show, but they just might if people keep watching.