I can’t deny that I completely binge watched 13 Reasons Why in literally two days, but unlike a majority of the fans of the show, I don’t think it should return for a second season. Yes, I know this is completely unpopular opinion and I’m sure I’ll get heat for saying any of this, but take a second and consider another point of view.
For those of you that may not be familiar with the series, it’s based off of a book written by Jay Asher about a girl, Hannah Baker, who kills herself in high school and leaves 13 audio tapes stating her reasons for doing so—rather, people that led her to do so. Each tape is about a specific person that led her closer to her decision to end her life. The tapes are sent around to each of the 13 people, thus beginning the story of how this all pieces together. The show itself was released as 13 hour or so long episodes on Netflix, with each tape/person being the subject of each episode. Within these episodes, they show graphic and realistic depictions of two rapes, as well as Hannah’s suicide, alongside many other very real, very painful issues. My argument doesn’t stem from being against content shown, but rather the idea that this is going to become like any other run-of-the-mill Netflix show, when it clearly isn’t. This is heavy, and sometimes very triggering and uncomfortable stuff we’re talking about here. Important yes, but still heavy nonetheless.
Recently, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the show mostly from parents that feel the show glorifies teen suicide. I’m not saying I think it glorifies it, but it definitely is portrayed as a viable option for kids who feel nothing else has worked out for them and that people can still have as much impact dead as they do alive. I’m also not saying that’s the show’s intention, but it can be construed as such, especially by parents whose children are watching and can be very impressionable. If I were a parent and my middle schooler was watching this, I would have issues with it too, especially because it’s so accessible to them.
Although the show was produced to make a statement and serve as a sort of PSA about a bunch of issues plaguing adolescence, such as sexual assault, depression, alcoholism, various forms of domestic abuse, bullying, and obviously, teen suicide, there is never any sort of actual PSA at the beginning or end of episodes listing a website or help hotline. A few years back when The Secret Life of the American Teenager aired on what was then ABC Family, parents were anxious because they thought it was going to glorify teen pregnancy. Instead, at the end of each episode, they had cast members film PSAs encouraging teens (and their parents) experiencing anything discussed in the show to reach out to professional hotlines and help centers. They listed resources for help. This never happened, not even after the final episode of 13 Reasons Why, in which viewers watch Hannah Baker end her life. They provide warnings for graphic episodes, but no resources are provided for those parents and teens whose realities may be some of the scenarios shown on screen.
There is, however, a separate half hour long special discussing the topics of the episodes, but nothing ever immediately before or after an episode. The issue is that this special, 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons, is not as publicized so many people don't even know it exists, and many won't take the time to actually watch it.
I know the last episode ended on a cliffhanger, which is why everyone is claiming that a second season is “absolutely necessary.” The tapes, however, were completed. The original story is done. To continue doing it now, with each of the people who were the subject of each tape being killed off or following in Hannah Baker’s footsteps (depending on which online theory you read), would lose the entire point of the series in the first place. The entire reason for the story, which is to show that everything you do has an effect on someone and that you truly have no idea what someone is struggling with on a daily basis, would be lost. It would continue on as a thriller or teen drama, completely undoing all its already done. To continue would no longer be about message, but money.
Regardless of anything I’ve said about the series and the content itself, let’s focus on the viewer for a minute. Unless you have had thoughts of suicide or have personally lived through any of the scenarios portrayed throughout the course of the series, this may not seem triggering for you. Hard to watch, absolutely, but it wouldn’t bring back feelings and thoughts that were never there. For a lot of people, this could be like watching their life projected onto a large screen. While you could argue that those people should then just choose not to watch (as many have actually chosen to do), this is not the type of show that should be mainstreamed into our society. Yes, it’s important to talk about and address all of these issues, especially with young people; however, a show on Netflix is not the way to do it—at least not for a regular run of a television series.
Although I watched it and thought it was powerful, it’s an instance of needing to leave well enough alone. They got the message out and did so in a way in which people of all ages reacted. It resonated with people, but to make this a regular series worries less about the message and more about the profits. For many people, pieces of Hannah’s story are part of their own—parts they shouldn’t have had to experience once, let alone relive.
So no, I’m not clamoring for a second season by any means; and if there is one, I will not be tuning in.
With that being said, if you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues touched upon in the show, I encourage you to reach out. There are so many resources available, such as the suicide hotline provided below. Sometimes, reminding people they are not alone can make all the difference in the world.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255