DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers. Any mention of suicide in this article refers to the intentional act of ending one's life, in this case, to end one's own suffering. This show can be harmful for anybody dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts.
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix Original show based on a book written by Jay Asher. The book follows Clay Jensen, a high school junior, as he listens to 13 tapes listing the 13 reasons why the girl he loved, Hannah Baker, killed herself. Most of the reasons are different people, but a couple were situations/events. The show intends to justify suicide, which is why it is dangerous for impressionable teenagers who experience hormonal shifts that cause overreactions to mundane things. I have many issues with this show, but here is a list of 13 reasons not to watch 13 Reasons Why:
1. Glorification of suicide
The worst thing about 13 Reasons Why is the way they make Hannah Baker into a martyr. It depicts suicide as the only way for people to understand or appreciate the person who was struggling, and that's not true. It also displays suicide as Hannah's only way out, which is also not true. In real life, there are so many people who want to help (friends, family, counselors, hotlines, etc.), and more healthy ways to cope with pain that don't involve ending one's own life.
2. Detailed depiction of suicide and rape.
In the latter episodes of season 1, there are a couple of scenes that explicitly show rape and one scene that shows Hannah's suicide, also explicit. Middle and high schoolers don't need to see a guy forcing himself upon a girl. For the suicide scene, the producers just taught millions of impressionable kids how to kill themselves using a sharp edge.
3. Bullying is common.
Bullying. Is. Not. Rare. About 1 in 5 students aged 12-18 experience bullying on a regular basis. A horrible statistic, really, but a true one, nonetheless. 13 Reasons Why portrays Hannah Baker as the only girl in her school who gets bullied, but in real life, everybody knows kids who get bullied often. Bullying is not an isolated issue, and if you are being bullied, you are not alone.
4. Bathroom stall writing was a shocker.
All middle schools and high schools have writing on bathroom stalls. The majority of that writing is not even personal, just immature phrases from immature kids who feel like writing on a bathroom stall. Mrs. Baker (Hannah's mother) is shocked when she sees the writing in the stalls in one episode, but in reality, it is a normal behavior that previous generations started before us. It's not a new thing.
5. The stalker was never reported.
Today's world is full of creeps. When someone, anyone, threatens your safety and sense of security, it is terrifying, and I understand that on a personal level. However, when Hannah Baker caught someone taking pictures of her outside her window, even after she found out who it was, she didn't tell authorities. That sets a bad example for other kids who find themselves in similar situations. If you believe someone is stalking you, don't hesitate to seek help.
6. Hannah never talked to anyone.
When humans struggle, we talk to other people to help us work things out. In the show, Hannah does not talk to anybody until she is on the brink of suicide, despite the fact that she had people she could turn to, like Clay or her parents. In that sense, the show romanticizes bottling up emotions and shutting out the people who care about you. That is the absolute worst thing to do when you are struggling. Lean on your friends, that's what they're there for.
7. Girls are just as bad as guys.
Out of Hannah's 13 reasons, only three of them were girls. In reality, girls can be just as horrible as guys, but the show implies that the guys are mostly to blame. Girls lie, cheat, gossip, and tear each other down just as much as guys do. I'm not excusing the way guys behave, but it is important to recognize that girls can be equally horrible.
8. Putting full blame on everyone else.
The entire show is built around the people and situations that "caused" Hannah's suicide, portraying them as though they are the only deciding factors in her personal decision to end her life. Granted, she did go through a lot and her hurt was indeed valid, but the constant narrative of "this school killed her" is inaccurate. Suicide is a choice made by none other than the person who commits it.
9. Suicide is impulsive.
Suicide is never well thought-out. It is an irrational decision based on desperate, irrational logic. In real life, anyone who is rational enough to record their past experiences in detail (i.e. Hannah Baker) is not impulsive and is more likely to find reasons not to commit suicide after realizing how stupid their problems are in comparison to the seriousness of ending a life.
10. The idea of the tapes is just cruel.
Hannah makes those who hurt her listen to all of the tapes and relive their past mistakes. The tapes were meant to justify her suicide by explaining her reasons, but instead they cause hell to the people who hurt her because of their selfishness. Again, those people truly did hurt her and they suck because of that, but that does not warrant her making their lives even more miserable (except for the guy who raped her, he deserves it.) The people who wronged her know the gravity of what they did, and have to live with that guilt for the rest of their lives. They don't need to relive it.
11. ADULTS CAN TELL THAT SOMETHING'S OFF, THEY'RE NOT CLUELESS!
In the show, Hannah's parents and teachers all ignore some pretty obvious signs that Hannah was struggling. Parents are not oblivious to the struggles of their kids. Teachers are not clueless either. Depicting adults as unhelpful (i.e. when Hannah sees the school guidance counselor for help, says, "I need everything to stop…people, life," and he doesn't think she meant suicide) in a show aimed at middle and high school audiences is incredibly dangerous for kids who feel like they have nowhere else to turn.
12. The inaccurate depiction of depression.
Depression is more than going through a "rough time", though that can be a cause. Depression is a disorder that affects your mood, appetite, motivation, concentration, sleep, and other parts of your physical well-being. 13 Reasons Why shows Hannah's descent into despair, but it does not show the lack of energy, the sleepless nights, the restlessness, the sluggishness of mind and body, the difficulty concentrating on even mundane things. This misrepresentation gives people a false idea that depression has no physical complications.
13. Suicide is a choice.
Ultimately, the decision to commit suicide is yours alone. The show depicts Hannah's suicide as though she was forced into it, but she made the final decision. Suicide is, to put it bluntly, the most selfish thing a person can do, and I do not say that shallowly. By killing yourself, you permanently hurt everyone who cares about you. You leave behind a path of destruction that makes everything you were going through pale in comparison to the pain you cause.
As you can tell, I have many problems with this show; however, there is one good thing that came out of it. The main purpose of the show is to incite a long-needed conversation about teen suicide. We should talk about suicide to help teach our kids how to respect and treat others with kindness in order to prevent it. Kindness might not completely solve the problem due to the nature of depression, but it is certainly a start in the right direction.
I do not intend to "victim-blame" Hannah Baker at all in this article. I only mean to show that she had power to get help, but never used it. For anyone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you do have the power to reach out for help. Talking to friends, family, and even a suicide hotline can be the difference between life and death. You are valued, you are loved, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves you enough to give up his own son. Whether you believe it or not, God has a plan specifically for your life, a reason he put you on this Earth. If you are struggling, here are some resources that can help:
13reasonswhy.info – Has links to crisis hotlines and resources that have information on suicide and how to prevent it
1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Hotline
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