[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
To the writers and producers of 13 Reasons Why,
Congratulations. You’ve made it. Your show is the topic of every conversation, article, and social media platform this month. You’ve moved hundreds of thousands of people to become infatuated with it, binge watching the thirteen episodes in under two days. Teens, young adults, and parents across the nation are raving about it.
So you got what you wanted…but you haven’t got me fooled.
Your intention in making the show was not what you made it out to be. In fact, you really couldn't care less about preserving anyone’s mental health.
All you really wanted was fame.
To be honest, I knew the show was flawed the moment I became obsessed with reaching the end of it. I’ll admit, 13 Reasons Why was addictive. It was extremely captivating, but for all the wrong reasons.
I look back and realize how weird it was that my fourteen year old sister kept pushing me to get to end of it faster. She would say, “OMG, just wait. It gets SO good. You HAVE to finish it.”
Wait, it gets “good”?
How could a TV show depicting such terribly graphic things such as rape, bullying, and suicide, be “good”? And the sad part is that for the first few episodes, I did think it was good. I couldn’t take my eyes of the screen.
You were so hungry for views and popularity, that you used those images to get exactly that. You made the story into a “drama,” a “suicide mystery,” and a “love story” to receive publicity.
But in the process, you failed to mention the first thing about mental illness or depression.
How then, could you claim that your goal was to spread awareness about suicide and depression?
Hannah Baker was slut shamed, cyber bullied, and raped, until she was prompted to slit her own wrists and bleed to death in the bathtub, where her parents find her unresponsive.
The only things that Hannah leaves behind are thirteen tapes, one for each person who did her wrong, and asks each individual to pass them on to the next after he/she finishes listening to all of them.
Let’s be real. The plot of the story revolves around a girl who chooses to seek vengeance on all of those who had done her wrong, by taking her own life and leaving behind a cruel souvenir.
Therefore, the only true message that comes out of this story is that pinning responsibility for your own actions on others is okay. But it’s not. At the end of the day, Hannah Baker chose to take her own life, and the burden of that reality cannot be put onto anyone else.
This is not to say that the kids who bullied her should not be reprimanded. In fact, some deserve to be put behind bars for good. However, at the end of the day, Hannah’s decision, despite how difficult it was for her, was her own.
Furthermore, not only did you fail to portray a real message, but some of your scenes were more graphic than necessary, and above all, extremely triggering for those who have actually dealt with mental illness. You did not need to show every gruesome detail in Hannah’s suicide, as some may be compelled to do the same after watching it.
I get i, At the end of the day, your Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher's novel needed views. But was it worth doing that at the expense of the mental health of so many people?
And you still failed to send out the message you claimed to be making.
13 Reasons Why was NOT created in order to raise suicide awareness, and you knew that. Therefore you made 13 Reasons: Beyond the Reasons, where Selena Gomez, the co-producer, and the entire cast discuss how important it is to spread suicide awareness, and to take note of the signs. Here, the whole cast and crew defend the show’s graphic content, by claiming that it was the only way people would listen and engage in discussion.
My belief is that you felt the need to include that clip at the end, as you realized that the show had done absolutely nothing to address those issues. You had to make up for it somehow.
Let's face it, you were given a serious topic to portray onscreen, and you failed to do it properly. You missed the opportunity to educate the nation about what is actually important.
What if you had chosen to make Hannah Baker live in the end? What if you had decided to allow her to make the tapes, and throw them out after learning that there are in fact people who care about her?
Then, I believe, the message would be clear. And after watching, those who had ever experienced suicidal thoughts might be compelled to seek out help, instead of feeling triggered.
Last, you never once teach the audience the warning signs of one who is depressed or suicidal.
Hannah’s character failed to show sufficient signs of depression, which is why even the people closest to her did not see the end of her life coming. And the few signs that she did show, are not blatantly obvious to the general population watching.
Now I walk through life afraid that someone close to me will make the same decision, and I will miss the signs.
So congratulations. You got the attention that you wanted. But how does it feel knowing that you might have just made things harder for a lot of people?
*Please, if you are worried about yourself or a friend, do not be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255