You've probably heard some of the buzz surrounding Netflix's new series based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, "13 Reasons Why." If you haven't watched it, it's about the reasona that led the protagonist, Hannah Baker, to suicide. Many feel that the show is controversial, depicting graphic and triggering scenes such as Hannah slitting her wrists or being raped, or because it seems to glorify suicide. Others have found hope from the show because it has brought awareness to those who might not realize the consequences of their actions. Discussing what is done right and what isn't is an entirely other topic. I want to talk about one of the reactions that came out of the show: the memes.
I want to start by saying that even with the controversy in the show, what I am writing about is not the show's fault. Instead, it's the fault of our generation's need to turn everything into a joke. Believe me, I love a good meme as much as the next person, but there is a fine line between being funny and just being downright offensive.
I know what you're thinking, because I've read it. I've heard it. "Get over it. You're too sensitive." Well, let me tell you from experience, it is a lot harder to "stop being so sensitive" than it is to show compassion, see the error of your ways, and to just be a kinder person. This type of response to people expressing their pain is an issue not to be overlooked.
The issue with this meme is that it's not just a joke about suicide. It's about so much more.
The meme in question follows the format of the show. Hannah leaves a recording on a tape for the 13 people who contributed to the reasons why she decided to kill herself. On some of them, Hannah welcomes her former friends to their tapes. The meme will begin with some type of everyday inconvenience followed by "Welcome to your tape." Here is an example:
Let's use this as an example to discuss the issue further. In the show, as mentioned already, each of the characters who received the tapes has contributed a reason as to why Hannah committed suicide. One issue with this meme is that it implies that Hannah does not have justifiable reasons for killing herself. A response to this tweet says 'I don't think anyone is making fun of suicide, but some of those tapes was just like "really"??? Not everyone is going to like you!' Let's analyze this mindset. First of all, it sounds like you're making fun of her, but I'll pretend you're not for the sake of getting to the real issue of the tweet. Of course, not everyone is going to like you, but their words and actions struck Hannah in ways that were so damaging that she thought her only escape was death. The little things can add up. It's one of the major themes of show. If you didn't catch that then I don't what you were watching. In the words of Hannah Baker herself, "You and the point are complete strangers." It goes back to my point earlier. You are blaming Hannah for not "getting over it."
Most importantly, you are invalidating not only Hannah, a fictional character, but also every single person who has ever felt her pain.
I want you to think about a time when you felt hurt and were told to "get over it." How did that affect your relationship with that person? Did it make it so much harder to open up to people about anything, even if you now realize it was a small thing that you were told to get over? Because that happens. And then you feel alone. You have no one to confide in. A small, insignificant thing to one person at some point in time can seem like the end of the world to someone else. It is not up to you to decide.
That is how Hannah Baker felt when she went to Mr. Porter. That meeting could have saved her life, but instead she was told to just move on. I'm not saying that this is going to definitely happen, but what if you share this meme and you have someone in your life that you care about who is having suicidal thoughts? You won't ever know, unless it's too late. They might think you don't care. You have invalidated Hannah and because of that, someone that needs you may never come to you because you have unknowingly invalidated their feelings as well.
This is a meme that is joking at the expense of someone who has committed suicide because she thought she had no one to turn to. While you may think her reasons were drastic, or maybe unrealistic, the truth, which happens so often, is that she couldn't confide in anyone. That needs to end. Assure your loved ones that any type of pain they feel is real and it is okay to feel that way. Validate the way people feel. Take their concerns into consideration. And never tell someone that they are too sensitive and should just get over someone. Instead of trying to defend a joke, own up to your mistake and learn the effects it could have on someone. After all, the little things can add up to make a huge impact. Make sure those little things are positive.