Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual assault, rape, and suicide.
P.S. Beware of spoilers and sensitive language
Netflix’s show and Jay Asher’s YA novel has gained so much traction that it’s not hard not to see it everywhere on the Internet. It spread so fast and sparked a discussion around mental health that is kinda hard to ignore. But even with the theme of suicide and depression in the show, which are topics that definitely need to be talked about, 13 Reasons Why started a discussion in all the wrong directions. In fact, the show itself failed to promote the message that they tried to spread. The show sucked. The show sucked really bad, and here’s why: 13 Reasons Why, as a book and a show, glorifies and glamorises suicide and reaffirms stereotypes of suicide that many teens and young adults have about depression, suicide, and mental health.
- “If I die, everyone will feel sorry and the people I hate will get what they deserved, and my wishes will be fulfilled.”
This is one of the most problematic aspects of the franchise. Hannah’s suicide was treated so lightly in both the book and the show. The act doesn’t carry any weight in the books. She gets revenge through Clay. Her parents finally notice her. She gets the boy she loves to notice her. All of this would have made for a great show if Hannah was a) still alive and b) accomplished these on her own, but to portray the affects of her death like this glamorises and glorifies of suicide by making it a justifiable action.
In reality, suicide doesn’t work that way. When someone dies, they die. Sadness and grief will follow, not revenge.
- The scene where Hannah kills herself is graphic.
There is a guide online made by suicide prevention experts to show how to portray suicide in the media to prevent copycat suicides. And guess what? 13 Reasons Why broke all of that. In fact, the show even changed the method Hannah used to take her life, but from my understanding the book also went into detail on how she felt after she swallowed the pills. This not only sensationalises suicide but reaffirms myths about depression and mental health.
I don’t understand why Asher and the producers of the show decided to depict suicide in such painstaking detail. Are they trying to provoke emotion out of viewers? If so, they are failing miserably. It would have been more emotionally impactful if they made Hannah’s death happen off screen and sudden even in a flashback, instead of leading up to such a graphic scene.
- Hannah thinks that she doesn’t have anyone to talk to/ask for help.
Hannah was, in fact, surrounded with supportive adults and friends. Her parents are wonderful people. Her counsellor actually tries to help her. In the show, he can be seen putting down the phone for her, and actually asking questions because he looks out for her. Even if Hannah wasn’t comfortable telling the adults in her life, she could still go to Clay. Clay’s a positive part of her life. I don’t understand why she couldn’t go to him if she loved him so much. This solidifies a false notion that someone has to go through depression on their own. They don’t. There is help out there.
- Hannah is a poorly written “heroine.”
Hannah is being portrayed as the victim here, but she kills herself and drags everyone down with her. The idea of avenging yourself after your death is unrealistic and terrible. When you die, people will move on. Sure, they will be sad for sometime. Sure, your loved ones will grieve for a while, but they will move on. Avenging yourself and making them miserable for your death isn’t going to make things better. In fact, it just makes everything worse. This isn’t the role model we want to give young adults.
- All the characters are quite terrible.
Are we supposed to believe that every character was as terrible as they are? It makes sense in the books, since Clay listens to the tapes all in one sitting and never really interacts with anybody else… But the producers of the show could have done better. No one, not even in high school, is that one-dimensional. No one is purely evil or purely good. Hell, the characters other than Hannah and Clay are not even two-dimensional. That’s how terribly written these characters are.
I don’t believe for one bit that this is an accurate portrayal of depression, nor is it a good illustration of suicide. Heck, this isn’t even a good depiction of mental health. Asher and the show’s producers had wonderful opportunities to start a good conversation around mental health and incite powerful action to end the stigma of mental health, but they failed. They failed to achieve the goal that they wanted to fulfill. In the end, this is all just a bad story using mental health as a marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, I will give this franchise a 0.5/5