Netflix’s breakout hit ’13 Reasons Why’ is officially going forward with their second season, but the show has had an enormous amount of controversy. It's no surprise that something as hard to talk about as suicide is going to have differing opinions.
There have been a lot of articles quoting psychologists, and explaining all the reasons people shouldn't be watching this show. Many people have mentioned trigger warnings, and claim this show is too difficult to watch. In my opinion, I think those articles are wrong. I think people should be watching this show. I think people need to be watching this show, and here is why:
1. Suicide is Taboo.
No one wants to talk about the difficult mental health issues and events that lead to suicide, but we need to be talking about it. It’s important to start a conversation, even if it’s going to be a difficult one.
2. The Show is Graphic.
Some say too graphic. However, I would argue that it needs to be graphic in order to get the point across. It doesn't just brush the surface of an issue or two, but it dives deep into the causes of issues like sexual assault, abuse, depression, and even how to move forward from them.
3. This Show is Not a Revenge Fantasy.
This way of thinking misses the mark because it’s not about revenge at all, but is more about someone else’s point of view. No one understood Hannah Baker, granted sometimes she didn't try hard enough to be understood. She didn't kill herself because she wanted to prove she was right, and she didn't kill herself to get people to listen or to get back at them. She wanted to kill herself, period.
She stopped caring if she was understood because she lost hope that she ever would be. The cassette tapes she left behind were her last hope of being heard and listened to, but there was no way to ensure this once she died. These tapes didn't prove that she was right. They didn't prove anything because ultimately it was still her word, the word of a dead girl, against everyone else’s. And, that is definitely not a fantasy. Being dead is not a fantasy, and it’s not revenge. Her life is over, so how does that give her the last word?
4. '13 Reasons Why' Does Not Promote or Glamorize Suicide.
I suppose in some ways it could be interpreted that way because anytime Hollywood makes a show or a movie about any topic, it’s considered glamorous. However, I cannot understand why people would think this suicide was glamorous. The creators said specifically that they differed from the book ending, where Hannah took a bunch of pills because they wanted it to be more painful for the viewer. They wanted suicide to be the hardest and most difficult thing to ever go through with, in order to show how it’s not worth it. Nothing about this show makes suicide appear worth it. We basically watch Clay Jensen fall in love with a dead girl all over again, knowing he will never get to be with her. That’s gut wrenching.
5. The Rape Scenes are Pivotal to the Story.
Some are saying the rape scenes were “stupid” or “disturbing." Stupid? No. Disturbing? Yes. These people who are so quick to judge are being extremely insensitive to those who have actually experienced sexual assault. There were two rapes in this 13 episode series and ‘disturbing’ seems to be a pretty accurate way of depicting them. Rape isn’t supposed to be pretty or sugar coated. It is supposed to hurt! It was supposed to be painful to watch. That was the point, and as Hannah Baker would say to all the critics, “Once again, you and the point are complete strangers.”
6. The Show Shatters People’s Preconceived Ideas of How a Friend Reacts to Witnessing a Rape.
Hannah was drunk and hiding in the closet when her friend Jessica was raped. Critics are so upset that she didn't run out of the closet and save her friend, but no one understands the psychological turmoil that comes with a situation like that. Hannah was scared for her own safety. She wanted to move but physically couldn't. Maybe she was crippled with fear, or maybe she didn't know what she could do. Either way, this guilt stayed with Hannah.
If only someone would have told her it wasn't her fault. If only someone told her that she didn't have to blame herself for something another guy did. If only. And yet, society is doing the same thing. Viewers of the show are blaming Hannah for not stopping a rape that they think she could have stopped, and for putting herself in a position to get raped herself.
7. This Show is Not the Problem. Our Society is the Problem.
'13 Reasons Why' is an accurate, brutal, and hard-to-watch story about some very serious issues that we as people try to avoid talking about. Maybe people don’t like it because they think it gives the viewers too many ideas, or maybe they don’t like it because it’s forcing us to discuss these things.
8. Speaking Up is Always Better Than Silence.
Even if there are disagreements, it’s better to voice your opinions than to hold them inside. This show provides great conversation starters for all types of issues, from suicide, depression, loneliness, anxiety, sexual assault, and abuse.
9. '13 Reasons Why' is Not Dangerous.
It doesn't plant seeds that have not already been there. It doesn't promote suicide, in fact, it does the opposite. It shows the torture that friends, and classmates, and teachers, and counselors, and parents go through when a tragedy like this happens.
10. This Show is Not for Those Who Struggle with Suicide, it’s for Those Who Don't Understand it.
I understand some things in this show may hit too close to home for people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, however, for someone who doesn't struggle with suicide, I feel it was aimed towards me.
It worked hard to explain suicide and depression to those who might not understand it. It also showed the effects of bullying and how detrimental it can be. You never know how someone else is struggling, so it's best to be nice to everyone. You never know how much of a difference it can make.
11. The Damage Was Already Done When the Show Started.
Hannah Baker is already dead when the show starts. We only get to know her through her tapes and flashes to past events. The damage is already done. This is why I believe the show is not targeting someone contemplating suicide, but rather it is aimed at those who affected Hannah’s decision.
12. A Common Theme Throughout the Show is Remorse.
Almost everyone who listens to the tapes feels bad and slightly responsible for causing someone to kill themselves. I know this is a controversial statement because nobody can really cause this. Life sucks sometimes and everyone feels pain. Some people can handle it better than others though, and this cautionary tale tries to show that. Some people probably think Hannah is over dramatic and never went through anything that bad. Others understand her pain and feel for her.
A weird comparison I noticed was that the same students who felt terrible after listening to Hannah’s tapes were still mean and rude to other classmates they thought were weird or different. It appalled me that they didn't learn from their mistakes and try to change their mean behavior. This is another reason suicide doesn't solve or fix anything. The same issues Hannah was facing still happened to other students. I think this show is trying to reflect this habit of bad behavior, and change us for the better.
13. Be kind. Be respectful. You Never Know.
Ultimately, '13 Reasons Why' was supposed to encourage everyone to treat people kinder and be more respectful. We never know what others are going through so we shouldn't assume our little acts of meanness don’t mean anything. If we’ve learned anything from this show, it’s that everything means something, and every little thing can make a difference. Sometimes a life changing difference.