By Noa Mokhnachi
It’s hugely popular – but critics say it’s doing more harm than good. The truth behind the Netflix smash hit
A month after the release of Netflix latest original series 13 Reasons Why, the show has sparked immense discussion on social media. In fact, it’s already considered the most tweeted showed of 2017, with more than 11 million tweets since its launch on March 30th
The show, based on s young adult book written by Jay Asher, revolved around the story of the suicide of high school freshman Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford). Two weeks after Hannah’s suicide, teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minette) comes home to a mysterious box with tapes in it. The audiotapes, narrated by Hannah Baker herself, unfold her tragic story detailing the 13 reasons why she decided to kill herself.
They are all directly connected to bullying and show how one little action that can seem harmless can lead to a tragic end. The show has been acclaimed for finally starting the conversation about bullying and teenage suicide. But it also has been criticized for romanticizing suicide itself – and by glamorizing harsh topics such as drug-taking and sexual assault.
The fact that a group of teenagers has to listen and pass on tapes revealing information about Hannah’s death almost become a guessing game of “who did it”. The teenagers become so preoccupied with finding out who is on the tape and how to hide it from the rest of the world that it takes the focus away from Hannah’s suffering.
Netflix contacted Dr. Dan , 50, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (S.A.V.E) the largest suicide prevention organization in the world, prior to the release of the show. “When I first saw the show I was right away the potential risk of dangerous of behaviors from teenagers and the potential influence the show could have on teens,” he says.
As the story unfolds, Clay slowly start rectifying the events in his imagination, for example at the prom he changes the courses of events and confidently kisses Hannah, but in reality, Hannah was humiliated by fellow classmates and left the prom in tears without Clay.
“The idea of revenge suicide doesn’t really fall in line with teens suicide, the show pictures somebody reaching out for help and being dismissed. It is Inappropriate because they don’t offer any success stories,” says Dr. Reidenberg.
For the first twelve episodes, Hannah’s suicide almost seems unreal and the viewer wonders if she really is dead. The reality of her death only hits the viewer in the last episode, when Hannah reaches her final breaking point before feeling completely helpless and we can see her preparing the tapes and living her final moments.
Episode 13 is probably the most controversial and important one of the show. In the final episode of the first season, we see Hannah giving up on her life because she can’t find any other options but we also see her trying to seek help from the school counselor without any success. This episode really shows how trapped and helpless a teenager can feel when being bullied.
“I don’t think it is a danger or glamorizing suicide at all, it is more a different way of showing the fallout of suicide and how it can affect people left behind and portrays different situations in which your actions can have deadly consequence on someone else,” says Sam Pike, 27, recruitment consultant and fan of the show.
The viewers are also shown Hannah’s death, which is very rare in this kind of shows; usually, the viewers understand what happened without necessarily seeing it. This is where the show is raw and real, we see Hannah suffering as she cut her wrists with a razor blade. We can’t avoid it we have to look and face the reality of suicide.
“I recognized the potential for the show to bravely and unflinchingly explore the realities of suicide for teens and young adults—a topic I felt very strongly about. It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all,” told show writer Nic Sheff to Vanity Fair.
Whether you think 13 Reasons Why is glamorizing suicide or not, Dr. Reidenberg encourages everyone to watch the show but warn parents to view it with their teenagers in order to start the conversation about suicide. “Young people struggle to separate fiction and real life and they need to have adults telling them the reality of things,” he says.
watch the Trailer: