13 Reasons Why. I’m sure you’ve heard this name before, considering its crazed success on Netflix. The show received both positive and negative feedback and was renewed for a second season and soon after that, a third.
The show centers around the impact of a girl’s suicide and the thirteen tapes she sends to the people who indirectly caused her death. It was originally a book by Jay Asher before being picked up by Netflix in 2015.
13 Reasons Why enamored teenage viewers. Considered a binge-worthy show, kids stayed up all hours of the night to finish it. Kids from junior high to high school were watching. Harlie Brewer, a 13-year-old at Thornton Junior High School in Fremont was a huge fan. “I liked it a lot,” she said. “It was dramatic.”
Yes, the show did bring about awareness to sensitive topics, such as suicide and rape, but that new-found knowledge needs to be conveyed in a respectful way. Madelyn Gould, PhD, is a professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at Columbia University and a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She was appalled by the graphic nature of the show and acknowledged the fact that the show did strike up conversations about suicide, but any type of conversation about suicide is not automatically good. “I’ve heard people express that any conversation is better than no conversation because it raises awareness about this problem,” she said. “It has to be an appropriate conversation, because an inappropriate conversation can actually do some harm,” whether that be incorrect information or a disrespectful attitude.
The show has a heavy theme of revenge. Hannah Baker, the young teen who takes her life, does so for thirteen reasons, those reasons being people. Hannah kills herself to get back at others, to simply make her pain become theirs. Graham Wiseman, whose 15-year-old son killed himself, told a group of students that they “don’t get a voice from beyond the grave,” referring to the cassettes left by Hannah to instill guilt into the hearts of those who had wronged her. The show does little to talk about Hannah’s problems and focuses more on the people who she claimed caused them.
The suicide scene of the show varied drastically from the book. In the book, Hannah kills herself by overdosing on pills, written very matter-of-fact and not graphically. In the show, Hannah Baker is shown slitting her wrists and bleeding out in a bathtub for five whole minutes. This moment grew intense very quickly, shocking viewers. Katherine Langford, who played Hannah Baker, clarified that “the choice to stay on these moments to a point where it makes the audience just past uncomfortable was a very deliberate decision, and it was done because we wanted to show the ugliness and not use these events and issues as plot devices or romanticize them in any way,” Research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal showed an increase in suicide-related Google searches in the 19 days after the show’s release, especially a 26 percent rise in searches for “how to commit suicide.” The scene did not educate to prevent suicide, but instead taught others how to follow Hannah’s path.
Photo Credit: Netflix