Support Kweller Prep, sponsor of The Classic:
TRIGGER WARNING: This article details topics of suicide and discusses sexual assault, reader discretion is advised.
The newest Netflix series, that debuted on March 31, has gained a lot of attention and popularity on social media. The story, 13 Reasons Why, is adapted from the book of the same name, published by Jay Asher in 2007. The show follows Clay Jensen (played by Dylan Minnette) as he listens to audio tapes, created by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a student who has recently committed suicide. On the 13 tapes that Hannah left behind, she gives 13 different reasons why she killed herself and each tape corresponds to a different character in the show. Throughout the show viewers are able to see how suicide isn’t a one-size-fits-all topic and a buildup of reasons, big and small can cause a person’s life to spiral out of control.
The show chronicles the emotions that Hannah’s suicide leaves on her “friends.” Throughout the show viewers are able to see different reasons that can drive people to commit suicide; anything and everything from vicious high school rumors to sexual assault. The show brings to light many topics such as teen suicide, rape, bullying and teenage alcoholism. Freshman Aweesta Zia says, “the show talks about a topic a lot of people find uncomfortable and try to avoid but I think it’s a topic that deserves to be addressed.”
The show greatly portrays how cruel high school can be and specifically the students of high school. The main characters of the show are very relatable to teenagers nowadays. Many people don’t realize how much a rumor can affect one person’s life. The show greatly shows how one rumor can manifest into something huge as it did for Hannah Baker and how one rumor spiraled into so many other rumors that unfortunately continued to follow her throughout school. People often don’t realize what one rumor they are starting does to another person until it is too late. Freshman Dinesh Mulani agrees saying, “it is not just one thing or person that leads to suicide, it can be multiple people or things. This show really opened up my eyes to how actions can affect different people in different ways and you never know how deeply they might take it.”
While the show does a good job of portraying high school characters and ultimately makes them relatable to teenagers, currently many critics of the show think that it glorifies suicide. Some people say that the fact that Hannah Baker left these tapes behind blaming other people for her suicide is sending out the wrong message to teenagers. Senior Leo Rodriguez disagrees saying, “Hannah makes it clear that she blames herself as well through the tapes because she made mistakes too and she was unable to do more or reach out more. This isn’t Hannah’s ‘haha-got-you now you’re responsible for my death’ story, this is her telling her story and being vulnerable about what happened.”
The graphic detailing and imagery in the show has also caused controversy in many media outlets. Hannah’s suicide scene depicts her slitting her wrists in a bathtub, which some adults find to be unnecessarily gruesome. However, Leo says, “The entire point of the suicide scene is to show how un-glamorous suicide is….Hannah doesn’t get the fallen angel edit. The suicide scene is probably the hardest scene in the series to watch. You get to see her do it, and you see how painful it is. You don’t just look at the water and cry and then close your eyes and let death take you away. The silence in Hannah’s suicide scene, her noises of agony, and the long process it takes to really cut through her wrists feels just too long, and it all goes to show the viewer that suicide isn’t glamorous. It’s horrifying and it’s painful and permanent.” Sophomore Daniella Pardo agrees with the show’s choices saying, “I believe that the show was excellent at being incredibly real and raw and it didn’t shy away from the audience at all when it came to suicide and rape and actual tragedies that some people have to go through everyday. I loved the realness of it.”
It is important to note that the show is not suitable for all audiences. Daniella makes a great point in saying, “for people who have experienced [sexual assault or depression], it may not be recommended for them to watch the show as it may bring up triggers and do more harm than good. For people that have not been through [these things], I believe it’s necessary to watch the show. It opens our eyes to what certain people truly have to go through. It was uncomfortable- and that’s a good thing; because we have to reach a level of uncomfort to become more aware of everything going on around us and just how we can help people who need it.”
At the end of the day 13 Reasons Why sends out a message to teenagers that suicide is never the only option. No matter how bad you are feeling. there is so much more for you and you will always get passed a hard moment in your life. Most people have had moments relatable to Hannah Baker where it seems as though there’s no reason to live anymore, but from the show people are able to see that no matter how alone and abandoned you feel there are always people there for you and people who are willing to help you and that suicide is not the answer.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.