By now many of you may have watched “Thirteen Reasons Why” on Netflix, the TV series inspired by Jay Asher’s novel of the same name. The principal concept of the show and book is that the protagonist Hannah Baker (Katharine Langford) commits suicide and leaves behind seven cassette tapes, where each side chronicles one of the reasons why (and person) that lead her to the dark path of suicide.
I’ve always been an advocate of bringing light to mental health and talk of teen suicide, and although many may see this series as a step towards that, sadly, in many ways it’s not. Suicide is glamorized in both the series and book, demonstrating how one’s death could be used as a sort of guilt-trip revenge towards the bullies. I understand that both the show and novel tried to show how devastating the effects of bullying can be. What differs between the book and show, is that the book’s reasons for Hannah’s suicide weren’t as extreme as in the show, where she actually falls victim of a sexual assault by Bryce (Justin Prentice).
The show goes to show how Hannah’s death affects those that are left behind, especially Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) who had a crush on her but never truly admitted his feelings for her. And while Hannah blames him as one of the reasons why (not openly, as she says he never did anything wrong to her, but on the same token, she was hoping he would’ve stepped by and made her feel loved and maybe then she wouldn’t have slit her wrists).
The problem with the show is that although Hannah had legit reasons to be hurt, ultimately it was her decision to take her own life. And it was depicted in a way that she did it because she blamed those in her life. Without realizing it, the show is sending a truly scary message, telling people who are dealing with those problems that this is how they should handle them as no one will be there to help you. When that isn’t always true. Throughout the entirety of the show, we never see Hannah approaching her parents with her problems (and her parents were depicted as being very loving and supportive) which baffles me as to why she didn’t go to them and rather heavily relied on her counselor Mr. Porter (Derek Luke) as the only adult who could save her (which of course he failed because from both the book and show the character was absolutely inadequate to even be a counselor and who was blind to all the signs of help the poor girl needed).
Although the show has brought up discussion about mental health and teenage suicide, it lost its mark on how to actually get help if that’s what you’re seeking. If you or anyone else you know is dealing with bullying, or thinking about suicide, please refer to the hotlines below and no matter how the show glamorizes suicide, ending your life is never the right solution.
If someone can take anything from the show and novel is this: be nicer to one another. It could literally save a life.
For suicide prevention contact this hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
For bullying please refer to: http://www.stompoutbullying.org
By: Azzurra Nox