One of the main critiques of Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ is that the series glorifies suicide. I disagree completely. People are misunderstanding its audience.
There has been plenty of hype around the novel turned Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. If you read my article, 5 Young Adult Novels You Should Read During Spring Break , you’ll understand that I watched the series almost immediately.
I, personally, loved the series. I loved how it opened up the narrative and fleshed out the characters. You really saw how Hannah’s death affected everyone, and how everyone affected Hannah’s death. You could understand how previously asshole characters on the surface like Justin did the things they did.
I also appreciated how heavy-handed the series was. Two of the episodes had trigger warnings. Not to give too much away, but these episodes accurately show-cased suicide and rape.
With this said, I can understand why there’s a lot of criticism over 13 Reasons Why. I’ve read countless articles on how the show was too heavy and over-dramatic.
What frustrates me most with most of the criticism is this idea that the narrative glorified suicide, and I disagree with this entirely.
I can understand where this notion comes from. Hannah creates these tapes to let those who wronged her know they are one of the reasons why she killed herself. The synopsis right there sounds like a revenge suicide. Hannah killed herself to make the people who made her suffer, suffer even more. It doesn’t help that Hannah, in her last hours, calculates exactly who was responsible for her agony and how to get these tapes to them. Breathing life into this synopsis could possibly encourage people who are suicidal to kill themselves for revenge.
However, within 13 Reasons Why, there are two points I’d like to make that counteract this fact (But it does contain spoilers. You’ve been warned):
1. Watching Hannah’s suicide is absolutely painful.
The series differs from the novel in how Hannah killed herself. In the novel, Hannah killed herself with a bottle of pills. In the series, Hannah slits her wrists and bleeds out in a bathtub for her parents to find her. The last episode shows her suicide, and it’s excruciating to watch. Real talk, I had to clutch onto my Sulley Pillowpet and look away at some parts because it was incredibly difficult viewing.
In the short documentary that follows the series, Behind the Reasons, script writer and executive producer Brian Yorkley explains the choice of her suicide. He says they wanted the suicide to be agonizing to watch in order to show how tormenting suicide actually is. They wanted people to understand that choosing to kill yourself isn’t an easy decision nor is it glamorous.
This reason at least shows the creators weren’t aiming to glorify suicide.
2. You see the heartbreak Hannah’s parents had to go through.
What I liked most about 13 Reasons Why was seeing Hannah’s death affect her parents. It’s heart-wrenching to say the least. Her parents are trying to put all the pieces together as to why their only daughter decided to off herself. They have no idea why. To them, their daughter was perfectly okay until she was gone forever. Her parents are filled with grief and unanswered questions.
Her parents were not even part of Hannah’s reasons why she killed herself. She didn’t kill herself because her parents were terrible to her. They loved her very much and showed it. Perhaps the only mistake they made was not paying attention to her enough because they were too busy focusing on their business.
The show did a decent job at showing how suicide affects everyone around you. It showed that when you’re gone, the people that love you most will forever miss you.
I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to stop existing. I didn’t want to exactly kill myself. I just wanted to cease existing for a while because life became too overwhelming. The thing that stopped me from thinking this was realizing how many people I would affect if I ceased existing.
13 Reasons Why showed how your actions will affect people in perhaps ways you didn’t think of, regardless of whether you’re suicidal or not.
Those that say the show is awful for glorifying suicide, or for triggering those who are depressed/suicidal or rape victims probably do not understand the audience of 13 Reasons Why.
Executive producer Selena Gomez in Beyond the Reasons makes a comment that in order for teenagers to understand suicide, they have to be shocked. This comment along with the core themes of the show lead me to believe that the audience of this show are those who do not understand depression, suicide, and rape.
13 Reasons Why isn’t for the people who suffer from depression. There are trigger warnings on two of the episodes, and I wouldn’t recommend a suicidal individual to watch a show about suicide. This show is for the people who do not understand their impact on the world.
Just as Hannah’s tapes were for all those shitty teens that didn’t understand how they hurt her, the series as a whole is for those real life shitty teens (and adults) who don’t understand how being an asshole to a person can damage that person deeply.