Netflix has done it again. Their newest original, “13 Reasons Why,” didn’t take off quickly initially, but it slowly became one of their most discussed shows. Unlike their other hit originals, “13 Reasons Why” has received mixed reviews – mostly positive, some hating it and a few who were nearly suicidal.
Opponents of the show share a general opinion, saying that the plot promotes suicide by using it to exact revenge on those who make the victim’s life miserable. Some even question whether the characters in the show did deserve to be blamed for the victim’s death. These arguments are understandable, but they only analyze the show from face value. There are critical aspects of suicide that the show examines that deserve to be noted. By realizing how “13 Reasons Why” reflects on self-harm and depression, it may help improve society’s perception of mental health and those who are undergoing emotional crises.
The premise of the show is based off a teen novel with the same title, which follows 13 tapes that explain why Hannah died. Numerous factors were involved in her suicide: Aa new high school, bullying, financial issues within her family and a lack of friends. There are other significantly serious problems that Hannah personally dealt with, which became the driving cause for her suicide, such as being raped by a peer who committed did the same to her friend.
If one is simply reviewing the plot, writing or cinematography, then “13 Reasons Why” is nothing spectacular. There have been more than a handful of times when I cringed just following some of the dialogue. The fictional high school is also filled with tattooed students who look and act nothing like teenagers. Also, the acting sometimes sucked.
On the other hand, the show does reflect on a few matters of emotional health that should be considered. For some viewers, they see Hannah blaming each person for her death. I think this is incorrect. Each of the 13 tapes explores one way or another how Hannah’s mental strength quickly degraded, which made her extremely vulnerable to the emotional issues that followed her rape, the finishing strike to her characterpsyche.
It’s the summation of her experiences that affected her ability to overcome her issues, which other viewers might reason that it wasn’t a big deal. Each person that she made tapes for somehow abandoned her when she needed help. In the last few episodes, we see Hannah trying to endure her issues alone, yet she can’t. Through each tape, Hannah sought to make each person understand a small portion of the problems that she had to handle by herself.
The show succeeded in highlighting the most difficult issues with depression and suicide. Often, those who are going through these emotions find it hard to seek help, which was also a predicament that Hannah experienced. These individuals have been hurt in some way and they don’t want to expose their pain to someone else that might add on to those emotions instead of relieving it.
Hannah wanted to recreate that complexity with the 13 individuals; however, in their case, they had each other to process the guilt. In addition, each character had the opportunity to come clean, yet they didn’t in fear of being jailed. Even after her death, these characters were reluctant to validate Hannah’s feelings and experiences.
“13 Reasons Why” mistakenly appears to be a revenge plot and I think that’s an issue with the writing, which doesn’t reflect the intrinsic message of the show. I don’t think Hannah intended each of the 13 to kill themselves at the end. She just wanted them to understand what she felt.
That’s the vital message that the show hopes their viewers will take away. It’s not about who’s right or wrong; it’s about showing support for those who need it. Conversely, “13 Reasons Why” is urging those who are depressed or suicidal to maintain whatever hope they have to seek help, because there will be people who will listen, be empathetic and give a reason to live.