The Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why came out on March 31 of this year, 10 years after it had originally been released as a book. Leading up to its premiere, there was a lot of hype surrounding the show, not only because of its success as a book but also because of Selena Gomez’s role as a producer. The purpose of Thirteen Reasons Why, both the book and the show, was to prevent suicide and, as Gomez says, to “start a conversation.” However, there has been debate recently over whether the show is doing more to encourage suicide rather than to prevent it.
After watching the show, I immediately hated it. If you have not seen it, it tells the story of a girl named Hannah Baker, who is driven to suicide by the actions of her so-called friends. It follows her story after she dies through tapes she left to all the people she felt played a part in her suicide. These tapes clearly blame the other characters and cause many of them to develop issues of their own, like depression and extreme anxiety. Obviously, this plot line is controversial, and I have a few very biased opinions on why it is doing more harm than good.
My first issue with the show is that it blatantly blames other people for Hannah’s suicide. While there are obviously events like her sexual assault that lead Hannah to a horrible state of mental health, it is not the people, including her rapist, that wronged her that made her kill herself. Nobody except the person committing it is ever to blame for suicide.
My second issue is the fact that, at least the way the show portrays it, Hannah’s suicide is a very effective act of revenge. My immediate response to this was concern for all the teenage viewers with similar issues, who could get the idea that leaving tapes behind after their death would be the only way to punish their bullies. This has been proven to be true; after the release of the show, there have been suicide cases in which tapes or letters have been left. In an effort to prevent these copycat suicides, many psychologists have warned against the show.
While the intention of the show may have been to prevent suicide, in my opinion, it has done a better job of glorifying it. It has been successful in starting a conversation. But at what price?