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13 Reasons Why is a book-turned-show that recently was released on Netflix. While I've never read the book, I did watch the TV program and I'd like to talk about the story and the impacts on its audience.  As one might suspect, this post will include spoilers.

 

For those who aren't familiar with it, 13 Reasons Why explores the months leading up to the suicide of a teenage girl through audio cassette tapes she recorded and left behind after she killed herself.  The girl, Hannah, recorded a tape dedicated for every "friend" who ever hurt or betrayed her in some way.  These tapes are passed around to the various people who are featured on the tapes, and the show is shown through the eyes of her friend, Clay. During the year leading up to her suicide, Hannah experienced everything from moderate bullying to sexual harassment to betrayal to rape.

 

So, obviously, this thread will include these sorts of topics - warning for those who are not keen to discuss them.

 

The point of the program, from what I understood, was to show the impact that bullying has on someone.  The behavior of her classmates towards her (and not just one or two classmates; we're talking almost a dozen) wore her down and broke her spirit.  Combined with stress factors at home--in particular, watching her parents struggle financially--she finally fell into depression and sliced her wrists.  In my opinion, however, the story went wrong in two places:

 

1) The fact that she left the tapes behind for each person to listen to made it sound like a revenge suicide to get back at those who had hurt her.

 

2) The TV show format took each of the cassettes and stretched it out for an hour, which ultimately did the story a disservice because it emphasized point #1.

 

In the TV show, it takes Clay many, many days to get through the cassette tapes because they give him such bad anxiety.  So for filler, they show the interaction of the kids at school, the bullying that takes place, and the other characters forming a clique to take out Clay because they believe he's going to go to the authorities and tell them about the contents of the tape.  This gave Netflix more content to work with, of course, but watching the way that the characters writhed and lived in torment over these tapes made it seem like Hannah wanted them all to suffer.  Thus, it seemed like the story lost the effect of "When many people hurt someone, it destroys them" into "I'm going to make you all suffer through my suicide."

 

Unfortunately, based upon the Netflix comments, it appears that other people took the show to mean this.  Some worry (and perhaps rightfully so) that other kids will be inspired by this and blame others for their own suicides.

 

This, perhaps, is the main reason that I disliked the show: Suicide, no matter how tragic, is decided by the person who commits it.  You cannot shift the blame to others and say, "You killed me" if you're the one who is making the decision to deal the final blow.  It upset me to see how Clay was piling it on himself that he "killed Hannah" and no one really corrected him.  Yes, sometimes people mentioned it, but the emphasis was clearly on the fact that all of these people who received the tapes in one way or another "Killed Hannah Baker."  In reality, Hannah killed herself.

 

That said, I didn't dislike the show in its entirety.  It was a fascinating piece, and I really enjoyed watching it for the most part.  Many of the characters had their own struggles and didn't know how to handle it.  Some had support; others didn't.

 

One thing I wish it addressed more thoroughly was the depression aspect.  They captured the fact (towards the end) that Hannah was "empty" which is a sign of depression, but unfortunately to many people who aren't familiar with how depression affects people, it wasn't enough to make them understand why she made the decision that she did.  (Again, I think it comes back to the story coming across as appearing as a revenge suicide.)  But depression is something that many teenagers have to face, and to explore that in more detail would have been beneficial not just to the story itself but also to the people watching it.

 

Another thing I liked about the show is that it gets people talking.  I'm an adult, but I came across some other adults who were watching the show, and it got us into a conversation about it.  Raising awareness of bullying, depression, and suicide is extremely important, especially when we're in a world where people don't always have to take responsibility for their actions, bullying is ignored (and sometimes even encouraged), and nobody wants to talk about mental health.  I'm grateful that I watched the show for this reason, and I hope others watch it and see that sometimes even stupid, little things can affect the way people live their lives.

 

Your thoughts?

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9 hours ago, Uaithne said:

This, perhaps, is the main reason that I disliked the show: Suicide, no matter how tragic, is decided by the person who commits it.  You cannot shift the blame to others and say, "You killed me" if you're the one who is making the decision to deal the final blow.  It upset me to see how Clay was piling it on himself that he "killed Hannah" and no one really corrected him.  Yes, sometimes people mentioned it, but the emphasis was clearly on the fact that all of these people who received the tapes in one way or another "Killed Hannah Baker."  In reality, Hannah killed herself.

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The problem with shows like this is that although they raise awareness of  depression, they do not always portray all the medical issues accurately. Do not think that everyone who commits suicide consciously makes the choice. It's not something I talk about often, but some people can enter what is called a fugue state with depression and can attempt to or commit suicide while they are in that state. When a person is in that state, they aren't really in control of what they are doing. (This is a problem my partner has with his depression and PTSD, and I must say that it is the most frightening part of his illness.) 

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Actually, the show did deal with mental health a bit, but it was very subtle and largely ignored by the main characters. Clay's parents acknowledged his problems with anxiety and depression - when they talked about therapy and his prescription - but Clay wanted nothing to do with that. Which, I think, is exactly the way most teenagers respond to that sort of thing. None of the main characters want help for their mental health. They mock the school's programs and go against their parents and behave as teenagers do. They're all very self-involved and self-centered and don't reach out when they need to. And I think that's the most telling thing about the show. That people who are suffering don't want help. When they do reach out, as in Hannah's case at the end, it's either not taken seriously or ignored. Someone who hasn't suffered in that way or experienced someone who has won't recognize the cries for help. Do I think the show could have handled these struggles better to promote awareness and healthy options for dealing with them? Yes. Do I think that the show approached these problems in a very real way? Yes. To me, the show is more about showing what actually happens than what should happen. We can criticize it for all of its shortcomings (which I think we should to open the discussion further), but if this actually happened in real life, I've no doubt that this is how it would happen.

 

As someone who hasn't dealt with depression or suicide, it was very interesting to watch. And the impression I got from it was that it was a show for parents to watch with their teenage children. For kids to watch with their peers and mentors. It's meant to open discussion. People bring all kinds of different perspectives to this show. Someone who is suffering might identify with Hannah, and it's important for someone who isn't suffering to show them that they should be identifying with Clay. Hannah represents the person without a support system. She has no one she feels she can turn to and the one person she does only pushes her further. She's the representation of how everyone who suffers with depression or suicide feels. Alone. Afraid. Victimized. And with no other way out. But Clay should be the person they identify with, and someone who is suffering needs to be shown that they are Clay, not Hannah. Clay has a whole support system that he's not seeing. His parents. His friends. His mentors. There are people out to get him (literally), but he has a network of people he can fall back on if only he could realize it. Everyone has someone, even if it's only a suicide hotline. But people suffering often don't see that, like Clay refusing to let anyone help him until the end. So, when you watch the show with someone who can show you that you're Clay, not Hannah, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it opens up a new dialogue.

 

I do have a problem with the revenge suicide aspect, and I think the show focuses on that more than it should. But I also think it shows that, while it ruined other people's lives, they were still able to move on from it. It made them suffer for only a short time (relatively) before they were able to pick up and move forward from it. But Hannah will never be able to move forward. She will be forever stuck in her suicide and her 13 reasons why. For example, Jessica was finally able to realize what happened to her and confront it, which are the first steps of moving past such a traumatic experience. Justin was able to admit what he did and that it was wrong. Courtney was able to come to terms with her sexuality. Etc. Even though Hannah wanted revenge (which is the whole reason she made those tapes. There were no other motives there), the majority of the cast was able pick up and move on. And I think that's important. It says that even if you emulate Hannah and her methods, it's ultimately not going to give you what you want.

 

I think that a lot of the people who criticize the show don't really delve into it and explore its themes. Which is why discussion is so important. The show has a lot of good things to say, along with its problems, and I'd like more people to see all of its sides because I think it's a really important piece of media.

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I agree with everything that was said and think everyone did a great job saying it.

 

Ultimately Hannah was not mentally healthy and made tapes and permanent choices that were not healthy either. It's also important to understand that there are many people riddled with unhealthy grief who do blame themselves for a death.

 

If what @Uaithne says is true about Netflix trying to use this show to teach or change others, I would prefer if Netflix simply didn't and just let the show be a show, like the many other guilty pleasures out there. As @Sage said, the show is realistic, but not helpful, and really doesn't seem to have much value in advocating healthy behaviors or awarenesses.

 

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I finished watching it a couple of weeks ago and I found the show interesting, but I am concerned by the reporting of a recent copycat suicide (source), and by the effect it has had on friends who have suffered in ways similar to Hannah, with one friend requiring medical assistance as a result of being triggered. It is my personal belief that the suicide scene should not have been so graphically shown, and people argue that it's fine because it was given an 18+ rating. That rating does not change the fact that the show itself was still aimed at teens, who are arguably most at risk from seeing material like that.

 

However, I acknowledge that it has brought a lot of the issues dealt with by Hannah forward, and a lot more young people have been coming forward to discuss these issues, and someone in my life even made the incredibly brave decision to report an assault that happened to her. 

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@Nixie, that news is awful but not surprising. I wish Netflix had been able to be more sensitive about the nature of the show and realize that copycat suicides were possible, and they should therefore not glamorize what is easily interpreted as revenge suicide.

 

The article says that Netflix has put up stricter warnings (especially at the beginning of the series), which is appreciated. I didn't know about the rape plot line, and it would have been disappointing if rape triggered me and I found out three episodes from the end that I couldn't finish a series I had just invested a fair amount of time and emotion into.

 

This all said, when I was a teenager, I never ever would have watched this with my parents. Even as an adult, their constant foul language was almost too much for me. I don't think I ever hung around anyone who talked like that, so I might have been so turned off by the language and openly sexual lifestyles that I wouldn't have watched the show. Even if I had, I wouldn't have sympathized with any of the characters. I would have been irritated at Hannah for committing suicide in the first place (not having understood why she turned to it as an option) or been really confused about who is to "blame" for the girl's death. This show requires an adult understanding of suicide which many people, especially teenagers, don't have. I don't think it's a show that many teens would be comfortable watching this with their parents. Or the parents would start watching it with them and decide it's inappropriate, maybe not for the suicide but for the other behavior the teenagers displayed.

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The show producers were made very aware of the possibility that copycat suicides could (and most likely would) occur once the series aired. And I don't want to sound insensitive, but I don't think that's a reason that a graphic and realistic interpretation of suicide should be avoided or censored. The additional warnings that Netflix has added are justified, especially in the US where such restrictions are crazy strict, but I think it was very important that the scene be shown in the way it was. They weren't beating around the bush or trying to glamorize it. They showed the act for exactly what it was. Real. The show and those involved are not responsible for other people's lives. So while it's very sad that a copycat suicide has occurred, I think it's unfair to blame the show. 

 

I think that teens are the demographic that most needs to see this kind of thing. Trying to protect them from these issues is pointless - they already deal with these things in their everyday lives. My high school experience was very comparable to 13 Reasons Why. Protecting us from something similar with an 18+ rating would have been pointless because it was our every day experience. The issues in the show are not foreign ones to today's youth, either. They're already thinking about suicide or are familiar with the concept. They deal with extreme bullying every day. Open sexuality is a thing that a lot of teenagers experience. This show isn't just about that demographic, it's for them. And it's important that they understand all the nuances of what's happening to them. And that suicide isn't glamorous or even a good option, but it's a real act that people do. And it's not victimless.

 

But what particularly disturbs me is in the source that @Nixie shared, the article describes that schools are banning even talking about the series and the issues it presents. Shouldn't they embrace the opportunity to educate their students on such dangerous actions instead? The source references this article about it, and I have to largely agree with what the author is saying. There are SO MANY issues that the show brings up: suicide, rape, bullying, privilege, abuse, mental health, sexuality, etc. And people get so hung up on the suicide that they miss everything else. 

 

The suicide scene in general seems to be one of the show's largest contentions, and it makes me wonder that, were I the show producer, what would I have done differently? Personally, I still would have shown the act, but I'm not sure what specifically could be done toward a more meaningful effect.

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