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The REAL truth about 13 Reasons Why

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Unless you haven’t touched the internet for the past 3 weeks, then you know by now that Netflix released a series called “13 Reasons Why.” For those of you that live under a rock, let me give you a bit of background information about this show. The show begins with a school in shock after a girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide. The main character, Clay Jensen, is obviously affected by this, but at first it is unclear how deeply affected he is, given we don’t know much about his relationship with Hannah. He goes home and finds a box on his front porch with his name on it. He opens it and finds a group of tapes, and listening to them, we find that they were recordings left behind by Hannah. Basically Hannah says, “If you’re listening to this then I’m dead, and you’re the reason why.” The plot is then moved by Clay as he listens to all 13 sides of these tapes and learns of every person who wronged Hannah and sent her into the downward spiral she went into.

Now, the show is under a lot of fire and controversy, mainly due to the fact that we do see 2 rape scenes and even see Hannah kill herself. The reason why it’s under so much controversy, is because the show has been accused of “glorifying suicide” and “undermining mental illnesses” because Hannah’s act of suicide and recording the tapes is seen as an act of revenge. The producers also apparently met with experts on suicide to have a more in-depth look at all the underlying issues teens deal with that lead them to commit suicide, and they were advised to not show the suicide scene or either of the rape scenes. This is mainly because these scenes can bring up mental issues with those who already suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Here’s the thing about that, though; the show is not meant to cater to those who are depressed or hurt themselves. The show is aimed heavily at those who bully other people, and is meant to almost be a mature investigation about the realities of teen suicide. The mission was to accurately portray what teen suicide is really like and why it actually happens. Set aside this, the show also has trigger warnings at the beginning of the episodes in question, so you can choose to watch it at your discretion.

Recently I was sent an article, that I think outlines points that a lot of people make against the show. For example, the author of said article makes the claim,”13 Reasons Why reinforces one of the worst millennial ideals, that your life is only as valuable as you think it is.” I will admit that this is an ideal heavily believed by millenials everywhere, but I don’t think that 13 Reasons Why reinforces that ideal, rather I think it shows why millenials believing it is dangerous. This is just one problem that I think the show outlines in a subtle way to show that even little things like this can heavily contribute to teen suicide. The article then goes on to say “[Hannah] is depicted as being literally fine until people in her life turn her into a ticking time-bomb…If people would just be nice, it seems to say, then nobody would be depressed and want to kill themselves.” I laughed the first time I read this statement. Let’s take a look at what happened to Hannah. First she had pictures of herself leaked to the whole school (a more in-depth look at the significance behind this later), she was betrayed and treated poorly by 2 of her friends when she needed them the most, (one of whom made a list objectifying several girls, Hannah included, but the school already thought she was easy so, in her words, it was like “declaring open season on [her] body”), had another picture leaked to the school, but this time it was taken by a stalker outside her window, she was betrayed by yet another “friend” who basically threw her under the bus to save herself, she wrote a very personal poem which was published in the school newspaper, despite her telling the editor not to publish it, she was basically all but indirectly responsible for the death of someone else, she witnessed someone else be raped, pushed away someone she cared about and felt terrible for it, and when she tried to seek help, she was told to get over it. Oh yeah, and she was raped. Now, all of this is a pretty hefty burden to bear, and I very seriously doubt that Hannah took her own life just to simply “get back” at everyone who wronged her. There is literally no way that you could convince me that she did all of this for any reason other than she thought it was too much to bear and that she thought suicide was the most effective way out, which is, by the way, the reason a lot of teens commit suicide. The idea that Hannah committing suicide as an act of revenge is baffling, because given everything she went through, there is no way she could handle it all. There is no way could handle it all. If you think you could handle the trauma, guilt, pain, and despair she had to go through, then I’d say you’re either lying or you’re wrong.

As I said before, the show is aimed more heavily at those who bully to show their actions do have consequences. For example, at the beginning of episode 7 Clay is giving foreign exchange students a tour of the school, and he shows them Hannah’s old locker. He then says, “This locker is special, because the girl who had it killed herself. Do you wanna know why she killed herself? Because the people here treated her like *bleep*!” The show is literally calling out those who treat others like *bleep.* 13 Reasons also shows what the actual repercussions of suicide can be towards people other than the victim. For example, in the first tape, Hannah calls out Justin Foley, her first boyfriend, who accidentally leaked a picture that was aimed up Hannah’s skirt. Granted, he didn’t mean to angle the picture the way he did, or to leak it, but it was still his fault and he knew that. This then set forth a rapid chain of events that would ruin Hannah’s life. Justin was then forced to carry this guilt with him throughout the entire show, as well as the guilt of a few other things, which lead to alcohol addiction and drug addiction. There is also a scene where Hannah tries to get help from a guidance counselor, and tells him she was raped, and the guidance counselor then tells her that without definitive proof, her only choice was to “get over it.” Given what I have seen throughout my middle and high school career, I can’t say that surprises me.

To me, there is no reason you should flat out tell someone not to watch a show like 13 Reasons Why. This show is meant to break down the walls we have built with lies blocking the realities of teen suicide. When your time is up and your number is called, that’s it, you’re gone. There’s no bringing you back, and the lives of those around you change dramatically. That’s the message the show is trying to send to its viewers. It is not trying to “glorify suicide” by showing people that “if you die, everyone will realize what a beautiful, tragic figure you are and also that you were right all along and they will regret everything they did to you.” (Yes, these are real quotes I have seen from people.) I won’t twist your arm to make you like the show, but I don’t think you should treat it as if it’s the spawn of satan. If you have mental illnesses or issues involving suicidal thoughts or self harm, then by no means am I suggesting you watch a girl kill herself, but if you are mentally healthy, and if you purposefully go out of your way to hurt others (especially if you try to hurt others) then I highly recommend you watch this eye-opener of a show. As I said, the show is almost a mature investigation into the realities of teen suicide and brings to light all of the major issues involved with it, and outlines the probable and common causes of suicidal thoughts and self harm. It shows how the death of people you are or were once close to can affect you, and how even the people who treated you terribly try to act like you were the most wonderful person ever after you die. The show brings to light major and common problems but does not glorify suicide. In order to realize this, all you need to do is think for yourself and look at the underlying themes.

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