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April 26, 2017
By Lauren Lambros, Riverside Brookfield
Over the past month the smash hit Netflix TV series, 13 reasons why, has swept the globe in spreading awareness about the touchy subject of teenage suicide. The show focuses on a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who takes her own life due to thirteen reasons of how she became emotionally distressed. Each episode spotlights a different reason of why Hannah killed herself. She records each reason on an old fashioned tape recorder and then has a messenger deliver the tapes to each person who is on them. Throughout the course of the show the other teenagers that are on the tape start to feel the pain that Hannah felt when she was alive, causing them to make irrational decisions and possibly ruining their own lives. Which was the whole idea of Hannah creating the tapes in the first place. They ruined her life, so now she is ruining theirs.
After watching the whole show I realized the message the creators were trying to convey was that no one really knows what is going on in someone else’s life. What you say to someone could mean one thing to you and it could mean something completely different to someone else. The only issue is, how will one know if what they said or did to someone really hurt them? In the show Hannah did stand up to some of her bullies however, she did not always say what she really meant. As a viewer, I really wanted to have pity for Hannah, and in some parts of the show I really did, but in others I was confused as to what the other person did to hurt Hannah. I understand that Hannah was at a very vulnerable point in her life but sometimes she did blow things out of proportion, and that is one of the reasons of why she became isolated. She did not always communicate what she really wanted people to do and that is what pushed others away from her. Not everything bad that happened to her was solely based on others actions, some of it was based on her decisions as well.
Something else that I disagreed with from 13 reasons why is how the producers “romanticized” a revenge suicide. The show did not truly go into the truth about mental illnesses or depression at all. Many mental health communities have weighed in on the shows dark themes and they seem to be pretty disappointed on the show’s misconception of the reality of mental illnesses. The show makes it seem as if death is not a permanent thing. Since Hannah is one of the main characters of the show, and the viewers always hear her voice in every episode it seems like she is still there. In reality, once your heart stops beating you are no longer living. There is no way to go back to life on Earth. This creates an unrealistic image of suicide that could send the wrong message about it to vulnerable teenagers.
However to be fair, the show is about teen suicide, not a public service announcement on prevention matters. Some of the events that took place were very realistic and relatable. Something I liked about the show is that it did show many true colors of high school and how the little things really do matter. In the first few episodes, Hannah narrates a lot more than she does in the end of the show. I think her narration gave a more specific idea of what exactly happened and how she really felt about the event. In the end there was more room for interpretation. That alone could be the reason why some viewers believe that in some of the tapes many of Hannah’s peers were left confused as to how to respond to her and how certain events connected to Hannah taking her own life.
The show does do a good job of portraying the teenage thought process and shows how ethics play a big role into decision making. The producers create an accurate description of the different aspects in a teenagers daily life and all of the distractions that surround it. It did also expose the issue of harassment on multiple levels, which needed to be brought to the attention of the public. In my opinion, the parts of the show that were about harassment were the parts where I was the most emotional.
Overall the 13 reasons why was not a disappointment, but some areas of it were not as appealing as others. The description of the teenage lifestyle was fairly accurate but the idea of ruining peoples lives who ruined yours was not the most appealing theme. This show simply underlines the idea of how assumptions can really cause things to take a wrong turn. Out of five stars, I would give this show a three.
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