What ‘13 Reasons Why’ Gets Wrong

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Photo credit: Netflix

Much like the show itself does, I’m opening up this post with a disclaimer. Not only have I not yet watched Season 2, I have no plans on doing so. I made it through six episodes of the first season and read a summary of the rest of the episodes. I failed to find the teenage drama of the show intriguing. It really took a lot to make it through the episodes I did. I seem to be the minority though, as even most folks I know love it. So call this unpopular opinion number one, I didn’t find 13 Reasons Why to be the least bit interesting.

The second part of this disclaimer is more personal. I already forsee the comments of “You’re insensitive, my so and so killed themselves”. Let it be known, my Uncle and Aunt purposely ended their own lives. In addition to that, so did a guy I used to work for, who in many ways became a friend. I’ve had my fair share of people I was close to commit suicide and it hasn’t changed my stance on it a bit. I’ve lived through addiction and depression as well, I know what dark days look like. I’m just not selfish enough to commit such an act.

For anyone unfamiliar — 13 Reasons Why is the hit Netflix series based around a young girl in High School named Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and leaves audio cassettes behind, stating why. Each side of every tape, is another reason “why” she killed herself. Now when I say reason, I mean person. Each side to every tape is dedicated to a different person she went to school with, who she holds responsible for her death.

From the opening of the very first episode, I couldn’t get past this young girl’s over inflated sense of self importance and lack of accountability. Let me be abundantly clear, if you take your own life, you’re the reason why your life ended — period. You can point all the fingers you want, write a note, make a set of tapes, whatever. It doesn’t change the fact you made the ultimate selfish decision to take your own life, without so much as a thought as to the people you’d be leaving behind.

Hannah however, takes this and runs with it. Not only does she not consider the people she’d be leaving behind, she finds a way to blame each of them and makes arrangements to make sure each of them hears not only the tape dedicated to them — but each side of every tape. On top of the stories about each person she blames for her death, there’s a special set of instructions with each tape as well. Places to visit and what to do when each listener gets there and what have you. Maybe it’s just me but I found the entire charade to be incredibly narcissistic.

The next issue I have with the show in general, is the grandiose image it paints of committing suicide. As I watched, I couldn’t help but feel like this was going to put a really bad idea into the heads of a whole lot of school kids — an environment that has not been without it’s share of National tragedies as of late already. While the show has a short disclaimer at the beginning of each episode stating maybe it’s not a good idea for kids who struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts to watch the show, do they truly believe this is going to convince even a single kid to turn it off? You could make the argument that the disclaimer only heightens their curiosity, almost dares them to watch the show. As humans, we love to do the exact thing we’re being told not to — teenagers especially. I’ll be honest, I’m almost shocked we haven’t yet heard of a copycat, who committed suicide and left behind a set of tapes in true 13 Reasons Why fashion.

While I didn’t make it that far into the series, as I said, I read the summary of the rest of season one. Yes, I know Hannah Baker was eventually sexually assaulted. Which will naturally only make my opinions that much more unpopular. Let it be understood, in my opinion there is no worse crime a person can commit than rape. I truly have an endless amount of compassion and empathy for anyone who has had to endure such a horrific event.

With that being said, I again can’t help but feel like the show does nothing but provide bad ideas to vulnerable teenagers who have unfortunately been through something similar. It’s as if the show is stating, what set of circumstances, justify committing suicide. Teenagers are impressionable. Kids being bullied or who have experienced something as traumatic as sexual assault are fragile enough as is. I just feel like the show does very little to provide them with any sort of comfort or healthy solution. I understand that’s not a television show’s job or purpose but for a show that provides resources for kids having suicidal thoughts before each episode to completely ignore all I’ve stated above, is kind of hypocritical.

I knew I wanted to write this pretty early on through the series but I honestly just couldn’t bring myself to sit through another six hours of the show, so I read the summary. Perhaps it’s just the contrarian in me, everyone else seems to love it. On top of all I found wrong with the show, it just didn’t hook me. It’s admirable for 13 Reasons Why to try and tackle the tough social issues young kids face, I just feel like the show sends the wrong overall message and misses it’s mark.

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