Hannah Raw & Farryn Cook
H. H. Dow HS
Division 3, News Writing
Pro/Con Editorial Columns
The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has been making headlines since its release due to controversy for its detailed scenes in the show. Despite the disputes, more favorable comments about the show asserted that it brought a positive aspect to society. The show follows Hannah Baker, a high school student who at the end of the show commits suicide. With 13 episodes to watch, viewers get an insight on why Hannah did what she did. With the show blowing up on social media, it was hard not to notice the impact it was having on people all around the world.
Sophomore Eliza Dubois identified the show’s message about the impact of bullying.
“I took [from the show] that you need to be nice to people because you don’t really know what’s going on with them,” Dubois said.
The biggest controversy of them all, though, is the graphic scenes that are included in the show – specifically, the suicide of Hannah and the rape scenes. The show decided to include the graphic scenes instead of shying away from them. The scenes are included to portray the reality of a situation like suicide and that in fact it is not a relief, but a nightmare. Instead of hiding away from these kind of scenes, society should be talking and being open about them. It’s a legitimate topic and the truth is that these issues are not at all painless.
“They definitely need to show the graphic scenes because if you don’t show the actual issue then you’re not really understanding the whole issue,” sophomore Reema Patel said. “Showing the graphic scenes shows how powerful things are and not showing it shows how us as a society, we don’t want to talk about those issues.”
Many critics believed that “13 Reasons Why” did not incorporate enough about suicide prevention. In the Netflix original, it wasn’t until after Hannah’s death that the school and the students in it started to become more conscious about suicide. It exhibited that the topic should always be talked about, not just after a suicide.
The Health and Wellness class incorporates discussions about the warning signs that lead up to suicide. This is a critical example of ensuring that students are aware of suicide and helping someone.
Social media became flooded with opinions and debates over the controversial show. The show got a lot of people to establish conversations on the numerous topics of “13 Reasons Why.” Social media became a platform for people to express their thoughts on the show. The show obtained more popularity after it was spread over every social media platform.
“The show was definitely active on social media afterwards everyone was talking about it and these accounts were posting things about it,” Patel said. “It got more people to watch it and talk about the show. It started conversations.”
The show has not only grabbed the attention of teens and students everywhere but also adults have started to tune in. Parents have become more aware of what their children are watching and what they need to learn about suicide.
Nancy Sobeck, mother of sophomore Grace Sobeck, thought that the show generated many more conversations about the awareness of suicide.
“Many conversations can be started,” Sobeck said. “For one, making kids aware of the signs of depression which with professional help is sought, could prevent suicide.”
Despite the show’s debatable plot line, “13 Reasons Why” is coming back for a second season. The question of what it will include is still a mystery but many hope their unanswered questions will unravel in the new season which is set to premiere in 2018. The ending of season one opens up the countless possibilities for season two.
Fans of the show had many questions after watching the last episode which included many mysterious scenes.
“At the end of the season they had a lot of cliffhangers but I feel like I shouldn’t give anything away,” Reema said. “You just have to watch the show.”
Poorly portrayed messages
The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” stars teen Hannah Baker, who falls victim to sexual assault and bullying from her classmates. This mistreatment leads to Hannah’s suicide, but before dying, she records 13 tapes reprimanding those who wronged her. The show makes a failed attempt at spreading a cautionary tale, and instead irresponsibly presents a dangerous and unhelpful message.
Although the concepts of opening up conversations about suicide is extremely important, the way the show is executed completely misses the mark. The series emphasized many negative points such as revenge suicide and shies away from a discussion of the detrimental effects of mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, the concept of revenge suicide is shown repeatedly throughout the season. By leaving tapes explicitly calling out individual people, Hannah lives on through the emotional and psychological pain she inflicts through guilt.
“[The show] almost empowered suicide, and sent a message that said if you commit suicide, you’re going to completely change other people, which is a really dangerous message to send,” sophomore Sam Strouse said.
Survivor’s guilt is difficult enough without being blatantly blamed for a death. Although certain people significantly affected Hannah’s mental health, the vast majority of the characters did not deserve the guilt they received.
“I think [the concept of revenge suicide is] dangerous because it put the other kids who didn’t really have that much of an impact in a bad situation too,” junior Hadley Camp said. “You saw with Alex [Standall], it really got to him and all the characters; it brought them down along with her.”
The show also almost entirely leaves out the subject of mental health, even though according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 90 percent of individuals who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. By leaving out this key factor, the show focuses on the drama surrounding Hannah’s suicide instead of focusing on the suicide itself, and how much pain Hannah was in.
Mental illness is already such a stigmatized subject that turning this innocent character into a villain is monumentally counterproductive.
“[13 Reasons Why is] frustrating because I know the damage the media can do with the amount of people they have access to,” Founder of Survivors of Suicide Barb Smith said. “People who work in the field of suicide prevention have been working years to try and destigmatize mental illness and suicide so we could help prevent suicide.”
The series tiptoed around the most important message and failed to acknowledge that Hannah’s suicide was directly related to her mental illness.
“Research found that bullying in itself does not cause suicide, one person and one thing does not cause a suicide,” Smith said. “It is a person’s perception of their life. Millions of people are bullied; however, they may have had more resilience, or someone asked the right question at the right time, they were able to ‘delete’ without letting the message consume them. Yes, bullying is hurtful, but the person would have already had other issues going on that may have magnified their feelings of hopelessness.”
While the idea of opening up conversations about suicide is positive, the execution is essential. With the confirmation of season two, it is clear that Netflix does not plan on heeding any warnings. They will continue to earn a profit off of irresponsible portrayals. Consequently, teenagers who are struggling from a mental illness will continue to be misrepresented and unhelped.