The internet is abuzz with critics, who are incredibly angry that the Netflix television show 13 Reasons Why is now available for the world to see. Many say that the show “glorifies suicide,” and will encourage teenagers around the world to copy Hannah Baker’s actions, for some sort of macabre revenge against the individuals who have wronged them. I can completely see where they’re coming from in theory, since I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, and didn’t even want to watch the show at first since I found it quite problematic that Hannah Baker blamed her classmates for her death. Since, at the end of the day, her suicide was her own choice. However, the show expanded the universe and darkened the tone in a way that made me understand where Jay Asher was coming from when he wrote the story.
So, after reading a ton of reviews, I think that the critics are missing the point of the show. With touchy subjects like suicide, it is always going to be incredibly difficult to create stories that will make everyone happy, while also bringing awareness to the cause.
My question: Is it more important to make everyone happy 100% of the time, or is it more important to stop the stigma and actually talk about these serious, and very real issues?
Suicide isn’t pretty, it’s not happy, it’s not all sunshine and roses. However, it’s absolutely an important topic to speak about. Taboo topics like mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD) and suicide do not get talked about, especially in front of young people, due to the same reason that this show is being condemned by the media. This is because that no matter how you talk about it, it’s going to to make someone feel like you could have said it in a different more “digestible and proper” way.
People are afraid.
It’s absolutely okay and understandable to be afraid, but I find that many things you brush under the rug due to fear, and don’t speak about, end up hurting you more in the long run. 13 Reasons Why takes a scary beast, puts it out in front of our eyes clear as day, and says “this actually happens in our world. Be aware of it. Take action. Be kind to one another.”
Brushing over the rape scenes, the graphic nature of suicide, the tears and grief of the family impacted, would be more of a glorification than just being honest about how it goes. Teenagers feel things deeply, they don’t often realize how different the future will be, and when mental illness strips away all their joy, they believe that the complete and utter hopelessness they feel will never go away.
I do have my own complaints regarding the show (one being how incredibly old all the high school students looked, and yes, the whole “revenge fantasy” aspect still was a bit hard for me to swallow). However, I think that the importance of bringing these issues into the spotlight vastly overpowers the concerns of mothers and professionals who think that young people are so easily pushed over the edge that they should be coddled and not allowed to learn about important issues, in mediums and language that interest and make sense to them.
It’s always going to be either too graphic, or not graphic enough. Too oversimplified, or too deep. Nothing is ever perfect for everyone, in art or in conversation.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t warn individuals who have trouble with mental illness to be aware of the content, or that you shouldn’t make the choice not to watch it if you feel that it would make you feel worse. I am a big believer in doing what you need to do to nourish yourself and make you as happy as you can be. However, I’m also a big believer in a world in which we say things in the way we feel like saying them, without unnecessary censorship due to certain people feeling certain ways.
To say 13 Reasons Why is a show that shouldn’t have been made says one thing to me: that you don’t want to have the hard conversations. That we should brush them under the rug and hope for the best. That if things are tough and sad and terrible, we shouldn’t bring them up.
I think that’s incredibly irresponsible.