13 Reasons Not To Watch “13 Reasons Why”
13 Reasons Why is commonly referred to and hash-tagged as 13RW, and is as controversial as it is popular. The show follows the story of a high school girl who commits suicide, an leaves behind a series of cassette tapes which feature specific people who she feels played a part in pushing her towards ending her life. Though the show makes an overall attempt to depict how an individual person’s actions are impacting to others, the portrayal misses its mark by coming dangerously close to promoting suicide as a viable option – this is extremely dangerous especially when the show is marketed toward a young and impressionable audience.
Here are 13 things to consider before watching 13 Reasons Why:
- Suicide contagion. Experts are growing increasingly worried about the imitative nature of suicides among the teen community and how a show like this may spark increased rates of suicide and suicide attempts. Exposure to suicide and suicidal behaviors, especially through extensive coverage and media platforms, are historically linked to an increased rate of suicides. The National Association of School Psychologists has taken a stance suggesting that vulnerable youth, and those who have preexisting suicidal ideations, should not watch this show.
- The main character is frighteningly manipulative. If you consider the entire story line closely, the show circles around Hannah Baker’s cassette tape recordings, an after death effort driven by spite that gives a dead girl a lot of power over her peers. It can be argued that what the tapes reveal helps put listeners in her shoes, showing them how it felt to be accused and the topic of rumors, but she captivates her listening audience with threats of making the recordings public if they don’t do as she’s instructed.
- Suicide affects everyone. As a result of the tapes, each person mentioned on them becomes significantly affected from internalizing the part Hannah made them feel like they played in contributing to her suicide. It plays to an aspect of the show that portrays a particular effectiveness to revenge suicide.
- The show doesn’t address mental health issues. A popular platform people “pro” 13 Reasons Why are arguing, is that the show is increasing suicide awareness. Though the show has managed to create a buzz around this topic, they miss out on a significant opportunity to name and address suicide prevention, as well as mental health issues. The main character Hannah is clearly struggling with symptoms from the happenings at her high school and displays characteristics of a possible behavioral or personality disorder and none of this is brought to light. As we know, the series lead character commits suicide, but unfortunately, alternatives to suicide are never broached in the show.
- The depiction of mental health professionals. Though there are characters that act as two school counselors, neither is portrayed as being competent. One counselor is good-natured but comes across as entirely simple-minded. The other counselor is the 13th reason why Hannah decides to commit suicide. She visits him in a late effort to get help and shares that another student raped her to which he implies that people won’t believe her because of a preexisting instance where she was cyberbullied and labeled as a slut. His advice? That she continue life as if it never happened. This kind of portrayal of mental health professionals is detrimental to the field and to the possibility of others seeking professional, ethical, and competent help.
- Romanticizing a revenge fantasy. After committing suicide, Hannah gets everything she had hoped for. She receives sympathy, popularity, recognition and from those that she put on the tape, and they feel deep regret and guilt. Susceptible viewers may interpret committing suicide as a realistic option to fulfill some of their own desires, and the sadness in this comes from the fact that this show has the potential to plant this seed in young children and teens.
- It’s graphic with minimal warning. Though the show is rated TV-MA, there is little censorship of some very explicit content throughout the series. Several people are taking to Twitter and online blogs posting “trigger warning” for certain episodes that are especially graphic. Some of the episodes are getting labeled as a possible trigger warning for sexual harassment/assault, rape, self-harm, suicide attempts, talk of suicide, etc. Without a doubt the show is heavy, and a great deal of its content can be rather dark for the age demographic watching it.
- Doesn’t reiterate the finality of death. The show makes Hannah seem incredibly present and in control from beyond the grave. During the developmental teenage years, the concept and finality of the consequences of death aren’t yet solidified. Watching a show where the main character, after death, gets what she’s been striving for, has the potential to paint suicide as an option, solution, or effective means of “getting back” for some.
- Normalizes drug and alcohol use. In the hype of the suicide issue, few people are looking at the way this show depicts drug and alcohol use. An under-aged student is able to purchase alcohol regularly for him and his friends. Another student is caught while he’s high and his coach only acknowledges this by recommending he start using eye drops. Whatever the specific instance, there is little that is done in a cautionary fashion to bring up issues of underage drinking and drug use.
- Others are blamed for someone’s suicide. While things such as nasty rumors, bullying, and assault can have long term negative effects on a person, the fact that this show turns Hannah’s suicide into a blame game is wrong. The series had an opportunity to display resiliency and effective mental health treatment but instead was more about pointing fingers and dismissing the responsibility of the person who committed suicide.
- People identify with characters they see on TV. This show is especially popular with teens who seek to identify with characters portrayed on TV. For teens that find Hannah relatable, it is important to remember there are healthy ways to cope with depression, anxiety, and other issues that come up in 13RW. Suicidal thoughts are more common than most people would imagine, but acting on those thoughts is not a good option.
- Suicide isn’t a typical response. It is neither heroic, romantic or useful for getting revenge. Most of the other students in 13RW who also experienced bullying, assault and the death of their friend didn’t turn to suicide themselves, just as most people in real life don’t commonly turn to it either.
- Watching without properly processing. People, teens especially, are binge watching this Netflix series without allowing themselves time to process what they’re viewing. Most importantly, many viewers are at an age where they are ill equipped to process or understand some of the graphic content that exists in this series.
If you or someone you know is suicidal call the national suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or immediately call 911.