I’ve been meaning to write this review on 13 Reasons Why. After I finished binge-watching all episodes (because it really does keep you hooked), a friend of mine made me aware of just how much it had affected me based on our conversations. We realised that a review such as this is needed and I actually got around to doing it. Here it is.
So let’s start from the basics. According to Wikipedia, “The series revolves around a student who dies by suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances, brought on by select individuals at her school, that erode her sense of well-being, and the tapes she leaves behind that explain her reasons—and whom she holds responsible—for why she chose to die.“
In case you’ve somehow never heard of this series (even though it’s taken the teenage world by storm) it is based on a book about a girl (Hannah Baker) who chooses to end her life because of specific people identified and explained in 13 tapes that she leaves behind, having recorded them from beforehand. One of the reasons why it has become so popular is because according to critics, it portrays what is often ignored and even calling it “a frank, authentically affecting portrait of what it feels like to be young, lost and too fragile for the world” (Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly).
The ongoing message of this series is that if only people had been kinder to each other they might have been able to avoid the suicide. While we should be more aware, more loving and overall kinder to people, suicide isn’t necessarily solved with that reasoning. In fact, what it fails to portray is the emotional and mental aspect of Hannah’s life. It “is mainly about miscommunication, delivering no more wisdom or insight about depression, bullying and suicide” (Hank Stuever, Washington Post).
It truly does not portray that suicidal thoughts can emerge from emotional and mental instability almost more than from experiences caused by people around us. Despite the fact that people’s actions can affect a person deeply, they do not necessarily directly contribute to thinking that death is the only way out of situations.
It has also attracted controversy over the series’ graphic depiction of issues such as suicide and rape, along with other mature content. The series does not teach any teenager how to deal with situations beyond their control, making it seem like adults have no part in their children’s lives and cannot understand them. In fact, “the Australian youth mental health service for 12–25 year-olds, headspace, issued a warning in late April 2017 over the graphic content featured in the series due to the increased number of calls to the service following the show’s release in the country.[“
I’m writing this review to create awareness on the fact that adults are in fact always available to be spoken to in difficult situations and that suicide should not even be an option. Hannah blamed specific people for her death and only made it a more traumatic experience for the people around her. Even though certain injustice was rightly exposed, the way it was tackled made it harder for people to get over her death.
A person who has struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts or bullying might find themselves negatively affected by watching this show. Her death is romanticized and portrayed as a heroic feat to pay back all the people who hurt her in her short lifetime. If you do watch this series and come out feeling even a little inclined to try out what Hannah thought would solve her problems, speak to a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a youth minister, or someone you can trust. I am sure that those who love you would be ready to remind you why your life is so valuable and worth living and that the experiences you’re going through – even if they seem to be the end of the road at the moment – are in fact only temporary.
Being heroic is realising that your life is full of purpose and meaning and that God has infinite love for you in whatever circumstance you’re in right now. Being heroic is facing difficult situations in the eye and knowing that God is on your side and is bigger than the obstacles you face. Being heroic is asking for help even if your pride tells you you don’t need it.
We all need a little help sometimes and if we don’t communicate it well, we cannot expect people to read our minds and give us exactly what we need.
If you think you or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the Supportline 179.