One of Netflix’s hottest shows this year has been 13 Reasons Why, especially among teenagers. It’s an excellent show, with great acting and a plot that keeps viewers intrigued until the end of the season… and even after that.
13 Reasons Why is not a show that I would recommend to anyone, however. While it has all the makings of a good show, with a great cast and producers and writers, it is very controversial. This is because it is a dangerous kind of fantasy show.
(Note that there will be SPOILERS in this article after this point.)
The show centers on Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who has committed suicide. Before dying, she made a set of tapes that details the reasons she decided to commit suicide. Each reason blames a different person for her eventual death.
There are several reasons that so many of us take issue with this show. One of them is that it does not address mental illness at all, even though that contributes to the vast majority of suicides and Hannah most likely has some form of mental illness, whether that is depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Another reason is that it shows Hannah’s suicide in graphic detail, which goes against previous regulations set out by psychologists about how to depict suicide in visual media.
The major reason why I, and so many other people, am uncomfortable with this show is that it shows a dangerous fantasy. Often, when people attempt suicide, they do not truly want to die. Rather, they just want their suffering to stop. They want their suffering recognized for what it is. But when you die, as far as we know scientifically, that’s it. You don’t get to see everyone realize how much you were suffering. It’s a nice fantasy to think that, oh, the cute boy will see that you weren’t happy, but that’s what it is: a fantasy. As far as we know, when you die, you won’t get to see people regret their actions to make you so unhappy. You don’t get that gratification. You just die.
The fear that so many of us have is that people who are already dealing with their own tragedies and depression will see this show and copy Hannah Baker. Maybe no one in their right mind would never do that. But suicidal people aren’t in their right minds. They are in terrible pain, and it clouds judgement. It makes decision making difficult. It makes it nearly impossible to see future consequences.
If anyone is reading this and feels suicidal, know that there is hope. Your story doesn’t have to end like Hannah’s. There are people who will listen and care while you’re still here. I know it might not feel that way. I know it feels hopeless. But from someone who’s been there and got through to the other side: it’s true, there is hope.
If you need immediate help, go to the nearest emergency room or call a suicide hotline like 1-800-273-8255. You’re not alone. Maybe if someone had given Hannah these resources she would’ve realized that she wasn’t either.