Dear 100 Hour Board,
I'm in the middle of many people with conflicting views about 13 reasons why, and I have basically no desire to watch it, but I was curious whether you appreciate or hate 13 reasons why.
-the old bookshop
How I feel about 13 Reasons Why is... complicated. Initially, I was interested in the tv show and thought it might be a good way to spread awareness for depression/suicide ideation, but after watching it, I'm not entirely sure I agree with how these issues were presented. This is all just personal opinion, of course, but here are a few things I felt uncomfortable with:
- This puts a lot of blame on the people left after a suicide and seems to imply that this is "their fault" via the tapes to the point where (SPOILER) one of Hannah Baker's ex-friends attempts suicide out of guilt. What happened to Hannah in the series was horrendous and traumatic, but suicide is nobody's fault. It's not the person who commits suicide's fault. It's not the people left behind's fault. It doesn't seem like a super great message to be sending for those who know someone who committed suicide.
- Something about the tapes just rubs me in the wrong way. Again, what happened to her is traumatic, but it seems like she's trying to get revenge on the people she talks about from beyond death. It also doesn't seem like a good idea to show teenagers that suicide is a means of getting back at people who hurt you. That's not a healthy idea for people who are depressed or for people who could be left behind in the wake of a suicide. Yes, people finally understood how much Hannah was hurting, but that didn't bring her back to life. She was still dead, revenge or no. But the show doesn't really highlight that as much.
- The suicide scene (which SPOILER involves Hannah Baker slitting her wrists) was very dark and graphic, and even though they put a warning at the beginning of the episode, I felt like it was unnecessarily so. It's understandable why it might be useful to paint a realistic, un-romanticized portrait of suicide. But in this case, it seemed like not a good idea to put in a tv show aimed at teenagers. For one thing, it shows pretty accurately how to (again, spoiler) slit your wrists if you're suicidal. Not to be overly vulnerable, but had I viewed that at a darker time in my life, I think it would have put all kinds of thoughts in my head. It could also put those thoughts into other people struggling with depression's head as a means of committing suicide and show them exactly how to do it.
For another, I understand why it's important to have the "suicide should not be idealized, it should be realistic in movies" idea going but I still don't think it should be that dark if it's for teenagers. Personally, it didn't put those kinds of thoughts in my head. Mostly, it just put more dark thoughts in my head and made me feel more upset than I had in months. It was uncomfortable to watch, but not in a good or helpful way (at least for me personally, again, this could easily vary). But I think I'm not the only person who felt this way. Apparently they consulted multiple psychologists while filming about this very thing and they all warned the director that showing a really graphic suicide like that is a bad idea, but they filmed it anyways.
I think this article sums up a lot of the problems. I believe the series is a public health issue. I don't really care that some people will be okay watching it. There are some people for whom seeing graphic depictions of suicide is a very, very bad thing, and I think in this case the needs of the few outweigh all other considerations.