The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why first came out on March 31. The show has become widely popular in both the young adult and adult communities. The show focuses on a student named Hannah Baker who commits suicide after a series of failures, tragic events, and cruel acts by her classmates.
Following her death, her classmate and friend, Clay Jensen, receives a box of cassette tapes and is instructed through an anonymous letter to listen to them. These tapes were recorded by Hannah before she died, explaining the 13 reasons why she killed herself. As Clay begins to work through the tapes, their community’s misdeeds and secrets are uncovered.
The show is shot in a past and present style with film techniques to help the viewer traverse through Hannah’s days leading up to her death. The past is shot in a bright, vivid style signaling Hannah’s presence. In contrast the present is shot in cold, dark, and grim textures to show the absence of Hannah’s life.
The dual narrative style of the show helps encompass Hannah’s story. The relationship between the two is developed over each episode, gradually introducing more characters who were involved in Hannah’s life. Clay struggles to handle the information in the tapes and comes into conflict with the individuals she mentions. With each tape, more people are dragged into the web of wrongdoings that led to Hannah’s death. Clay must choose how to face these individuals and whether to take action to avenge her death.
The show has come under criticism for romanticizing suicide. The whole show has been called a revenge fantasy that is filled with imagery that could be considered dangerous to young adults or children who are dealing with suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24, and that number is increasing every year. This show could be extremely dangerous to those who most vunerable.
The show was so alarming to suicide prevention centers and mental health experts that Suicide Awareness Voices of Education even published a list of 13 talking points for young adults, parents, and guardians to discuss while watching the show. Because of the way media is binge-watched, it is viewed as more dangerous than a published book.
After watching the entirety of the series, 13 Reasons Why has clearly glamorized suicide and portrays it in a false way. The show’s motif of placing direct blame on specific individuals as a result of suicide is wrong.
Suicide is a serious issue within our society, therefore this show can affect everyone in different ways. It addresses graphic topics and themes that are sensitive to many. Please take caution if watching this show. I give this show a review of 2.5 stars.