For ages, I thought I would never watch this show. I've heard a lot, and I mean a lot about this show on social media. Some people singing it praises all day long while others outwardly despising it, for it's triggering and misinformed storyline.
While on the one hand, I do acknowledge this show isn't perfect by any means, I also see the good that this show brings to society. Like most TV shows there is always things I would have done differently, 13 reasons why is no exception. On the contrary, I applaud them for being conversational and highlighting the topical issues that they did, in the manner that they did in this show.
It goes without saying that this post contains spoilers. It's pretty hard to critically analyse a show without giving away a few crucial plot twists. So you've been warned. I know people have strong opinions on this show if you've watched it and you agree or disagree with what I have said I would love to know what you thought of it in the comments below!
Okay, so what is it actually about? Hannah Baker is a college freshman student. Hannah takes her own life, but before she does, she leaves 13 tapes, with 13 reasons why she decided that suicide was her only option left. She explains all the people who let her down, who were mean to her and who hurt her both physically and emotionally which lead to her taking her own life. This series follows fellow freshman and friend of Hannah, Clay Jenson as he listens and discovers the real reasons behind Hannah's death.
Okay, so it's pretty clear from the get-go that this show covers some very real and potentially triggering subjects; including suicide, mental health, rape and bullying. I would highly recommend that you take caution while watching this show if you are in a vulnerable state of mind right now. It's raw, and it's real. Some scenes can be very upsetting and be triggering to watch.
On the one hand, I acknowledge that we need to respect and follow guidelines when it comes to triggering content, especially how suicide is portrayed. However, why the directors of 13 reasons did what they did was because they wanted to make a statement. They wanted to show Hannah's suicide in the most real and hard hitting way they could really sink in with the viewers the reality behind mental illness & suicide.
In my eyes, their main aim was to get people talking about mental health more openly and honestly. It's safe to say they've achieved that, with 13 reasons why being the most tweeted about show already of 2017. If they chose to not show Hannah's suicide or chose a less graphic/ explicit method then they did, in my opinion, it wouldn't have had the same effect. In fact, I probably wouldn't be writing this post because it would just be another teenage drama that no one would care about. Surely is this case, doing what they did for shock factor, can only be a good thing?
Although there will be people watching the show who will be deeply affected by what they saw. There is also millions of individuals who wouldn't have any understanding or experience of mental illness or suicide. Netflix has used this large platform they have to educate and inform their primarily young audience about the reality of not knowing what's going through someone's mind all the time and the importance of knowing what to do if you spot the signs of a friend in trouble.
Some people have questioned the representation of mental health in the show. Arguing that most people don't commit suicide to teach people a lesson. I personally think it's a shame people have interpreted it like this. For me, Hannah committed suicide because of all the hurt she had experienced. As the tapes go on you, find out just how much Hannah goes through in a record speed amount of time. I don't think Hannah's trying to teach anyone a lesson, she just was very depressed and struggling immensely but couldn't reach out for help because when she did, she wasn't given any support.
Drifting away from Hannah for a second, we also see how some of the other characters are battling with mental illness, after Hannah's tragic death. Although never explicitly mentioned, Clay is clearly experiencing PTSD. I personally think that how Clay and the rest of the people deal with the information on the tapes is portrayed accurately and very well done.
The one thing I noticed about this show, was when I wasn't watching it, I was thinking about it. I could see my own college in the same kind of situation. In made me really reflect on my own situation and how no one has a clue what's going on in someone else's head. The acting was incredible, the music was magical, and the whole storyline brings me to tears on multiple occasions.
Of course, no show is ever perfect. I think there should have been more warning before the very triggering scenes, by using an advert break warning wheel in the top of the corner, like they do for football matches on TV, etc. I also think they didn't do enough to support those who may have been affected by putting out some essential helplines at the end of the episodes. I also think there should have been more coverage on what the school actually did for suicide prevention and mental health awareness before Hannah's death. To help viewers understand what they can do if they find themselves in a similar situation to Hannah.
Overall, I really enjoyed this show. I think it was really well executed and portrayed mental illness and other topical issues in a raw way. The producers of this show were brave. They took risks by including the explicit content of suicide, which not everyone will believe is necessary. However, I honestly think that if they just brushed the topic of suicide under the carpet and kept it this little hidden away secret that people can't talk about or be shown, this show would have not got the media attention that it did and subsequently result in mental health still not being understood by the mass majority in society.
As I said before, I would love to know your opinions on the show. I know some people love it while others hate it. Let me know which side you fall on in the comments below.
Thanks for reading, as always X