For those of you that do not know, 13 Reasons Why was initially a book by Jay Asher that won several awards for the dialogue it opened on suicide, bullying and mental illness. It was a huge success, and I read it at a time when I was recovering from a suicide attempt and it helped. A lot. Fast forward a few years, and the book was set to be turned into a Netflix series, with Selena Gomez taking the role of executive producer. A cast was chosen, and it quickly became one of the most talked about releases of 2017. I, for one, was proud to see such an impactful book be turned into a series.
As someone who has went through depression and suicidal tendencies, I found season one tough to watch, but also understood why this was a necessary show. I read the book years ago, and it had been eye opening, because I saw my suicidal tendencies from an outside eye, and understood better what my possible death would do to those I left behind. I understood that suicide destroys so much more than just the life lost.
I also appreciated that the first season created conversation about the harsh things that teens face today. Parents were able to understand their kids and the challenges they face much better, and teens were able to understand their peers better.
Last night, I completed season 2, and I have a few thoughts on why I believe that this was an unnecessary and harmful addition to the amazing things the first season was able to accomplish. I came in with an open mind hoping that despite the many triggers the show contains, they would still be able to help mental health awareness through the theme of the show. It wasn’t so.
Whilst season one depicted 13 people and situations that drove Hannah to her death, the message lied more in the circumstances, rather than a blame game. Season two hones in one these individuals in a way that is both cruel and unnecessary. It also demeans Hannah’s reasons. It depicts Hannah in a way that insinuates that by being imperfect, she led herself down the dark path that resulted in her death. This is such an injustice, because the reality of depression and suicide is that no reason is too trivial if it claims a life. Bullying, rape and public humiliation, even if some feel is earned( it never is), is not a pathetic reason for someone to take their life. It can make a person feel like nothing is worth sticking around for.
The saddest aspect, in my opinion, is that they continue to feature her as a ghost that appears to Clay, proving in a very unnecessary way that even through death, she was still in turmoil.
It would be exceptionally hard to divulge other aspects of Hannah’s journey without sharing spoilers for those that have yet to watch the new season, so I’ll move on from her story.
The other reason this season felt so unnecessary and harmful was its addressing of the issue of rape. In the latter episodes, the story moves away from Hannah, and the spotlight is turned on her rapist and the fact that he has done this to so many other young women. The footage of these scenes are bound to send any rape victim watching into a dark space, and that felt completely uncalled for. The story could have been told with less triggers. The harshest reality comes in the form of the clear message the show ends up sharing: you may be brave enough to share your traumatizing and life changing story, but you probably won’t get justice. Money and popularity will win over the truth. How does this help any young man or woman afraid to speak out about their sexual assault?
Lastly, the finale was completely traumatic to watch. The scene in the bathroom, which you already or will understand upon watching the episode was so completely disturbing to watch, and there just isn’t any reason good enough to show this to viewers. It’s hard to understand why producers would show this to a majority teenage audience.
Furthermore, the final scene of the show seems to spit in the face of America’s current situation with gun control. Anyone willing to shoot up a school should not be allowed to escape no matter how devastating their reasons may be. Professional help is the only thing that would help someone in this position. No teenager can help an almost murderer and it’s an unfair depiction, especially to those who have lost loved ones in these many shootings. Also, I feel like the example the show sets in showing Clay confront the shooter, could encourage a real life example that could result in more devastating deaths. There is no heroism to be found in this situation.
Lastly, as a woman, I felt badly represented, as the show depicts all women as victims that ultimately receive no justice. This is highly contradicting to the current state of female injustices in the form of the Times Up movement.
These are just my thoughts, and of course, many will disagree, but after reading this, you feel like you would be exposed to triggers that could send you into an unhealthy space, perhaps pause before actually watching it. Also, I do understand that the show comes with a warning, that you should watch with an adult if need be, but I watched this as a 24 year old, with a 27 year old watching with me, and I’m not ashamed to say it left us both in a dark space and even spurred nightmares, so I don’t know how much that would really help.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to comment below and share your opinion!