By Alina Ostrovsky
For many viewers, 13 Reasons Why, a popular show on Netflix, has become a compulsory binge-watching preoccupation. The movie is about a high school girl, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide by slitting her wrists in which the plot revolves around what led her to this outcome. [This outcome came into being through the] 13 tapes [that she had recorded] to be heard posthumously by those individuals whose every action brought her a step closer to taking the ultimate plunge.
Many claim that this show has caused more harm than good on the impressionable audience as it has overly romanticized, sensationalized, and glamorized suicide. Nonetheless, the purpose of the show was to revive the taboo subject of suicide to sensitize the desensitized and bring forth awareness about the need to be careful and thoughtful with one’s actions and words. But has that been achieved is the big question.
The triggering effect
Many mental health care professionals are concerned about susceptible viewers, people diagnosed with mental illnesses, such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia. This show might be extremely triggering for such individuals. However, according to Psych Central, “The majority of individuals who commit suicide do not have a diagnosable mental illness”.
This show has reached out to this particular target population as a means of support. For example, people with diagnosable mental illnesses have a form of treatment, which is the administration of pills, but the crowd that commits most of those suicides are ignored and unacknowledged. Hence, it shows this particular group of people that they are being acknowledged by means of relatability. It portrays the “you are not alone in being alone” emotion well.
Some say it must be censored because the suicide is romanticized in Hannah Baker’s tone of poeticism as it is manifested through the tapes. As Jennifer Mattern says:
“I believe the show does indeed romanticize the suicide of the Hannah character…. There are also disturbingly graphic scenes depicting both rape (two rapes, to be specific) and a bloody suicide that are triggering enough for adults—let alone the teen demographic the show is marketed to.”
It is a valid concern that the suicide scene in the movie was way too graphic and unnecessary in some ways, especially because the book doesn’t even mention her suicide method. But the purpose of this particular scene is to depict the severity of suicide to awaken the senses of people so that they would take responsibility of how they treat their peers and better understand that every word and action can create a “butterfly effect”.
Many have said that the show promotes suicide revenge as it depicts that “justice may be elusive in life, [and] it might be achieved through death”. Although the show was about Hannah, it also depicted the lives of those people for whom she recorded those tapes for. Many of them were greatly affected by her suicide. It allows suicidal people to understand that as much as they think they are unimportant, their suicide will hurt those people. This might essentially dissuade people from rationalizing suicide. Also, the show gave us a glance into the lives of Hannah’s wrongdoers whose circumstances, in some instances, were far more severe than hers.
Because of the show, Jennifer Mattern said, “…..as a counsellor for Crisis Text Line [,] [s]ince 13 Reasons Why was released, [our] site traffic has increased alarmingly”. This proves that either the movie has triggered certain viewers to want to commit suicide when they didn’t before and/or that people who have already been suicidal even before viewing the show realized that it is very much worthwhile to reach out for help. Essentially speaking, the movie might have done some harm and might have done some good.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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