Let's talk about 13 Reasons Why for a moment (MOSTLY SPOILER-FREE FRIENDLY DISCUSSION)
Firstly, a show has never given me more emotions. From joy, to sadness, to fear, to anxiety, to confusion, to anger, to relief, to frustration, to utter sadness… the list honestly does not end. So in terms of entertaining, A+. These actors are so talented. How many crying scenes did almost every character have, and they nailed it every time. That’s talent.
The writers accurately represented high school. In MY high school experience, no one got raped but that sure as hell obviously doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on. They got the bitchiness so damn right and I loved watching the Hannah/Jessica/Alex friendship break apart because gosh, that shit happens in real life. The writing on the walls in the bathroom and the categorising of people into “lists” (best ass, funniest, etc) happened at my school. The list was stuck on walls all over my school and to this day we don’t know who wrote it. People get away with this stuff! Even though most of the stuff across the 13 episodes didn’t happen in my experience, of course they’re still ongoing issues but it’s the overall theme to be taken away: high school can be hell. Quote of the series: “you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life”.
Entertaining, yes, but I think it lacked so much on promoting that people going through what Hannah was, actually have options, and suicide should not be one of them. Hannah sought help in the final episode, and whilst the counsellor definitely cared and tried to help her, he was definitely responding inappropriately considering Hanna was reporting feeling “empty” and that she wants life to stop. (That scene… gosh. Speechless. So accurate.) No counsellor would ever let their patient walk out the doors that easily if they’re reporting intense feelings like that. I’ve seen people say that Hannah had high expectations for the counsellor to chase her out the door, but I disagree. He should have. He should not have let her go.
So, I feel like the show really went wrong with promoting options for getting help. I feel like showing a counsellor being useless actually might tell people that therapy/counselling is not worth the time and effort of speaking up, so don’t bother with it. That’s a really bad message. But also in general - I feel like there should’ve been at least ONE character who sought help for their personal issues. EVERYONE was shutting out their parents, EVERYONE was keeping secrets, no one was seeing the counsellor, no one saw a psychiatrist for medication, etc. No one sought help, which, I think, kind of came across like “be quiet, don’t speak, you’re in this alone”. Definitely not true. I got so excited when Clay slowly started telling his mum what’s happening, but he didn’t tell her the whole truth, which frustrated me and I think the show would’ve benefited if at least one character took at least one step to seeking help.
One thing critics are saying is that the show glorified suicide. Where?? How?? That was the hardest (most disturbing) scene I’ve ever watched, in any TV show, period. And the whole show in general served the purpose of showing the repercussions of suicide… which as we saw across 13 episodes there definitely were no positive repercussions, let alone the suicide being glorified. My heart absolutely broke for Hannah when she said something along the lines of “I know what I need to do now”.
The overall concept of getting answers (through tapes) as to why someone committed suicide is unrealistic. And I get that - at the end of the day it is a show trying to entertain. But, I think it’s important to highlight that the family and friends of someone who committed suicide generally will not get FULL closure as to why, because, well, not everyone leaves behind tapes or notes or messages.
I hope there is no second season. I feel like it needs to stop there. It was called “13 Reasons Why” and we know the 13 reasons now. Sure, there are some loose ends, such as why that person in the last episode did what they did to themselves, but I think that touches on my previous point: we don’t always get answers to this stuff. Sometimes we never find out why someone hurt them self and that’s realism. A second season may give closure on that and not having closure is realistic. Definitely hard, but realistic.
To summarise the show: damn entertaining, as a TV show has never given me that quantity of emotions to feel in a single hour. The show was very realistic in showing the current issues in society, however it lacked in promoting options for support. I don’t agree with critics that suicide was glorified, as not one part of me was saying “yes, good choice Hannah, suicide is the answer to ending it all!” Instead, my heart broke, saying “please don’t do this, it can and will get better if you get help”. I thought Hannah was making the WRONG choice, rather than the right choice to shut it all out. But I think the interpretation of Hannah’s suicide scene will vary across every individual.
Let me know what you thought, I think this is a very interesting topic! I’m so happy a show like this exists.