Our guest blogger today is a mental health nurse remaining anonymous due to the controversial opinions of this piece. Have a read, leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned!
This show has received a lot of attention recently; and I’ll admit, I binge watched it with my husband and it’s well written, it’s creative, and they ended each episode with a slight cliff-hanger that makes you hit ‘yes’ when Netflix asks if you’re still watching. So, one would assume that if binge watched, I must have enjoyed it, right? Wrong. After the final episode, I sat in utter astonishment at Netflix, the writers of this show, and the author of this popular book.
For those of you who haven’t watched this yet, without spoiling the details entirely, this show is based on the young woman Hannah Baker who takes her own life. Hannah had recorded 13 cassettes and left them with a friend, who then passed them on to be listened to by 13 people who contributed to why she ended her life; each tape being the story of one of these people.
I know the argument that many will have; this opens up dialogue between parents and their children, it doesn’t shy away from mental health, death, drugs, sex, or the other no longer taboo topics that are prevalent today. I agree that we need to talk about these things, education and communication is of extreme importance for teens, but this is not how it should be done. Why Netflix has even remotely thought this was okay to share in the world of existential teenage angst is beyond me. So, in the sake of considering my ability of ranting and losing all of you to my rambling, here are my 13 reasons why this show is, an atrocity.
1. Rape – I wasn’t putting these in any order but this seems appropriate for number 1 on the list. In ’13 Reasons Why’ there are two rape scenes, and here I will give Netflix some credit as they highlighted the importance of always believing the victim, and how asking a victim if they said no, or fought back, can further destroy someone’s self worth. There is one particular scene, in which Hannah watches a rape occur as she hides; rather than say something about this when she is alive, she broadcasts it on the tapes. After her death she allows 13 peers to hear the story of her friend’s rape; Jessica was intoxicated and has no memory of this. Hannah… you were yourself raped, you understand the trauma that this is, and yet you further destroy Jessica after your own death by describing this in vivid detail to her peers… this is it’s own form of rape.
2. Blaming – this is quite simple. Hannah has blamed her peers for her death and highlighted why on her tapes. I could write an entire post on suicide and suicidal ideation but for your sake I won’t do that here; nevertheless, when someone ends their own life, ultimately this is their own choice. This is a difficult statement to make and people are likely to disagree and state that there are people to blame, but if people were to blame for Hannah’s death, this would be manslaughter or murder, but it is not, it is suicide.
3. Bullying – what is bullying? What has bullying evolved in to? This show depicts very real bullying of this generation, circulation of photos via social media, stalking, physical violence, and emotional violence. Why is it on this list? Let’s say a teen watches this show without an adult around, they see that these things are why Hannah ends her life, these acts, which are normalized on the show, now becomes a reason why it may be acceptable to end their life.
4. Revenge – Hannah seeks her revenge after death through these tapes. I don’t think I need to explain the emotional torture that places these living and breathing teenagers in.
5. Glorifying suicide – The last episode shows the very graphic death of Hannah, who slits her wrists in a bathtub, and her parent’s reactions when they find her. There is a reason that when someone dies by suicide, how they died is not written in the obituary. Research shows that graphic depictions increases viewer’s chances of becoming triggered by the content.
6. Graphic Images – rape, stalking, car crash, suicide, underage drug and alcohol use… oh, there is no PG rating for this but the consensus which I have found states 13+… seriously.
7. Respecting boundaries – Hannah highlights how important consent is; however, she gives Clay (the main listener) a tape not because of what he did do, but because of what he didn’t do. Clay and Hannah progress through their friendship and end up getting hot and heavy at a party. Hannah, struggling with anxiety says no and begins to cry. Respecting her, Clay immediately backs off and Hannah tells him to leave. Clay tries to talk to her but she aggressively tells him to go and he does. Clay did the right thing, right? Perfect gentleman by societal standards! Hannah, unfortunately, implies that he should have stayed, what a mixed message!
8. Counsellor – Hannah decides to give life one more chance and goes to her school counsellor. As a clinician, I felt that the counsellor didn’t ask the right questions to Hannah who was voicing passive suicidal thoughts; however, when Hannah leaves the office she speaks in to her recorder and states ‘he isn’t coming after me,’ implying that people are supposed to read your thoughts and know what you’re struggling with.
9. Kindness – what is kindness? This show emphasizes that kindness and friendship can save lives. It’s important, yes, but it is unlikely this would have saved Hannah’s life.
10. Triggers – this show makes the most well adjusted person have feelings of anxiety and low mood; throw in the graphic images and heavy content and you’ve got a recipe for crisis.
11. Rise in Crisis Hotline Calls – this has been reported in many articles as a huge positive. ‘100% increase in phone calls to Australia crisis lines, thanks to 13 reasons why,’ hold on… now there is no context to this statement in these articles but my first instinct is that this may not be positive. This show doesn’t depict how to reach out for help safely, so are people calling in because they are triggered?
12. Abandonment and Adjustment – Hannah blames two friends for her suicide as they abandoned her and she was left alone socially; without the ability to cope with such things leads to what we would call, adjustment disorder. There is no mention of coping, how does Hannah try to deal with this in a positive way? Why does this show not highlight anything positive to show teenagers that they can influence and regulate their own emotions?
13. Legal Action and The Deposition – Reason 13… the parents have taken legal action against the school and each child on the tape is required to give sworn evidence. I don’t know that I can call this vicarious trauma… it may be… it also could simply be trauma, these students are now under scrutiny by not only dead Hannah, but the law, and they are only 17.
In conclusion, if you wish to watch this show please do, just be mindful of these points. If you have children and they want to watch this show, then please watch it with them; talk about these issues, encourage the use of coping skills, of giving and receiving communication efficiently, the importance of life, and the detriment of suicide. Clear communication saves lives. Accessing services saves lives.
Glorifying suicide, does not.
Better luck next time Netflix.
Lastly, if you need further convincing please see this link from the centre for suicide prevention: https://www.suicideinfo.ca/statement-re-netflixs-13-reasons-series/