Review: Is Thirteen Reasons Why exactly what society needs or is it glamorising suicide?

 

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Thirteen Reasons Why has taken the internet by storm. Based on the book of the same name by Jay Asher, the Netflix Original TV show has become a must watch this year. With many people bingeing, the full thirteen episodes in one day.

The show centres around Hannah, a High Schooler who has just taken her own life. She has left tapes explaining the thirteen reasons why she chose to commit suicide. There are thirteen episodes overall, with each one focusing on one of the thirteen reasons. The reasons range from: sexual harassment, confusion with sexuality, slut shaming and bullying. Each reason is caused by a certain person and they are all given the tapes with them having to pass it onto the next person, until everyone who played a part in Hannah’s suicide has listened to all the tapes.

The show focuses on one of the subjects, Clay. A friend of Hannah’s who does not understand why his name on the tapes. The series follows him as he listens to the tapes and gets caught up in the lives of those also featured. The thirteen subjects find themselves listening through the tapes as they try and hide it from the rest of the school. Questions arise about the credibility of Hannah’s tapes. Has Hannah lied to create attention even after her death? Are the subjects truly guilt of their actions? Or is there a deeper meaning to all of this?

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While critics have raved about the series, many have criticised the show for glamorising teen suicide. It has been described as sensationalist and reductive due to the interest in the tapes and the idea by some of the subjects who believe it is just another attention seeking act by Hannah. It has also been said that like many other media portrayals, 13 Reasons Why has romanticised suicide. This portrayal of suicide has led many people worrying that instead of encouraging students to open up about mental health it will push them to believe that the only option is suicide. It is true that there is a somewhat macabre theme to Hannah’s suicide. The student who wants to fit in but instead tragedy strikes each time. Whether it is being slut shamed by the popular boy she fancies, being best friends with the cheerleader, who then quickly turns on her, being asked out on a date for Valentine’s Day to only be then the subject of ridicule. It all leads to Hannah opening-up about being suicidal to her school councillor, only for him to not fully believe her. While this may allow those watching to believe that even when they ask for help, they won’t receive it. It is important to note that 13 Reasons Why does highlight the issue of suicide and what can draw people to kill themselves.

The themes explored in the show highlight how one action by one person can change the life of another, or that one picture can say a thousand words. The show should be praised for its realism; each subject is believable and some of them are happening in schools today. Hannah’s suicide is almost unbearable to watch due to the realistic portrayal of the suicide. No dramatic music or monologue being played over it just the pure screams of Hannah as she slits her wrists and bleeds to death.

The show is raw and upsetting at times. But maybe in a world that is trying to lift the lid on mental health issues and prevent the rising numbers in suicide. This is the type of show we all need to watch.

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