News from Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla.

13 Reasons Why misses the point

HHSToday staffers Annie Aguiar (A) and Denzel Pierre (D) discuss the merits and dangers of Netflix’s latest hit series 13 Reasons Why.

May 17, 2017

A: When I heard that Netflix’s latest hit original series was intent to be a poignant message about suicide aimed at teens, I was ecstatic. This is an issue I care deeply about and feel doesn’t get enough explanation or exposure; 13 Reasons Why was supposed to be a light in the tunnel, an example of media for people my age that can make a meaningful difference. So much for that. The show does more harm than good.

D: 13 Reasons Why has its problems. That’s undeniable. However, it did shine a light on an issue often ignored. Suicide is a difficult topic to explore, but I feel 13 Reasons Why addressed the topic in a way no other television show has been able to do.

A: If this show is the best that television has to offer in tackling suicide, then we’re really out of luck. 13 Reasons Why is a piece of absolute garbage that wants to wear the guise of social awareness and ‘c’mon, guys, we really have to be there for each other’ without bothering to do any of the research to actually improve things. This show existing is a hazard for public health. For one, it completely misrepresents suicide; in the show, Hannah Baker kills herself because of what other people did to her. When someone kills them self, it’s because their brain responds to negative stimuli by thinking, ‘oh, I cannot continue living’. It’s not an accurate portrayal of mental illness, it’s a portrayal Twitter-ready to be lauded as #deep.

D: It’s true there are serious problems within the show. Its message is convoluted, and it fails to recognize the fact that depression is a problem that goes beyond simple external factors. Yet 13 Reasons Why creates a narrative that gives a voice to victims of serious issues, even if that voice is faulty. The message isn’t necessarily that simply being kind will save someone’s life, but that silence and disinterest can negatively affect someone who might be facing thoughts of suicide. To speak out, even if you are afraid to or believe it won’t change anything.

A: People are going to die after seeing this show. Suicide contagion is a very real phenomenon where people whose suicidal tendencies act upon them once exposed to media glorifying suicides; this show portrays Hannah’s suicide as revenge. It’s a power fantasy for the downtrodden, that those who have wronged you will regret their actions once you are gone. It’s a dangerous narrative with a risk that outweighs any attempt at a positive moral about the importance of reaching out to people. Not to mention Hannah’s graphic suicide scene, which can be taken as a How To: Kill Yourself guide when seen by the wrong person. To reiterate, people are going to die after seeing this show. This negligent take on an important issue is going to result in deaths. Because Selena Gomez wanted to make money off of talking about A Very Important Issue.

D: Yet this show does at least portray how someone who wants to die might feel. It also does at least elevate the level of mental health awareness. While suicide may be an issue not just based on the comments of students it’s true that at times people do ignore signs they could address. It also alerts parents to possible symptoms and chances their child may be considering suicide. Now I’m not trying to imply Hannah’s parents didn’t do enough for her, but they did realize afterward that there were signs they could have recognized earlier. Maybe it will encourage people to realize signs of suicide and other problems we ignore.

A: The bad outweighs what little good the show does accomplish. Selena Gomez needs to find something better to do because this latest pet project of hers is actively detrimental. Hannah Baker had 13 reasons why she felt she couldn’t continue living in this lazily concocted cash grab, but there are a million reasons why the discussion over suicide and the media landscape itself would be better if the show had never been created.

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