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by Rowan Villa-Howells 3 years ago in industry
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And an Unpopular Opinion About a Popular Netflix Show


Censorship and “trigger warnings” are hot topics right now. In this day and age, it feels like everyone is just WAITING to be offended. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s justified. If what you’re experiencing is true harassment, you have every right to be upset and offended. But when I hear about some of the things that people are complaining about, I can’t help but think that those people are taking it too far.nLet me give you an example…if you’re at work and someone is making sexual comments towards you or another co-worker, that is harassment and should be stopped. On the other hand, if you are at a comedy show and the comedian makes a joke that you dislike or are offended by, that is something that should be left alone. It all comes down to free speech.

If you look up the exact wording of the first amendment, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”. Or to put it simply, “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.” And while I’m not going to get into the all the legalities of what is included in free speech and what is not (you can see some examples here. I do want to touch on how free speech is implemented (and fought against, in my opinion) on a social/cultural level.

Break it down for me.

The biggest example that comes to mind is a novel turned very popular TV series. When I was in high school, I found this book titled, 13 Reasons Why. If you don’t already know, 13 Reasons Why is a fictional story about a teenager in high school named Hannah who, after some pretty horrible bullying and a traumatic rape, kills herself. But before she kills herself, she records 13 tapes and releases them to the people she blames for her suicide. (Morbid, I know) I read it, fell in love with it, listened to the tapes on YouTube…it was haunting and beautiful all at the same time. So when Netflix released the TV series based off of the novel, I was ecstatic. Over the fucking moon. Until I actually watched it.

Don’t get me wrong, the cast and crew did a wonderful job telling Hannah’s story and I have no issues with the actual series. But… it was slightly triggering. And I don’t mean triggered as in I was made irrationally angry or upset. (Which is an incorrect use of the word “triggered”, don’t EVEN get me started on THAT). I mean I was triggered in a way that brought back old memories and feelings of my own struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts. It caused me a bit of emotional distress. Particularly the scene where Hannah kills herself (SPOILER ALERT) and you can actually see her cutting her wrists open and bleeding out into the tub. Not gonna lie, I was not okay for a few days after watching that, and it took a lot for me to NOT follow old patterns.

And in all honesty, there was a part of me that was upset the Netflix showed that scene. I was upset that they would show something that had the potential to cause people to harm themselves. But then I realized a few things. I was upset because of my own personal bias. And even though I had every right to feel the way I did, I took a step back and looked at what the show was trying to do. This show was created to shock. This was their way of showing people how awful and ugly suicide is. The show wasn’t geared towards those who already experienced suicidal thoughts and traumatic experiences, it was geared towards the people who haven’t. It was used to bring awareness. And by showing those “ugly” scenes, in my opinion, the cast and crew of the show was taking the glory and mystery out of them. Again, bringing awareness.

So what's the problem?

After the show aired, there was a bit of backlash on what I just spoke about…people were upset about what the show portrayed. So Netflix responded, and placed scenes before each episode where the actors stated that if you struggle with any of the following topics (suicide, rape, self harm, etc) you should either watch with a safe person, or refrain from watching at all. I, personally, thought that was a smart move as not everyone who watched the series knows what exactly was going to be talked about. Fair complaint, fair move. However, you may have recently heard that Netflix has now cut Hannah’s suicide scene completely from the show.

This is where I think Netflix went too far. It was the producer's creative choice to include that scene in the show. Not only did it make them stand out as a TV show, it did exactly the opposite of what most TV shows and movies do: They didn’t avoid talking about the issue. Most scenes would fade to black, or cut to another scene and leave you to infer what happened. But that’s doing the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. People need to talk about the ugly side of life without feeling ashamed. 13 Reasons Why did something brave and needed. And by cutting that scene out, not only are they complying with mob mentality, they are avoiding important topics of discussion.

Oooooohhhhh... I get it...

This is just one example of how free speech is being fought against today. I’m sure there are a lot of other examples, but this is the one that is fresh in my mind. People forget, that hear/seeing things we don’t agree with is cause for discussion. It’s a great learning opportunity. Now, I’m not saying you can’t get upset. Lord knows I was upset for a while with 13 Reasons Why. But after you feel that anger or hurt, or whatever the emotion is, take a step back and ask yourself if this is something you have a bias about. Do you have a predisposition that inclines you to think a certain way? Are your own prejudice’s getting in the way? Can you have a discussion and respectfully share opinions with someone about it? So yes, get upset. Get angry. But do not let it cloud your judgment and hinder someone else’s expression of freedom of speech.


About the author

Rowan Villa-Howells

Writing has always been a cathartic experience for me. I have been able to process a lot of demons by word vomiting into a keyboard. I hope that by reading my stories they allow you to do the same!

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