Why I Believe '13 Reasons Why' Needs to Be Stopped
The producers are careless and reckless.
We've all heard about it—the show sweeping the internet by storm. 13 Reasons Why. If you haven't heard, it's about a girl, Hannah Baker. She commits suicide after relentless bullying and assault, leaving behind 13 tapes for the people who she blames. The show has been incredibly controversial, mainly because of its graphic scenes. Some see these scenes as necessary to start a conversation while some see them as potentially harmful. Here's why I think 13 Reasons Why needs to be stopped. Be aware, there are spoilers ahead!
First of all, the first season got a lot of backlash due to the graphic rape and suicide scenes. The producers had consulted mental health professionals about the show. The experts expressed concern about airing the graphic scenes, that it may do more harm than good in terms of mental health. However, the producers didn't listen to said experts and decided to air the scenes. This amongst other elements caused the show to be rated MA, for mature. Had they listened to mental health professionals and portrayed those scenes in a different way, they may have been able to reach a broader audience in a way that considered their mental health. While there hasn't been a proven link, statistics do show that the rate of attempted suicide spiked shortly after the first season's release. In addition, internet searches around how to commit suicide increased by 19 percent.
Secondly, the content may be desensitizing. With the second season's release and the graphic rape scene in the last episode, they again went against mental health experts to get the shock factor they wanted. I do appreciate the increase in trigger warnings and listing resources, but that does not make up for again putting the mental health of viewers at risk for the ratings or whatever reason. The producers and actors claim the series intends to start a conversation around serious topics, but the execution is all wrong. I don't need to see someone being raped to understand that it's wrong. There are plenty of other ways to start that conversation. I fear if they make this the norm in our TV shows and movies, it'll desensitize people to the issues. The shock factor only works for a little bit until people are used to seeing those graphic scenes and they don't quite get that same emotional reaction.
The show doesn't do a good enough job of showing that Hannah suffered from mental illness. Funny enough, for a show that's supposedly about bringing awareness to mental health, they do a poor job. At least in the first season. You finish the season forgetting that Hannah Baker ultimately took her life due to a mental illness. Yes, the actions of her peers might have encouraged suicidal thoughts, but at the end of the day, a mentally stable person doesn't take their life. Rather than focusing the season on those 13 people, the things they did, and blaming them for her suicide, maybe they should have focused a little more on the actual mental illness and the ways Hannah could have tried to cope with the bullying and assault. I feel like this leaves some viewers with the impression that the only way to deal with tragic situations is to commit suicide.
The show romanticizes suicide. Clay believes the if he had loved Hannah more, she wouldn't have killed herself. This was a terrible thing to put in the show and it's not true. There are plenty of people with loving families and friends that commit suicide because it is a mental illness. People who are suicidal believe that no matter what, the people in their life would be better off without them. You could be as attentive and caring as possible, and they would still believe they're a burden to you. We see this again with Clay and Skye in the second season. This could leave people blaming themselves for a family member or friend who commits suicide, rather than understanding that it is a mental illness. Like I said, for a show meant to bring awareness to mental illness, they did a horrible job.
Now, is the show all horrible? No. In the second season particularly, I think they did a decent job at showing the trial process. It was realistic, and Bryce's sentence was incredibly similar to a recent real-life rapist's sentence. I think that opened a lot of people's eyes to how hard it is to convict someone of rape and how easily they can get away with it if they come from the right background. This doesn't make up for all the carelessness, though. Unless they may major changes and start listening to their audience, I don't think a third season needs to happen. At this point, I question their motives. Is it really about helping people or just being controversial to get more publicity and therefore more views?