By Ciara Maria Hayes
13 Reasons Why is, without a doubt, the biggest TV sensation this year so far. The show, based on the novel by Jay Asher, was made available to stream on Netflix recently and since then it’s been the only thing the Internet can talk about. If you haven’t seen it already, you’re probably planning to. But what if we told you it might not be such a good idea? Here are thirteen reasons why you probably shouldn’t.
Warning: Mild Spoilers
1) It’s based on a novel which romanticises suicide
There is no doubt that suicide is currently a worldwide problem and it’s wonderful that we’re finally becoming more open to talking about mental health. HOWEVER, this doesn’t equate to glorifying it. Jay Asher’s novel sends a heavy message of “if you die, everyone will feel so bad and realise you were always a wonderful person”. Does that sound like a good idea to spread to anyone who might be having suicidal thoughts?
2) The acting is God-awful
Credit where credit is due, Dylan Minnette who plays Clay as well as Kate Walsh who plays Hannah’s mother, played their characters quite well. That being said, just about every other actor allows their character (the majority of which are supposed to be in extreme emotional distress throughout the series) to come across as completely bored and disinterested throughout the entire duration of the show. None of them seem to care about what happened or what’s going to happen whatsoever.
3) The storytelling is terrible
Very little is explained properly and I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve with this. An aura of mystery? Because that’s not exactly necessary to the nature of the show.
4) The suicidal character is, to put it mildly, not someone who should be pitied
As well as being another manic pixie dream girl manifestation, Hannah Baker is disgustingly manipulative and self-centered. Granted the events she endures throughout the series are horrible, but her general nature even before she dies is one of someone very spiteful.
5) It adopts the mentality that blaming others for your mental illness is fine
The general premise of the series is that Hannah has thirteen tapes dedicated to people she claims wronged her when she was alive. While yes, the words and actions of others can impact your mental health, it’s up to you yourself to seek help. Hannah barely if at all tries and justifies her suicide based on the actions of the people around her. Teaching people that it’s OK to do this is so many steps in the wrong direction.
6) Its portrayal of suicidal thoughts and behaviour is completely inaccurate
Hannah’s behaviour doesn’t represent people who are dealing with the thoughts and emotions of planning and executing a suicide. Of course, everyone will deal with it differently, but Hannah’s tireless lifestyle makes it very unconvincing that she was dealing with any sort of problems before she died. While it’s clear Hannah was dealing with mental health issues as well as what others were putting her through, the viewer doesn’t get any exposure at all. Which brings me on to my next point.
7) This show could have been a great opportunity to shed some light on mental health issues. It chose not to do that
With suicidal thoughts and behaviour comes problems with mental health. These aren’t mentioned or discussed. The only time Hannah receives counselling throughout the series is when she is new to the school and they’re helping her settle in. Instead, the series chose to focus on topics such as slut-shaming and sexual assault, which I am by no means condemning them for, but they should have discussed Hannah’s struggle with her mental health too and showed her getting help for it. In fact, there wasn’t so much of a mention of mental health. So many positive messages could have been spread throughout this show, but they decided against it.
8) It gives an outdated message that the power of love can solve anything
Clay is made feel guilty for not confessing his love to Hannah, thinking if he’d told her it may have saved her. I have a problem with this message for two reasons: on one side of the relationship, you have someone feeling guilty that their partner’s love isn’t enough for them. This leads the person to feel guilty and ungrateful when they really shouldn’t. Chances are if you have depression or something similar, your partner’s love isn’t going to just resolve it, as much as it may help. My other problem with it is on the other side of the relationship, you’ve got the other partner not feeling good enough. Realistically if Clay had confessed his feelings to Hannah, she still would have taken her life. How would that have made Clay feel, or more importantly, people in a relationship/friendship in similar circumstances in real life?
9) The reaction of Hannah’s father
I think we can all agree that losing your own child to suicide is a terrifying thought, and as I said before, Kate Walsh does a good performance of portraying a distressed and horrified mother. But the reaction of Hannah’s father, on the other hand, is pretty unbelievable. As they prepare for the trial, he comes across as careless, even telling his wife to get rid of certain pieces of evidence as they’re “unnecessary”. What’s even more disturbing is when Hannah’s parents discover Hannah was voted “best ass” in her class before her death, Hannah’s father tells her horrified mother that they should “take it as a compliment”. Simply from his actions and mannerisms throughout the show, you’d highly doubt he’d just lost his daughter.
The next few points contain significant spoilers. If you want to avoid these, just skip to 13.
10) The sexualisation of lesbian relationships
It’s no secret that homosexual relationships with women have been more accepted than male homosexual relationships, and have always been hyper-sexualised in the media. You’d think this show, with its heavy beratement of rape culture, would avoid things like this. It doesn’t. Courtney is revealed to be a gay character, which is fine, but in the scene where she and Hannah kiss it’s portrayed a lot more raunchily than most other scenes of this nature throughout the show. As well as that, there’s no clarity given on Hannah’s sexuality. Hannah kisses Courtney and then proceeds to be involved with men as she was. This gives the impression it’s just for the shock value, which in my opinion is degrading and discrediting to bisexual and lesbian women.
11) Hannah doesn’t help Jess when she’s being RAPED
According to Hannah, she was “too shocked to move”. Excuse me, what? Being raped is one of the most devaluing, soul-crushing things someone can experience. Hannah sees someone, who bear in mind used to be her best friend, being violated, and does absolutely nothing to help her. She simply hides in a corner and waits for it to be over. When I watched this scene, I was flooded with anger. To me personally, it almost felt like the message they were trying to send is that rape should be normalised. Especially when they had Justin lie to Jessica about it later in the series.
12) Going so far as to actually show the suicide
Yes, the show actually shows the suicide. I don’t mean in the disrespectful way you might expect, all slow-motion and off-set with an indie ballad playing in the background. But as hard as it may be to believe, the way it’s done isn’t by any means better. The lack of music, cold ambiance and lack of build-up to Hannah slitting her wrists leave it feeling like an uncomfortable how-to guide to killing yourself. And it’s unnerving as hell.
13) The producers are f*cking disgusting
“Why?” You might be asking. Well the answer is pretty straightforward. The producers of this show met with countless specialists in the field of mental health, from suicide prevention organisations to therapists. This was supposedly to find out how to go about producing the show in a manner that wasn’t harmful and would be beneficial to those going through such problems. Except, that’s not what happened. After discussing these things, they immediately went and did everything they were told not to do. Frankly, this is pretty upsetting and disturbing. Potentially harming so many people just for a TV series that had some shock value to it. As strong a word as this may be, I find it pretty inhumane.