It would be an understatement to say that 13 Reasons Why has caused some controversy this year. And if you haven’t delved into this realm of Netflix Neverland or lent an ear to a conversation had nearby about the show, you’re one of the few minority in this country.
The show brings a number of issues to the surface in a brutal and confronting way. It’s an empowering change to the alternative of just adding rocks and letting them sink to the dark and discouraging depths because it’s ‘easier’ than swimming to shore and causing a bit of controversy. Not all of us have warmed to the 13 episode television series, but regardless of opinion or keyboard warrior comment, 13 Reasons Why matters. And someone had to do it- the title of this series was just begging for this type of treatment, right? So, here are 13 reasons to watch 13 Reasons Why.
But! Before there’s no going back, here’s what all of the fuss is about-
Before committing suicide, a teenage girl, Hannah Baker records a number of cassette tapes calling out the role that other students at her high school had in driving her to the brink. After her death, her classmates are forced, one by one, to listen to them. And so begins the 13 reasons why she made the decision to end her life….
1. It’s a realistic examination of the teen (and adult) thought process
While teens are at the center of this drama, and their emotions and actions are certainly age-appropriate, what happens throughout the show is not generation specific, and this makes for a story about how unfamiliar some sensations or feelings can be, and are, experienced at every age.
2. It’s about the fragility of it all
This is probably the toughest part of 13 Reasons Why – watching everyone, and yes, I mean everyone, really struggle to not feel as though everything is being kicked out from under them on a continual basis. But, what this says about how fragile people feel, all the time, is incredibly realistic. It’s yet another level to this story; one that’s all too real.
3. For parents, reality is hard work, no matter how hard you try to cover it up with warm fluffies
In part, the show likely resonates with teens because they recognise its depiction of this truth: Its mothers and fathers are not paragons of parenting whatsoever, flitting in and out of scenes with little purpose in the high schoolers’ lives. Hannah’s mother—concerned, compassionate, and determined as she is throughout the series to get to the root of her daughter’s suicide—is ultimately absent in all the ways it matters. Her father, a blanket cliché of the quiet, distracted dad, is doubly clueless. As the couple begins to wage a lawsuit against Hannah’s school as a reaction, it turns out neither is able to even identify her friends, let alone her enemies or tormenters. If some parents are alarmed by the show, it’s because they ought to be.
4. Suicide is not glamour
The road to suicide is not paved with gold brick. It has mountains , cliffs and road works. To hate Hannah for killing herself is missing the point.The show isn’t about revenge suicide and justice. There was no sad music playing, no shielding away from the act. It was raw and painful and ugly. It wasn’t romantic and it wasn’t glorified.
5. It’s got people talking
We all seem to think that if you talk about suicide to young people then you run the risk of them making an attempt on their life. I am not denying there is evidence around suicide contagion, however, the idea that there should be absolutely no discussion or exploration of suicide in media seems slightly absurd and may in itself be harmful.
Turning suicide into a “taboo” subject creates a stigma around suicide that has been around for far too long. This stigma is the underlying current of the hysteria that has been building up since the show’s release. “A series about suicide for a younger audience is like planting a bomb for protective parents”- we have the highest teen suicide rate in the developed world. We need to talk about this. What needs to be understood is that suicide is not a light-hearted choice. It takes time and an indescribable amount of sadness. People are now talking about it, I mean really talking about it. No longer is it simply about “seeking help if you are feeling suicidal”. It shows what it’s like to be suicidal. How it can happen. How it feels. It exposes all the ugly details that up until now people have been afraid to voice.
6. Everyone can relate to the story on some level
Hannah is human. Hannah was flawed. Perhaps Hannah’s tapes may not have been intended for revenge. Perhaps she just wanted to be heard. Perhaps she just needed them to finally understand. And we as humans can relate to that on so many different levels. As you could tell by Hannah’s dead and emotionless expression before she climbed into the bath, Hannah is just a girl that makes a bad choice. Hannah would not have foreseen all the havoc she left in her wake after her death. And nothing exists after that because, for Hannah, she would no longer exist. You do not care about the consequences of your death because well, you would be dead. It’s no longer your problem. It does sound incredibly selfish. It is. But it’s understandable. You are so wrapped up in your own misery that you cannot fathom anyone else’s.
7. It highlights the damage a bystander can play in all of this
These 13 tapes were a giant metaphor about how the little things add up, how someone can even become suicidal. How we as bystanders, friends and family may influence that. When I see Clay, Hannah’s friend in all of this, I don’t see a victim, I see a bystander. I don’t think being a bystander makes you a bad person, because Clay clearly isn’t. But it does make you a weak one. When you are getting bullied and no one is there to stand up for you but yourself, it’a an incredibly isolating feeling. Their silence acts as encouragement to the bullies by turning a blind eye to their behaviour. You see friends who said nothing, the teachers who ignored, the class mates who watched. All of them had the power to stop it, or to at least influence other people to help stop it. But none of them did. Clay ultimately and unintentionally let Hannah down as a friend which is why he felt so guilty.
8. It’s created an awareness in our own lives
I can take a number of things away from watching this series. But none are more important than creating an awareness in my own life and my own high school experiences. 13 Reasons Why is a mirror reflecting on our own lives, shining a light onto some of things that we can change within ourselves.
9. It’s an accurate, non-sugar-coated depiction of high school
Year 13 at high school was a rough ride for a number of us. February, the start of the school year, a friend of everybody’s made the choice to kill himself. Nobody knows why even to this day. How does the fun-loving guy that everyone came to love in our five years of high school make the choice to kill himself on a sunny Thursday afternoon? Our principal at the time made the point of calling an assembly- the words still resonate in my mind. “I’ll tell you what happens when you die… you die. That’s it.” Adolescence in the show is raw and unflinching as seen through the eyes of its young characters and it’s how we all saw it at the time too.
10. It’s shows the damage you can do by saying or doing one hurtful thing
As we see with Hannah, it’s the seemingly little things that can have a big impact. It was unfair of Hannah to put the character Bryce on the tapes with the others. As if they are at the same awful standard as a rapist. They’re not. But it isn’t about who is the most evil, it’s about how each of them played a part. Hannah had a lot to lose at the beginning of the tapes. And for each tape something was taken from her by the person on the tape. How others affect us and how we affect them. How easily something so awful can happen. How we need to treat others better. Fullstop.
11. It forces us to change the conversation of “should we talk about it”
This show has finally lifted the curtain and opened the floodgates on suicide. It’s time to stop fighting the current. Suicide has always been treated like a dirty word. Something to whisper or reword as a euphemism. In doing so it makes us feel dirty. Like we should all be ashamed. By not talking about it, it makes us not want to talk about it. To admit that we are not OK is somehow a weakness. It stops kids coming forward to seek help. They would rather suffer alone then go through the “embarrassment” of admitting they are suicidal. We can’t help with what we do not understand. This show helps change that. Young people want to understand suicide; the show ratings prove that.
12. It shows that teenagers are a lot more intelligent than what we give them credit for
Mental illness doesn’t take away a young person’s intelligence. They can speak for themselves. Why is it that everyone is speaking on the behalf of young people? Do they not have a voice? To say something as simple as a TV show would trigger someone to take their life is quite frankly insulting. Suicide is not that easy to jump to. To imply that it is, is not only ignorant but extremely offensive. To tell someone not to watch it undermines the pain others are really going through. They are not landmines waiting to explode. They are capable of making their own choices. Watching the show is everyone’s own choice to make.
13. It will make us all in this world strive to be a little more kinder
It’s as simple as that.
No one wants to die, not really. We all want some form of pain to stop. We want a way out. But even when the house is on fire and there is nothing but a cup of water in your hands to help you will still tell yourself “you can do this”. But we can only fight for so long and maybe eventually you reach a moment where you give up. And it only takes a moment. Then it’s too late.