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Another Opinion On 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why has created a lot of buzz, both good and bad. The show has been criticized for sensationalizing and glorifying suicide, and for victimizing Hannah, the story's protagonist, who commits suicide after years of bullying, and sexual harassment and abuse both in and outside of school. Mental health professionals warn that the show is dangerous, and could encourage young people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts to take their own lives. Others claim it's the best show ever made, even going so far as to say they "loved" it. And then there's me, caught somewhere in the middle. When my own brother committed suicide at 18 years old, shellshocked is the best word to describe the way everyone felt. It was as if we'd been hit by a bomb and were left trying to pick up the pieces. Kindhearted condolence-givers and the sea of counselors I saw in the years that followed would try to help me cope by saying things like, "It wasn't your fault.", "None of us knew what was in his heart.", or, "He was going to do what he was going to do. We couldn't have stopped him." And while I even found myself repeating them to other people looking for comfort in the wake of his loss, there was always a little voice in the back of my mind questioning those words, knowing they were a lie. I was the big sister who would sneak into his room to hold his hand and tell him silly stories when he was afraid after lights out; the free 24 hour taxi service to him and his friends whenever their tiny teenager brains got them stranded and ride-less at all hours of the night when they were supposed to be sleeping over each other's houses. There wasn't any problem he had that I couldn't make better. So what do you mean there was nothing I could do? This is the essential question 13 Reasons Why poses, and also answers, highlighting the danger in this "nothing we could do" mentality. In saying there's nothing we could have done, we are washing our hands of the situation, putting it all on the person who committed suicide, and feeding this taboo we have around suicide, being extra-careful not to dig too deep; not to uncover something we didn't want to know. Clearly, there's always something we can do. In the days leading up to Hannah's suicide, she displayed unusual behavior to multiple people. She reached out for help from the school guidance counselor, who was the worst ever, but she was also desperately seeking connection. It was subtle, but noticeable. But everyone was too busy, too tired, or too wrapped up in their own lives to take a minute and give her the connection she so desperately needed. There is a monologue in which she says that humans are social beings that need connection to survive. It's true, and it is obvious why, in a world where we're all so disconnected from each other (in real life- internet life doesn't count), suicide rates are rising steadily. But I think Hannah's character and her struggles also have a lot to teach us about the generation who are coming of age in this ultra-connected, and yet completely disconnected America. It seems there is more pressure than ever before for young people to get physical in relationships, and nothing is sacred. I think 13 Reasons Why can be a great platform for discussing things like sexual assault, substance abuse, bullying, and respect with young people. I think the scenarios presented in the show highlight our need to teach young people the importance of knowing how to protect themselves and each other from becoming victims of assault and bullying, and most importantly, how to advocate for themselves and each other, and get help when they need it. So, the people who hated the series say the show glorifies suicide. I say there is nothing glorious about Hannah's story; about a 17 year-old girl suffering through years of harassment and abuse, and then dying, thinking nobody in the world cared about her. And to the ones who say they "loved" it, I don't think you're supposed to love it. And I don't understand how a person could walk away from this show and describe what it makes them feel as "love". But I do think it's a show that pushes boundaries, breaks taboos, and challenges us to think about someone other than ourselves for two minutes. And that, I think, is invaluable at this moment in our human story. As he walks out of the school guidance counselor's office after telling Hannah's story, Clay says we have to get better at being there for each other. We have to treat each other better. To me, this is the take-away from 13 Reasons Why. I just hope that, for once, we all get the message.

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