Warning: potential spoilers and trigger warning. This is only an opinion and view of mine.
As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed the other day, the article title that many have feared has finally been published:
“Thing we all feared would happen after ’13 Reasons Why’ has happened”
A 23 year old sadly died in hospital after a suicide attempt to which Police found two notes on inspection of his house. One saying goodbye to the person he loved. The second, a note allegedly directing certain people to listen to a set of tapes that detailed the reasons why he chose to end his life.
13 Reasons Why gained amass popularity when it was advertised through social media platforms of this new show that was produced by mega-star Selena Gomez.
Many have said that they believe 13RW is glorifying suicide. I personally wouldn’t go as far as to say it was glorifying suicide instead it was using an alternative method (leaving audio tapes) to highlight issues and the reasons that don’t get spoken about as they are usually taken to the grave with the person.
I think that term has been thrown around because of this alternative method; the idea itself of leaving tapes with a dead person’s voice on it has never been heard of. And the glorification comes from the nerve of Hannah Baker thinking she could continue her story after she has gone.
Don’t get me wrong: this hit me extremely hard, too. I was continually coming to terms throughout watching the season on how this method could possibly happen? I kept questioning the show thinking “surely this should have had a ‘Based on a True Story’ foreword?” Surely a situation like this couldn’t have been plucked from thin air and Hannah Baker subsequently created? I was angry at first. I kept thinking “you can’t show this!” Then, I was getting angry at Hannah. Victims of suicide don’t get the chance to talk from the beyond so what made her any different? Who did she think she was by putting all those around her through this pain again?
I endured through and after finishing the season (and picking myself back up off the floor from a pile of blubbery mess), I clicked on 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons and boy, am I glad I did. By dissociating the characters from the actors, I was able to follow the creativity roadmap for the design of 13RW. The weight of seriousness that is displayed by Producers, Writers, Actors and mental health Professionals in this add-on made me reposition my initial anger and understand that this was not taken lightly.
NB: for those who haven’t watched Beyond the Reasons, go check it out!
After major backlash on social media, Netflix has since come out and said that “Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series.” Those additional warnings and appropriate prompts should have been there from the start (definitely) but I am glad Netflix is taking action.
At the end of the day, the world has been presented with something unique, dark, and different. It is a TV show being used for a starting point of hard discussions; it is controversial. In my opinion, with or without this show, these issues are still happening in the darks of society. Why are we so comfortable with watching gory epics such as The Walking Dead (another one that sucked me in but also made me feel just as queasy)? Is it easier to watch fiction and ignore reality? Are we using the excuse that “this possibly couldn’t happen in real life therefore it’s solely entertainment?” to justify what is depicted?
Everything 13RW has brought up; issues that have existed well before the show was a twinkle in anyone’s eyes, deserve the sensitivity and compassion it begs for. Instead of continuing the controversy bandwagon, let’s put the keyboards away and start having those crucial conversations with each other.