Netflix original 13 Reasons Why, based off the 2011 novel of the same name, was released over spring break. The 13 episode series follows Hannah Baker, a teenage student who commits suicide after her 13 struggles in high school. The show has caused multiple debates about whether this is something that teenagers across the nation should be watching, as many experts are worried this graphic image of mental disorders may serve as a “trigger” for any real life Hannah Baker’s. The following article displays the perspective from two students who have watched the series in its entirety, explaining whether or not they believe it is a show worth watching.
Yes (Supports the show): Junior Megan Rosen
No (Does not support show): Sophomore Jolie Suarez
What was your takeaway from the series?
Yes: My takeaway from this show is that everyone’s actions can affect others more than they realize. The character of Hannah Baker tried very hard to fight through her struggles, but just as most high school students, the struggles kept piling on until she finally broke and felt as if there was nothing left to live for.
No: I did not really take much from the series, if I did take anything away at all. There was nothing legitimately heartfelt or realistic about it, other than the semi-realistic over dramatization of the “struggles” of a teenage girl. I had more sympathy for the characters I was supposed to dislike for the way they treated Hannah. The reality is that everyone has problems of their own, and the character whose whining, that we listen to for the entirety of the show, lacks the insight to understand that she is not unique in feeling lonely or misunderstood. Overall, I would say that the show is a great depiction of what the world looks like through the eyes of someone who is afflicted with some sort of mental illness or disorder, such as depression, but it is not an accurate portrayal of life through the eyes of a regular teenage girl, in both the things she experiences and the ways she reacts.
Is this show being taken too seriously?
Yes: In my opinion this show is being taken seriously, but not too much. Of course watching a show revolving around suicide will make it a more common discussion point among young people, but I do not believe that a TV show will lead anyone to commit suicide; if this is a claim anyone is making, the thought of suicide was more than likely already in their mind.
No: The show is most definitely being taken too seriously for many reasons. In majority, the problems lie with the character of Hannah Baker; she is self absorbed, she is overly sensitive, she lacks major observation and judgement/decision making skills…I could go on and on…but aside from the many things we ignore about the character, simply because we feel she deserves sympathy after committing suicide, I think what’s really being underestimated is how disturbing a thought process this is. This teenage girl did not only kill herself, she recorded hours worth of tapes to tell everyone what they did wrong and why they are, in their own ways, responsible for the taking of her life. Not knowing the first thing about these kids’ real characters aside from her perspective, she places the blame on anyone but herself — and in the wake of her death left nothing but guilt. The unnerving and self-serving revenge act of killing oneself can be highlighted by the fact that this girl was so hyper-focused on her agenda and her personal struggles that she did not leave a single thing for her parents other than her own body surrounded by a tub full of blood; her last parting gift for her mother and father who did nothing but worry about how they could make her happy as well as support her.
Do you think 13 Reasons Why sends an important message that is worth watching?
Yes: 13 Reasons Why absolutely sends the important message of how life-altering a decision, such as suicide, affects the lives of others. The show in no way glamorizes suicide; it is a heartbreaking tragedy that does its best to show the raw, immense pain that comes with suicide. The issue of suicide is definitely a relevant issue in today’s society, and I believe it is important for all students to be educated, but obviously not every part of the show is 100% accurate. If you feel you understand enough about suicide, this show is worth watching, but be aware of the graphic material this show contains. Lastly, keep in mind that the series has left out the point that suicide is never the only option, and there is always hope and ways to get help.
No: No. 13 Reasons Why tries VERY HARD to send a message that just isn’t delivered. Aside from highlighting things like suicide, sexual assault, and teenage sensitivity and lack of objectivity, there is also a very hefty and sloppy attempt to make an inclusion of the issue of sexuality — there is too much going on — and the show is attempting to serve too many different viewpoints and characters at the same time that it just doesn’t mesh.
Do you think watching the show could lead someone to committing suicide?
Yes: As mentioned before, I do not believe this show would lead someone to committing suicide because the series does not make suicide look appealing in any way. If someone commits suicide and they have watched this, I believe the thought would have already been there and watching the show or not would not affect their decision.
No: I think that the show definitely plays into the mindset of someone who is afflicted with a serious mental illness and/or disorder. It leads the viewer to believe that this way of thought is average, acceptable, and that rather than receive treatment, someone should place blame on others’ lack of kindness/compassion. I don’t know how many people would go through with suicide due to a television show, but I think the thought of it is definitely plausible in the world we live in.
Do you think slut-shaming is a big problem in today’s society?
Yes: Slut-shaming is absolutely a big problem today and has the potential to lead someone to commit suicide. In the show, an inappropriate picture of Hannah was shared with the entire school. As a result, she received numerous slut comments because the picture was taken on her first date with her boyfriend Justin Foley. Slut-shaming is not something to be taken lightly, and making this kind of comment to someone is such a low blow that could only come from someone who clearly does not have a life at all that they feel they need to judge girls for being in a relationship. This particular issue along with all of the others addressed in this series are not something to be glossed over, and not something that should be left out of media because it scares people. If anything, that’s the reason it needs to be included.
No: I think that a woman who is confident in her actions won’t care what people have to say about it. Most of the time, the motive for being sexually promiscuous is not a healthy one, and usually does more emotional harm than good.
Should students be watching this show?
Yes: I’m fairly neutral on this one, I don’t think it’s much different than watching Law and Order: SVU, if this is a show you find appealing, go for it, if you don’t, don’t.
No: If students are mature enough for this type of content, sure. I won’t say that it’s worth the time, but, whatever floats your boat.
Was Hannah justified in leaving the tapes?
Yes: I don’t see the tapes as being any different than a suicide note. For the sake of this story being a story, the tapes allow the story to be longer. If it was just a note being read, it may have been a boring series. To answer the question more clearly, yes she was justified, and the characters in the show that are upset with her for leaving the tapes would have also judged her for killing herself without an explanation. Hannah was struggling, and she just wanted those around her to understand that now that she was gone.
No: No…it’s sick and self-absorbed and the entire show is justifying her decision because it revolves around these tapes.
Do you think Liberty High was an accurate depiction of an actual high school?
Yes: To a certain extent, yes. I’m sure there is at least one thing about Liberty High that every Ledyard student can identify with, whether it’s cocky jocks or bullies.
No: No. Mostly, no. There are a couple reasons why it is, a lot more that would say it isn’t. I think the most accurate piece of the show was the expectation of camaraderie from Bryce towards Justin although Bryce had raped Justin’s girlfriend…this disturbing “what’s mine is yours” comment that Bryce made shortly before the rape depicts a troubling truth among teenage boys, that each one only acts to please and impress the other.
Should students be sympathizing with Hannah?
Yes: I will admit to being slightly annoyed by Hannah’s character, but I do believe she is someone who deserves sympathy. While a few of her struggles were almost too relatable for many students, it is heartbreaking that she felt suicide was her last option.
No: They should be sympathizing with a girl who was obviously very troubled, yes. But with the girl that was presented? No. Very selfish and dramatic — she would have never found real happiness given the person she presented to be.
Do you think the show discourages students from asking for help?
Yes: I do think this show discourages students from seeking help. When Hannah was raped, she went to her guidance counselor and attempted to seek help, but since she was uncomfortable sharing who it was that raped her, he was unable to do anything. I think that for anyone to watch this series, it is important for them to understand that this is not how the situation would have been handled in real life. There is always someone you can reach out to.
No: Yes, absolutely.
Is suicide anyone’s fault?
Yes: Depression is a serious mental disorder that so many people struggle with. I believe that the actions of others may lead someone with depression to taking their life, but I do not believe it is anyone’s fault. No one in the show ever thought Hannah would take that extreme, but it does not justify any of their actions. The suicide was not Hannah’s fault either, she was struggling and just didn’t know what to do. It is important that schools offer services for these students struggling with mental illnesses. She was lost and although she could have done more, she is not responsible.
No: Sometimes it is the fault of those who commit the act, sometimes these people are put in such unbelievably painful and irreversible situations that realistically, it can be justified. This is not one of those situations where it is justifiable – especially given that she is a high school student and her lack of thought for the future she could have had reveals this crazily pathetic lack of worldview.
What could Hannah have done differently?
Yes: I don’t really know what she could have done differently. She could have told her family or something, but I feel as if in her situation that since her counselor wouldn’t do anything, it wouldn’t have changed her decision.
No: Oh, God. So many things. Ultimately, she should have sought help prior to her rape…she had obviously experienced immense emotional turmoil at that point — placing her entire life on the response of her guidance counselor was not the right move. There are a million other decisions she should have made differently along the way, but in the end it just comes down to advocating for yourself and building the self-worth and emotional strength to not meekly allow yourself to slip away.
Suicide is never the only option: If you or someone you know needs help please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
There are also guidance counselors and school psychologists here at the high school who are always available to talk as well.
Megan Rosen, Associate Editor-in-Chief
Junior Megan Rosen is the Associate Editor-in-Chief of The Colonel. She is on the varsity tennis team at Ledyard, participates in PALESTRA, and enjoys playing volleyball and basketball. When she is not in school, you can often find her shopping or eating waffles and drinking smoothies.
Jolie Suarez, Staff Writer
Sophomore Jolie Suarez is a staff writer for the 2016-2017 Colonel. She spends her time outside of class playing soccer and swimming. She also enjoys reading, writing, and singing.