I’ve been angry about “13 Reasons Why” since I started watching it four days ago. I watched the first three episodes with an eagerness to find out what happened next. However, I quickly realized this wasn’t a show for me. I felt compelled to finish as quickly as possible (I just wanted it to be over!); I never should have watched this show.
For me, it went from bad, to pretty tough, to unbearable in 13 LONG hours.
I did some reading after I finished the first season, and I learned that others shared my frustration, anger, and disappointment. Many (like me) found it triggering and inappropriate. Lots of people thought the show was glamorizing suicide. I felt like it was trivializing it! I didn’t appreciate the script’s several remarks about staging suicide as a way to “get rid of” challenging classmates or as the solution for other teens who were also struggling.
I also had some conversations with friends which helped direct my anger and hurt toward something more productive. Our subsequent conversations about suicide prevention, access to resources, and the types of conversations we want to have moving forward forced me to compile my racing thoughts in some (semi) coherent way. These conversations gave me space to share what was on my mind, to feel heard, and to listen. For that, I am thankful.
Still, though, I can’t stop thinking about “13 Reasons Why”, and it’s nothing good.
So, here are my 13 Thoughts on “13 Reasons Why”:
- The series could have been promising as a film. However, dragging out the story of a teen’s suicide for 13 hours was really unnecessary.
- The way the show depicted several of the themes (i.e., sexual assault, bullying, dating/romantic relationships, self-harm, depression, familial abuse, LGBTQIAA+/identity, and substance use/abuse) was way too much/too real for those of us who can relate closely to what the characters experienced. Where the hell were the trigger warnings?!?!
- For folks who cannot relate personally to the themes in the show, it was an ineffective way to evoke empathy from the audience or to help them “understand”.
- Top researchers on suicide prevention found that “risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.” First, nobody needed to see that. Second, it was triggering. Third, what kind of ideas or rationalization did that scene spark for folks who were already considering suicide or self-harm, or weren’t but now saw it as a viable option? [p.s. there has been a spike in calls to mental health helplines since the show aired]
- Did the producers even read the guidelines on safe and responsible reporting on suicide?!?!
- Why was there no material addressing adolescent mental health or substance use/abuse? Especially when it comes to adolescents, one in five have (or will have) a serious mental illness and it’s correlated with suicidal ideation/action.
- Why didn’t the show present any alternative to suicide or an example of successful help-seeking? Why didn’t they discuss what happens after someone attempts to end their life by suicide, but survives? How does someone move forward from that?
- Why didn’t one person ask Hannah directly if she was considering suicide? Effective suicide prevention techniques such as QPR suggest that “asking the question” can be a critical step toward reducing suicidal behaviors and saving lives. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — the 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Trust me, hearing this question is crucial.
- There are SO many resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Imalive.org, Crisischat.org, The Trevor Project, and the Crisis Text Line. Why weren’t these options made available after every episode – especially when teens are using phones, browsing the Internet, and participating in social media more than any other generation?!
- This show was really a missed opportunity to connect with young people who may relate to the characters, themes, or experiences.
- Suicide is never about placing blame. Never. It’s also not selfish or the “easy way out”.
- What kind of twisted world do we live in where an acceptable, palpable cliffhanger for a show about teen suicide is whether another character may also, potentially, die by suicide? That’s not enticing or captivating. That’s horrific.
- Ultimately, my review is as follows: it was a big, offensive, triggering flop with some good music selections.
I am not recommending this show to any human.
Finally, if you need to talk, about anything, I absolutely welcome dialogue; I want to know what you’re experiencing. Comment below!
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the suicide prevention resources page on The Mighty.
2 thoughts on “13 Thoughts on “13 Reasons Why””
Thanks for inviting dialogue! I don’t have Facebook so I can’t comment there, but I do think that symbolic interactionism theory is a helpful framework from which to better understand the characters’ experiences and decisions. Each acted according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world and their subjectivity in relation to their context (e.g., relationships, power structures, and resources). Interesting perspective – thanks for sharing!
I answer a few of your questions here, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ed-horch/my-take-on-13-reasons-why/10158539232300494/