First off, I know that this show has been very controversial. That was the main reason I watched it in the first place. At first I just thought it was a show for teens, but after it received so much backlash, I began to see it from a new perspective. Going into this, I should say that I do know a thing or two about abuse and self-harm through personal experience. I won’t go into detail, but it’s probably not how you would expect.
So to begin with, I would like to talk about the positive aspects of this show, because there definitely are positives. It brings to light issues which are generally not discussed as much as they should be. Bullying can be a major concern in high school, and especially now that everyone has mobile phones and access to the internet, it is much easier for rumours to spread around almost instantly. The protagonist in the story, Hannah Baker, is not only the victim of severe bullying and abuse, but also slut shaming, which is never okay. Too often people don’t realise the effect words can have on someone, and these forms of abuse really need to be taken more seriously. 13 Reasons Why shows the worst case scenario that can happen when someone is bullied too much, and highlights why it is important to treat everyone with respect. You never know what someone else is going through, and how much your words might hurt them.
Now, let’s talk about what this show got wrong. 13 Reasons Why implies that if you are having suicidal thoughts or are struggling with a mental illness, no matter how hard you try to get help, no one is going to care. When one of the characters goes to visit the school counsellor early on in the show to report bullying after being ‘pantsed’, the first thing the counsellor asks is what he could have done to provoke the bullying. This is an obvious case of victim blaming, as the character points out, and it is not the way to handle bullying, or any kind of abuse. The main protagonist, Hannah, also visits the counsellor, only to suffer a similar fate. She is given no help or support, and even though she basically admits that she has been sexually assaulted, the counsellor does not inform her parents or any other higher authority that she might be struggling emotionally. There may be cases where this happens in real life, but in reality, there are lots of places where people can get help. Lifeline, Headspace, Beyond Blue–they all offer support for anyone who is struggling with any aspect of their lives.
Another thing that this shows does badly is make it seem like if you are being bullied, you should try and get revenge on the abusers by killing yourself and trying to mess up their lives. I understand that Hannah was hurt, and wanted the people that had hurt her to know that it was their fault, but did she not think at all about what effect this might have on those people? Alex is clearly struggling with some mental issues throughout the show, and in the last episode we learn that he did try to kill himself. Revenge suicide is not healthy, and can ruin the lives of many other people. Netflix should not be encouraging this kind of act.
Below I have linked a number of mental health support websites, so if you are struggling at all or need any help, please do not hesitate to reach out and find someone to help you.
You are not alone.
With sunshine and rainbows,