Tuesday 25 April 2017

A Few Thoughts On 13 Reasons Why

I realise that this post doesn't have flashy photography or the most light-hearted of topics, but some things just need to be said, you know?

If you’re a regular on Netflix, then it’s likely that you’ve stumbled across or heard about the newest viral TV addiction; 13 Reasons Why. Primarily, the buzz surrounding the show might have been related to Selena Gomez being the producer, but now that eyes have turned to the production itself, the focus has changed. It’s a teenage suicide storyline, and one that I have my doubts about the safety of.

When I was sixteen, and my high school conducted mock interviews, I remember sitting there, hands shaking a little, when the interviewer asked what my favourite book was. Finally, a topic that I felt I could talk about for hours. The answer came immediately to me, I had never read a book as poignant as 13 Reasons Why (written by Jay Asher), a book that taught me the power of words and the consequences that you think nothing of in the split second it takes you to act. The TV show, clearly aiming to do the same thing, seems like a misguided attempt in my eyes. A creation made in support of the vulnerable, without actual thought for the vulnerable audience watching.

I am all for raising awareness about mental illness; it’s critical that we step up and address the issues that affect such a large proportion of the population. There’s a difference however, between raising awareness, and completely missing the issue at hand. 13 Reasons Why portrays Hannah’s suicide as a mystery; who will the next perpetrator be, the next tape? Teenage suicide is a subject often skirted around, so it makes no sense that when a team decides to address it head on, it’s treated like a game. There is also an extreme lack of attention paid to mental illness itself, the basis behind such realistic storylines lost in the revenge plot. If you're a member of the audience, watching in the hope to better understand mental illness, I don't think this is the best platform for it.

My main dislike for the adaptation manifests itself in a few, key scenes. Mental health organisations have expressed concern for the audience watching episodes containing suicide, self-harm, and sexual assault, all of which are intense. And graphic. Awareness is important in today’s society, but surely some elements should remain subtle. Trigger warnings are included, which is one saving grace for the show, but the graphic content still remains an issue. Not everyone that should listen to trigger warnings, do. That vulnerable audience, sitting in their bedrooms and relating to Hannah, being presented with a glorified instruction list, need to be protected. If you identify with the classmates that added to her justification for death, you’re likely to walk away slightly more conscientious. If you identify with Hannah, there is a potential to leave with something a lot more dangerous. A justification for your own.

It’s clear when you press play that this was a movement with innocent, and well-intended, motives. For the majority of people watching, it has likely had a positive influence – left room for thought, and time to consider the way in which we treat our peers. For those like the protagonist, I am left with the fear that the programme may have inspired the opposite of what they set out to do.
I would love to hear your thoughts about the programme; talking about this is something that should be encouraged, not shied away from.


  1. I haven't turned Netflix on for a while, so I haven come across this yet. Its seems like a interesting subject that really isn't talked about enough. Would you recommend reading he book first?
    Kate x

  2. I was really intrigued by the programme so I watched it for myself and ended up watching the whole series in less than 24 hours. I thought it was great and it definitely had me hooked but I totally agree that when you really take notice and think about the way things are said and done, it's not a great impression, the graphic scenes were very hard to watch.

    Alice | alicemaysnell

  3. There seems to be no depth or exploration of her mental health at all, which is a HUGE flaw because it makes it seem like her suicide is a reasonable reaction to her experience at High School (it's not). I like the show, but I am watching as an adult and I share your concerns about vulnerable young people watching this.


© A Small Distraction. All rights reserved.