The last month, most people with a Facebook account have been bombarded with dozens of different opinions on Netflix’s newest original series, “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
There’s been accounts of praise and stories of recovery, people exclaiming that the show should be shown in middle and high schools across the country.
There has been an equal amount of hate towards the show, many picking out on individual mistakes on the behalf of the creators. One claim that’s been plastered all over social media, is that the show glamorizes suicide.
For directors and script writers, creating a plot surrounding these topics is not an easy task. As we’ve countless times in pop culture (ex: Virgin Suicides, American Horror Story, Silver Linings Playbook, Skins, etc.), there’s more than one way to wrongly portray mental illness.
This could mean making a mental illness a “quirky” characteristic of the protagonist, romanticizing the struggle of a non-neurotypical character, or making it seem as though having a mental disorder makes someone more interesting, intelligent, or even cool.
This is why many automatically judged “Thirteen Reasons Why” — as a show entirely based on suicide, depression, bullying, and sexual assault, there were about a million and one ways the producers could have incorrectly represented victims of these circumstances.
This show paints a very dark, brutally graphic, and honest picture of sexual assault and suicide.
While watching this series, I never felt as though the creators wanted to make her suicide seem romantic or positive. Through these graphic depictions, it was obvious how terrifying these experiences are, and not the least bit glamorous or even comfortable to witness.
At the same time, I understand why so many people wished they had kept these scenes brief, especially when the creators were advised to steer away from such graphic content; on top of this, I sympathize with everybody who was triggered by this show.
But the trigger warnings in the beginning of each episode prove that the creators of the series filmed these scenes with only good intentions.
Watching somebody slit their wrists or be brutally raped is never, ever supposed to be a comfortable thing to watch.
In the end, nothing about watching somebody bleed to death is romantic, trendy, or remotely glamorous.
For every person who has never experienced the trauma of sexual assault or the horror of a suicide attempt, it got the message across: This is not okay. This is never okay.
Another common criticism of the series is that it doesn’t accurately portray suicidal thoughts and depression. Many articles say that the show is a bad representation of mental illness; one author even writes that because Hannah’s character isn’t shown struggling to function on a daily basis, the show misrepresents suicide.
As someone who’s experienced depression, I can agree that by not even mentioning depression in the script was a major flaw.
Glazing over mental illness in a conversation about suicide and rape did more harm than good in the end, while many articles called the writers out on this.
In the end, I think that the “Thirteen Reasons Why” series was created with entirely good intentions.
I can agree with most criticisms of the show, with the exception of claims that it’s romanticizing suicide; even with piles of articles explaining why the writer things this show is garbage, it still started a conversion.
This show became a hit in a mere few days, leaving millions of people to share their thoughts on it. Even in every negative review, each author speaks in defense of the mentally ill and survivors of sexual assault.
To me, this is a victory.
To me, this is another step into creating a world where women feel safe to go to walk alone at night; where a high school girl isn’t afraid that she might be called a slut by her peer; where people who feel like suicide is the only way to end the pain can reach out to a friend or even a guidance counselor and receive help immediately.
The more we work to start a conversation and point out the good and the bad in how people portray these issues, the better we are as a whole.