’13 Reasons Why’ Controversy

Michelle Rivas and Yuna Lee

The hit Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has managed to cause a ruckus in the media over the controversial topics that are portrayed in the series. The show is based off of the 2007 young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. The main plot of the book is about a girl who decides to take her life and leaves 13 tapes explaining why she killed herself and who caused it. Each tape explains how these people in some way caused her death.

Right after the release of the show on March 30th, it became the talk of the media. Many people had different views on the television series both good and bad. Some see it as an eye-opener to show people the importance of suicide prevention and what not to do. However, some received it as romanticizing suicide and blaming the people around the victim.

Furthermore, on the topic of suicide prevention, some people argue that the show educates the viewers on how to deal with anyone around them that may be suicidal. For example, in the show, a lot of the conflicts revolve around social media. In this generation, social media plays a huge role in our everyday lives and this show brings awareness to certain issues. It shows viewers how important words are and the impact that they have on people. It’s also educational in a way that it informs viewers on how to help someone that may be in danger, protect survivors of sexual assault, and relate to people who have dealt with bullying, rape, or losing someone from suicide. It also opens up doors for discussions on the topic of suicide. It can be pretty difficult to bring up in a conversation, and this show could clear a pathway for those who struggle with discussing mental illnesses, bullying, sexual assault, and more.

On the other hand, some are saying that it insinuates that suicide is the survivors’ fault. The entire show is based on how the main character, Hannah Baker, blames everyone around her for letting her commit suicide. Although the author and producers certainly did not mean to give off this message, it was still received this way by some viewers. It’s clear that the intended message was to protest bullying, spreading rumors, and rape. But the way that they approached the topic could lead to people, more specifically teenagers, blaming themselves. Another negative argument that was presented by the media was the graphic display of Hannah’s death. Not only do people think that it glamorizes suicide, but it is also extremely triggering to a certain audience. It also implies that suicide is the only option when confronted with obstacles in life. This is shown when Hannah doesn’t stand up to her bullies, but instead leaves tapes for them when it’s too late.

Overall, the show itself had good intentions and got the original message across to some viewers. Obviously, there were some that did not receive it that way and for valid reasons. However, if you watched the show, you may be able to agree that it still brought awareness to important topics including suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and depression. We as people could always be more compassionate and understanding of other people’s battles in life, and the way to get this concept across to people is extremely important. The message can be presented in many different ways, whether it be through a TV show, book, movie, etc. Regardless of that, 13 Reasons Why, despite all the controversy, has moved us one step closer to educating people on the important themes and concepts displayed in the show.