Early last year, Hannah Baker’s tapes imposed a way to view mental illness. Depression, self-harm, and suicide were no longer spoken of in whispers. 13 Reasons Why, based on Jay Asher’s highly acclaimed novel about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes explaining why she ended her life, aims to depict a deeply affecting and gripping portrait of loneliness and grief in a young adult setting. The show hoped itself to be one of the greatest high school dramas of all time as it deals with dark and mature themes too rarely discussed onscreen, although it stops at that.
Although groundbreaking in its inhibition, the show is majorly controversial, leaving behind a divided audience by the end of its first season. One half accuses the show of glorifying suicide–the show was held liable for the suicide contagion, or “copycat suicides,” that spread among viewers after its release–while the other half favorably acknowledges its efforts to raise awareness on the topic and start a conversation. With the release of a second season, the show once again sparks major controversy both on and off screen, with reviews calling season two “a needless and muddled extension.”
Here are three reasons why 13 Reasons Why is a shit show, and does not deserve another season:
1. Hannah Baker is a privileged spoiled brat who uses suicide as a way to get what she wants.
She didn’t even leave a tape for her parents and despite issues revolving their marriage, there are people before adolescence whose personal influences undeniably affect character. Plus, the show reinforces the idea that Clay could have saved her. Although its plain message that “kindness should be observed” goes for cause, depression is not that simple. There are so many factors that can lead to mental illnesses outside of Hannah’s little bubble. High school is tough, but the show suggests that life revolves around high school, which is not only cliché but is also a flawed out-of-date cinematic formula. What revolutionary shows should be doing is ending this stigma that encumbers the youth, and project life into something beyond it. Demolish old-fashioned establishments rather than be under it. Fight bullying rather than using it as an excuse to say that suicide is okay. Make a show that properly represents mental illness, now more than ever, rather than making a shallow character which reinforces misconceptions about people with real life diagnosis.
2. Suicide is not the answer.
The show used suicide as a means to get revenge from people who had done someone wrong, which traversed the “victim” to the “winner.” This implies a subtext that ending your life can mess up your enemies’ lives, which lets you take the wheel. This is fake news. The defining factor that differentiates a TV show and real life is that there is no camera monitoring life after death. There are no scripts that highlight only the protagonist’s successes. Reality is there will be an unavoidable guilt after loss, but a temporary “revenge” is never a good reason to permanently end life.
3. The case whether or not it’s a trigger warning should not matter; the intent should.
One thing we know about the show is that its audience know what they’re getting into, which nulls the shock factor in graphic content. It’s like watching Lars Von Trier knowing there’s going to be sex and blood. However, what matters is the intention behind it: Why is it there? Is it necessary for it to be there? What do we get out of it? Many films have uncensored content for the sake of art, the catharsis it exudes, or the overall execution of the premise. Some examples are Lino Brocka’s “Insiang,” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y Tu Mama También.” With 13 Reasons Why, that’s not the case. It used graphic content just so it could. It had no significant proposition to the plot, nor was it necessary for the audience to experience every bit of it. It is not revolutionary cinema, although it pitifully begs to be.
In a recent panel, show creator Brian Yorkey explains Netflix’s decision to continue Hannah’s story outside Asher’s novel by saying, “It felt that to leave the characters there would be unfair to them and to the viewers who really had come to care about them.” Vice-President of Original Series Brian Wright says, “It continues this dialogue and these conversations and the exploration of some of these super tough topics, but in a way that’s always wrapped in a very entertaining and propulsive thread and story.” Producers, including Selena Gomez, address the controversies and concerns regarding the first season by attaching trigger warnings–clips of the cast announcing the nature of the show and sharing advice with the viewers–at the beginning of every episode, and creating 13ReasonsWhy.info, a website that provides resources and hotlines to help the mentally ill.
While the producers and creators of the show try to defend their acts and compensate for faltering, we remind the interested viewers that this is a ploy, not too intelligently planned, to keep you spending for all the wrong reasons.