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The truth behind 13 Reasons Why

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Picture cover for the Netflix series, 13 reasons why.

Picture cover for the Netflix series, 13 reasons why.

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Picture cover for the Netflix series, 13 reasons why.

Jubilee Robinson

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CONTENT WARNING, talk of sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide.
WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD but honestly, who hasn’t seen this show already.

Recently Jennifer Baker, principal of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD sent a letter out to parents warning them of the graphic images and mature topics displayed in the ever-popular Netflix original, 13 Reasons Why.

If you haven’t seen the show it’s about this girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide and sends 13 tapes out to the people whom she deemed responsible for her death. The episodes follow a boy named Clay, as he listens to the tapes, and his reactions to the wrongdoings committed by him and his peers.

The show, being a Netflix original, has no regulations on what they can and cannot show, so as you can imagine there are many extremely graphic scenes, that the normal, healthy viewer could find entertaining, moving, or jarring. But Principal Baker’s main concern was those who may identify with Hannah and what the scenes might inflict upon their mental health.

Now, I’ve watched the entirety of this show (twice over in fact) and both times, I was thoroughly entertained. It was compelling and a well written show, but after seeing articles like this I began to question the morals of show.

Throughout the story Clay gets more and more worked up and stressed out worrying about what he had done to Hannah, because after a couple episodes you learn, he was in love with her. There’s a whole scene where they’re making out and she gets a panic attack and tells Clay to leave. He feels as if he had stayed she wouldn’t have taken her life. “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her,”are the words he used.

I agree that the way the show portrayed the sexual and emotional abuse that Hannah endured was very raw and moving, but what Clay said really made me uneasy. He acts as if he is the sole thing that could’ve kept Hannah alive, when not only did he just listen to 13 other tapes of reasons why she died, but one person cannot be the say on whether or not another person decides to take their life. It doesn’t work like that.

The images are even worse. There are scenes that are barely censored, including a full shot of Hannah slitting her wrists in a bathtub. Studies show that when suicides are shown on public media, a spike goes up in real suicides and like suicides (suicides replicating that of the show) of people between 10-24.

I realize this is a fictional show but the message it sends to people about mental illness is very flawed. And other than a small disclaimer before each episode, there is never any talk of warning or suicide prevention. Many shows with topics like this will use it to educate the public, but 13 Reasons Why simply glamorizes it.

Overall, this show is very entertaining, and can be an eye opener to people who haven’t experienced the things depicted on the show. But, just like the internet, you can’t believe everything on TV. If you think the topic is a little heavy, don’t watch it and be safe.

National Suicide prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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The truth behind 13 Reasons Why