Spoilers for 13 Reasons Why below.
13 Reasons Why, the series, is one of the most talked about things on social media right now. It’s a 13 episode show on Netflix that plays off of a novel by the same name. Viewers have been overall very happy with the way the book played out on screen. It is raw, it’s real, and it’s supposed to make an impact.
The story follows Hannah’s life, or rather – her death, and the people who had an impact on that. Hence the name, 13 reasons why. The tapes were hard to listen to for Clay (the boy who is shown listening to the tapes as the flashbacks unfold) but also for viewers at home. We want to think that while this happens, it’s not as awful as it sounds. It’s easier to live in a bubble. 13 Reasons Why doesn’t allow you to; it makes it as real as it is. Depression is destructive and suicide isn’t glamorous or selfish.
That being said, some viewers were having a hard time grasping the graphic nature of Hannah’s death, and why it was shown the way that it was. While some episodes in the series came with a warning, the last episode’s was one of the most important to pay attention to.
“The following episode contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing and/or may not be suitable for younger audiences, including graphic depictions of violence and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.”
The series is about Hannah’s suicide, so it was clear that the moment would be addressed. The moment is very real and it hurts, quite frankly, to watch. Hannah gets into a bathtub, slices her arms open, and slowly bleeds to death. Her mother and father come home to find her already having passed away.
It’s not just shown in a glance, viewers watch Hannah’s breathing slow, the fear on her face settle to discomfort and then to nothing, and they’re subjected to watching the life drain out of her. It was shown this way for a reason.
Jay Asher, the author of the book, said this about why they showed the scene so honestly.
“They felt for a TV series, if you’re going to watch it, you want to show it as horrific as it actually is. So the way she does it, you can’t watch it and feel like it’s glamorized in any way. It looks and is painful, and then when she’s found by her parents, it absolutely destroys them.”
The same sentiment was shared by those who worked on the series in the after-show (also available on Netflix) where the cast and crew talk about Hannah’s life and death.
“We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide.”
Some have voiced concerns that 13 Reasons Why could trigger those who are already suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, but those who worked on the show acknowledged that while countering that they did leave the message through the series to ask for help, and for those who love people with depression, to offer it more freely.
Suicide wasn’t the only ‘difficult to talk about’ topic touched upon in the series. Sexual assault also played a large part in Hannah’s life, and the life of her friend Jessica. Sexual assault changes you, and the victim most often tries to hide it when it happens – from others and themselves. Women who are sexually assaulted are usually shamed into keeping quiet and men who experience rape usually fear coming forward and looking weak. The truth is, sexual assault happens and it is NEVER the victim’s fault.
These topics were addressed in raw openness, and it sort of had to be done that way. There are more young adults now than ever being diagnosed with mental illness and being hospitalized with suicidal thoughts or after trying to take their own lives. If we can’t put the issue in front of the public and make it real, we can’t make it stop.
If you’ve yet to tune in, 13 Reasons Why can be viewed on Netflix now. If you are suffering from depression or are a victim of suicide attempts or sexual assault – watch with caution, or watch with a loved one, and please know that you are not alone.