Portrayal of Suicide in 13 Reasons Why

Published: 2021-08-03 19:05:06
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Category: Movies, Television

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13 Reasons Why Is a Netflix series that aired on March 31, 2017, for 13 episodes. The show is based on the best selling book 2007 Thirteen Reasons Why by Brian Asher which won awards and recognition. The plot is based on Hannah Baker a 16-year-old high school junior who committed suicide in Liberty High in a fictional town of Crestmont. The story begins with 13 recording tapes that she left before her death, each one with a name of a person who is responsible for her suicide, the 13 reasons why on why she killed herself. The second character, Clay Benson, the narrator and second lead of the story, is one of the people who receive the tapes and discover he is in one of the recording tapes and may have caused her death. Throughout the story, he adventures in the journey on investigating who, why and what lead to her suicide, uncovering dark secrets in each tape and episode. In each episode, the series portrays the life of Hannah in the past tense because the story follows right after her death, it would transition from the past to the present, flashbacks and memories. The series also presents how help sometimes does not arrive on time, bullying and rumors lead to someone to end their life. The series has 3 seasons, season 2 release in May 2018 which follows the story 5-6 months after the 1 season. Season 2 brings a sense of recovery and healing for the characters and students of Liberty high after Hannah’s suicide but as the school enters into a trial for failing to help Hannah. This season also brings back Clay who begins to see Hannah’s ghost as he goes to discover more sinister secrets of the school. Season 3 release in August 2019, the season brings a new plot, the death of another character Bryce Walker and search for the person who is responsible for Bryce’s death, placing all of the characters in a situation on blaming and covering each of their crimes.
The series received high ratings in views yet many mixed comments regarding the story and how it brings in heavy topics for viewers; suicide, bullying, and rape. The book has been since 2007 until Universal studios bought the rights of the story (Feb.8,2011) soon after Netflix announced that they will be producing a series adaptation of the novel in Oct 2015. The ratings went from 8/10 The series is under Netflix yet you can watch it on other networks Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and Youtube Play with additional charges. The series is label TV-MA; Mature Audience Only, above 13 or 15 years old could watch the series due to the high graphic scenes. The series displays rape, bullying, drugs, sex, and rape, which though it is a heavy graphics to present to younger viewers without the parents’ consent. The series also gives a 30-minute video after season 1 episode 13, after Hannah’s suicide, on how you can get help, display phone numbers of suicide prevention, websites, and places to reach for help. As an update, Netflix has cut out the explicit scene of Hannah baker suicide due to the high demand of viewers requesting it to be cut off. Also on Youtube, those who have the video of Hannah’s suicide are either shut down, remove or block, a few go undetected, viewers have to agree that they are older than 18 to see the video. However, for the sexual assault and rape, it is still on the series, despite also having a few comments on being too visual for viewers.The series made headlines in News and website, as it brings one of the most controversial topics in today’s date, suicide, and sexual assault. Despite the high reviews and well received in the computers of viewers, it sparks the conflict if the show is too much for the public. Before and after the release of the series, the directors and executive producers deliver a message at the beginning of the series and at the end, pointing out that the series contains heavy topics and it may not be the right choice to watch it. At the end of the series, they also give a 30 minutes video sharing information on how to get mental help or support if you or anyone is going through the same situation. The ideological message is too prevent and aid those who are suffering in silence and can not find a way out. On Inside Edition, which is a youtube channel that relates news, stories, etc, they made a report about 2 suicides of two young girls who committed suicide after watching 13 reasons why. Many argue that it was a trigger for them to see how easy is to influence the mind of the young generation. On The New York “Netflix and Suicide: The Disturbing Example of the “13 Reasons Why” article they follow the story and went into depth on how the series had an effect on the younger viewers. The article quotes “Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published a report, by the National Institute of Mental Health, which provided evidence that the experts were right and Netflix was wrong. The study stated that “13 Reasons Why” was “associated with a 28.9% increase in suicide rates among U.S. youth ages 10-17 in the month (April 2017) following the show’s release, after accounting for ongoing trends in suicide rates.” However after the report and the series were done, those who watch the whole season until the end, the suicide attempts decreased. Not only were advocates, researches and psychologists on the edge of the Netflix series but also schools. Since March 13, 2018, after the debut of the series, schools across the nation send letters to parents and guardians regarding the situation and “13 Reason why” has spread. The letters warn parents to be attentive to their children if they watched or are watching the series, due that experts believe the show “glamorizes suicide.” According to the National Assn. of School Psychologists, they advise “ that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, do not view the series.”
However, in my perspective, the show portrays suicide in a way that not a lot of tv series or shows do so. There are hundreds of series and movies that do introduce the topic of suicide yet they quickly curve it and push it away. I did my research and binge on shows to see if they bring the topics that 13 Reason why does but the majority of them do not, in fact, gossip, rumors or famous elite people. In like 10% they do bring sexual assault or bullying but again, they brush it off and continue with the plot of the series which could be mystery, drama, or romance. I could only find one that had a good message on present the audience. 2011 film Cyberbullying, the premier on ABC family. The plot revolves around a teenage girl who is bullied online and harassed in school which leads her to attempt suicide but was stopped by her mother and friends. The chain reaction leads one person to end her or his life. Cyberbullying and 13 Reasons why characterized a major mix of reasons and the whys on suicide. The reason why 13 reasons why did become popular on our generation is because they liberate the controversial topics that today are not talked or ignored. They brought in help for those who suffer in the darkness and help them find a way out and know they are not alone. Yet I can not ignore the fact that others will not find the series not appealing. My friend, Sandra Quintana who watched the series and whose major is on psychology, shared her thoughts that the directors did not portray suicide accurately or provide much help for those who want to commit suicide. And feels that the show romanticized or make suicide look like a good way to end everything. On another hand, my coworker, Karla Morales, brought in her thoughts that the first season they did a good job on presenting to the audience first had a suicide but they should not drag it for more season and should have ended with Hannah death. The directors cover enough in the first season on cyberbullying, sexual assault, and suicide. They did a good job of bringing to life a well-known novel that affects our generation. And it could have help teenagers find help and guide them to a better path to recovery.
13 reasons why paved the way to express and let the public know that suicide is never the answer because, despite everything the series had, Hannah had her parents who loved and missed terribly. Hannah had friends who did care and wished to have done something to get her help. The author of the book, the directors, executive producers, and actors, did a great job of finally doing something for the community. They risk so much due that suicide is a catalyst to open every single door that leads to the end of someone’s life. I wish for more series, novels, and TV series that would do the same thing and help everyone find help. Our generations revolve around technology and social media. What someone comments or tags, could affect severely the mentality or emotions of the victim. Suicides rates are increasing over the years, affecting everyone, not only us as teenagers, adults, children, celebrities, and many more. It is consuming those who believe are weak and taking their lives believing it would be the end of their suffering but in reality, it passes on to others to suffer, your parents, siblings, friends, those who love and care. Hannah had her 13 Reason why she ended her life but it just takes 1 reason to keep on living.  

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