Why 13 Reasons Why is Unrealistic and Unhealthy

By: Sam Marquez

13 Reasons Why, a highly controversial Netflix Original show, about the aftermath of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who commits suicide.

The problem many mature viewers have about the show was the way it addressed mental illness. Though, many young viewers disagree, saying regardless of how the show executed the topic, it has brought awareness to suicide.

Despite it being “just a show” whose central message was to bring awareness to a heavy topic, there were many technical issues in the book-to-show adaption that simply cannot be ignored.

To start off simply, the melodrama and the acting was horrific. Among many other things that were misrepresented in 13 Reasons Why, teenagers were one of them.

For example, the scene in the first episode of the 13, where classmate Clay Jensen is looking towards Hannah Baker’s locker. Two teenage girls pass by, pose for a selfie, and walk away. One of them saying “Hashtag never forget.”

Or the fact that Hannah and her friends created the “FML club,” this kind of misrepresentation creates a disconnection from the teenagers of the show to how actual people act.

When a show, meant to teach the world that mental illness in teens should not be looked over, portrays them to be loopy social media crazed nonhumans; it leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

After discussing the show countless of times with my classmates, a recurring theme appeared, “This series is an example of how we don’t know what’s really going on in someone’s life. It tells its viewers we should always be nice to everyone.”

To that theme, I give praise, to the simple mindedness of its thinkers, I ask, “Do you really need a mediocre t.v. show to tell you to be nice to people?”

I understand that since the beginning of time, art, media and entertainment have been amazing gateways to help people better understand a topic on a deeper level.

My main issue with this is most of the heavy subject matter was misrepresented. There is so much potential as to the topics in the show, but as a viewer you can’t simply ignore the parts that weren’t so greatly represented.

In my opinion, the show could’ve still conveyed its theme of “you really don’t know how badly someone has it, so don’t be mean” in a much more effective way. Though, it seems as if accurately representing mental illness won’t get you as many views as turning a girl’s suicide into a treasure hunt.

Another pattern I’ve observed was due to the fact that this show covers heavy subject matter such as suicide, rape and so on and so forth; you rarely find people speaking out about the misrepresented parts of the show. It’s almost as if young viewers feel obligated to praise and defend this show due to its subject matter. It discusses heavy issues which brings light to these topics; so it must be good, right?

The next thing that rustled my jimmies, were the book changes. 13 Reasons Why is a book-to-show adaption, with that I fully understand that not everything is going to be completely true to the novel, though some changes can’t helped but be seen as exploitation.

The one I take the most issue with was Hannah’s suicide scene. The novel compared to the Netflix Original, takes a much milder approach. The novel having Hannah overdose on pills and the show exploiting her in a graphic scene where she slits her wrist.

Many fans arguing the t.v. adaptations scene was needed to prevent people from committing suicide. To display such a gruesome scene makes anyone in their right mind nauseous, right?

According to The National Association of School Psychologists,

“Research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide or to a graphic sensationalized accounts of death can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.”

It raises questions as to why the scene was changed. For views? To draw light to the topic, any attention is good attention, right?

My problem isn’t that they included a suicide scene, it was a part of the main story; my issue is that they changed it. The fact that viewers are saying it wouldn’t have made a big impact if she just overdosed I dare to ask why?

In entertainment, there have been many suicide scenes that made the impact Netflix wanted, such as, Violet Harmon’s suicide scene from an overdose on American Horror Story: Murder House. Though it wouldn’t have attracted as much attention. Which in turn, means less money.

While on the tangent of 13 Reasons Why wanting more views, like any sold out franchise would, the loose ends leave room for a possible season two. It’s not like they could’ve tied up a lot of the loose ends due-to-the-fact they stretched out a one day story into a story that took place over weeks.

Events like the shooting that might have been classmate Alex’s suicide or possible murder attempt, what became of main character Clay Jensen or Hannah’s parents could’ve been wrapped up in the show, but then that would mean the end of a big hit, and less money brought in.

Another big change was the series took place over the course of a couple of weeks while the novel took place over the course of a day. Again, the viewer must ask why. Again, for money? Most likely, a movie adaption wouldn’t have brought in as much money as 13 stretched out hours.

As a result of this stretching out, the characters get more of a personality, rather than in the book just being seen as bullies. Like I mentioned before, most of the characters are represented as “social media crazed stereotypical millennials.” It makes the characters somewhat unrealistic.

Which isn’t hard to understand as why. This show wasn’t written or produced through the eyes of the teenage generation of the mid 2010’s , but through that of 30 to 40 year old.

People who see the majority of teen as people who actually say things like “OMG” “LOL” or “FML” out loud and unironically. It’s honestly disrespectful.

Another issue I had with the characters was the double standard of forcing diversity. Ghost in a Shell starring Scarlett Johansson, got major backlash from giving the well known actress the role of an originally Japanese character.

Though when Jenny is switched out for Sherry, a white character switched out for a black role, there is no outrage. Just a double standard to give the viewers something to think about.

Netflix’s description of the show is “After a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.”

The problem with this is how everything worked out, the show made it seem like it wasn’t Hannah’s choice. It was everything but that, according to the show.

Let’s talk about the tapes. Hannah created a series of tapes as to why she killed herself, more so about the perpetrators who pushed her to the edge.

A lot of time and detail went into the tapes. She created a second set and gave it to someone who she trusted, Tony, just in case something happened to the original. She created a specific order in which the tapes had to be listened to, and as to who had to listen to them.

Along with the tapes, a map of where the most tragic things happened was provided. Nothing was left for her parents, yet she created this very elaborate delusional blame game, this revenge fantasy world where all the blame of Hannah’s actions were lifted off her shoulders and placed onto the characters.

Even Tony tells Clay that he too killed her.

Even though Clay’s tape reveals that his reason was because Hannah told him to leave her alone and he left, and the fact that Hannah felt like he was too good for her.

The show takes on a sense of romanticizing suicide in the sense that Clay felt like Hannah’s death was solely his fault. Going as far to say “A girl killed herself because I was too afraid to love her.”

Clay even had a flashback to the night where Hannah told him to leave her alone. Instead of leaving Clay stays and confesses his love for her, in this dream like vision Hannah replies by saying, “Why didn’t you say this to me when I was alive?’

Characters often remind the viewers that “We all killed Hannah Baker”, which completely takes the blame away from her actions. It turns Hannah into an entertaining game for everyone to see. Which is why most mature people see this show for it’s true colors, exploiting mental illness for money.

Why was it necessary to make the tapes into a game? Really think about it. It’s because it makes for good entertainment, it wouldn’t have been the same if Hannah’s death was the typical suicide.

Her death was everything but a typical suicide, she didn’t leave anything for her parents, who did nothing but love and support her and she blamed everyone but herself. No one else is responsible for what you do to yourself, this show doesn’t stress that enough.

This show actually gives reasons as to why to kill yourself the way Hannah did; it won’t be your fault and you’ll get a lot of attention from it.

The very idea of the tapes is petty, in my mind it’s almost as if Hannah did it to tell the people on the tapes, “Ha I killed myself and it’s all your fault, you’re the reason I’m dead. You’re a terrible person.” It’s safe to say she did it for revenge.

Even the internet found this concept to be dumbfounding. Making a meme of the fact that Hannah made tapes.
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My biggest issue with the show was how it misrepresented mental illness. It was very blunt about Hannah’s death, first she was bullied then she committed suicide; no sleepless nights, no inner turmoil that would be there for anyone who is suicidal.

There was no in-between, how can we say this show accurately represents mental illness? The only scene where we see Hannah’s inner struggle was when she speaks to an obviously unrealistic school counselor, who in real life would be trained to see the signs.

Other than that she goes from alive to dead, in a really impractical way, with there being little inner turmoil shown to the audience.

Many people feel like 13 Reasons Why was a perfect gateway to get the conversation going about mental illness and suicide. My problem is, it could’ve been dealt with in a much better way.

Starting with the changes made in the suicide scene, keeping it true to the novel and making it less triggering to those the show is targeting.

The whole situation surrounding the tapes and how they take the blame off of Hannah; I don’t have a problem with the fact she made the tapes, they are the equivalent to a suicide note, but I do have a problem as to why and the intent afterwards. It makes Hannah seem like she was seeking attention and revenge.

Changing the fact that she didn’t leave anything for her parents and how that made her death seem unrealistic.

Also, all the unnecessary drama added into the show for views. Maybe even including an educational aspect, because they portrayed Hannah as having no one to reach out to, which is completely improbable. Instead of adding a 30 minute commentary video about the aspects the show neglected, maybe include those aspects in the show?

The matter-of-fact is that this show has brought awareness to suicide and mental health regardless of its accurate execution. We shouldn’t shy away from topics that make us uncomfortable due to their heaviness, they’re important for a reason. If you need help, I suggest reaching out to your parents regardless of how you think they may feel and try to seek out counselling, even if it’s with your school counselor or trying to set up a meeting with your school psychologist. Unlike the show, there are resources and people willing to help you get better.
Call 1-800-273-8255 the national suicide prevention lifeline, if you are in need of urgent help.


2 thoughts on “Why 13 Reasons Why is Unrealistic and Unhealthy

  1. I think the show isn’t necessary. It lets others know the thought of committing suicide. It makes people think that it’s for attention.

    Like

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