13 Reasons Why, a series based on the novel by Jay Asher, was recently confirmed by Netflix. Netflix is home to many daring shows, but this one has become simply problematic and something that needs to be discussed.
Essentially, the plot of the show surrounds a teenage girl Hannah Baker committing suicide, and then leaving tapes for 13 people explaining what they each did to contribute to her suicide. Many people took fault with her blaming her suicide on others, and especially the explicit ways in which they showed it. Particularly in a graphic rape scene and a graphic suicide scene from Season 1, people had found the show insensitive to the topics and thought that it should be canceled, or at least left at the 1 season. The media even reported forms of copy-cat suicides that took place after the show aired. Psychologists have made clear in various situations that showing suicide on screen is triggering and only incites more suicidal action or self-harm. It is, in ways, teaching someone how to do perform these acts. Of course, there were flaws in many parts of the first season but much of the defense for it was that they needed to start a conversation about things people never spoke about.
Image via Inverse
This was defense enough to cover some parts of the first season, but for me and for many others, the problematic tendencies of the show came to light most severely when Season 2 arrived in May of 2018. Season 2 displays a trial taking place against the school for doing so little to help Hannah. When everything on the tapes is released to the public, it begins to get even more hectic. It shows the people featured on the tapes dealing with their own issues, most primarily a girl who was an ex-friend of Hannah’s of whom she revealed, in one of the tapes, that she saw being raped.
Image via IMDB
This ex-friend is someone you can see through the whole season dealing with the realization that this has happened and also trying to deal with all the victim-blaming and abuse she is getting. This was what I had the most trouble with. For people watching this show, there was no upside. There was no ‘here are these struggles but here is what you can do to help them’. There is simply suicide, self-harm, rape, mental illness, and bullying. Explicitly shown. There is an extremely graphic rape scene at the end of Season 2 in which a boy who was bullied tremendously is raped in the school bathroom with a broom. Twitter blew up after this scene, mostly warning people, especially rape victims, to not watch it. But none of the online protests of the show stopped it or led to anything more than the show creating a website and a warning for anything graphic.
Image via Pride
The blatant disregard for the way such sensitive topics are handled is such a large problem today in the media. The forming of this show and particularly the way directors and producers of this show have gone against psychologists’ advice of not showing such graphic traumas has showed immense ignorance. Showing it without truly showing the characters getting any support and even being insensitive to the battles this might bring up for viewers is, put simply, problematic. We can only hope Season 3 rights some of these wrongs. But as someone who has dealt with many of the issues talked about, the way this show blatantly triggers viewers and romanticizes such terrible topics is appalling.