The Good and Bad of Netflix’s “Thirteen Reasons Why”

The edgiest book we all read in middle school has finally been released as a thirteen-episode Netflix show and I haven’t quite been able to figure out how I feel about it. As someone who has dealt with depression since the early days of high school, I am very grateful for the light this story sheds on suicide awareness, even if it does miss the mark on a few crucial issues. 

Bad: Never Saying “Depression”

Call me crazy, but it’s pretty absurd that a television show about the disastrous effects of suicide and rape doesn’t mention mental illness at all. Both Hannah Baker and Alex Standall showed classic signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. Most characters probably would have been faced with a mental illness after being blamed for the suicide of someone they were once close to. By not giving this rampant depression a name, no solution is provided for the viewers who can relate to Hannah’s feelings. I was so disappointed that the writers missed this crucial opportunity.

Good: Emotional Connection to the Characters

It’s not common for me to feel connected to so many characters in a show like this one. The motives of each person were clear and generally made sense, given the circumstances. Even Bryce, who is one of the most despicable characters I can think of, seemed to behave in a way that makes sense for someone who has always been praised for doing the bare minimum and is handed anything he wants. I say this not to forgive his actions by any means, but to point out that our culture values superficial success to the point where people think it is okay to rape and pass it off as a cool power play. These characters are a product of our society and I empathize with each of them trying to figure where exactly they went wrong.

Bad: Graphic Scenes

The director claims, in the behind-the-scenes “Beyond the Reasons” Netflix feature, that the reason for the multiple rape scenes and unbearably long suicide scene was to make sure the show was authentic as possible. He expressed concern that discluding the graphic images might romanticize suicide or sexual abuse. While this cause is noble on the surface, I think the scenes will be very dangerous for people who suffer from suicidal thoughts and depression, as well as those who are sexual abuse survivors. Watching someone being raped or slit their wrists and bleed out are two of the most triggering scenarios I can come up with. It was unforgivably irresponsible for the writers and directors to include something so horrific in this show.

Good: Important Story

There will never be enough stories reminding us about the prevalence of suicide, rape, and abuse among young people. Despite its shortcomings, “Thirteen Reasons Why” did a great job at generating a lot of rape and suicide awareness.