Why or why not to watch “13 Reasons Why”

Official trailer for ’13 Reasons Why’ (Netflix, 2017)

If you’re anything like me, you heard people talking about “13 Reasons Why” and saw the memes on Facebook which led you to watch the show to see what all the fuss was about. It was not like many other television shows as it is about a character named Hannah Baker who has committed suicide. Suicide can be seen as sensitive topic which is why this Netflix original caused controversy and discussion. Yet despite what professionals or society was saying, it did not and has not stopped individuals from watching the series.

“I just wanted it to come across in a way that kids would be frightened, but confused” and also “in a way that they would talk about it because it’s something that is happening all the time”. — Selena Gomez, Executive Producer (Jensen, 2017).

With the purpose of bringing awareness to society especially young adults about suicide and bullying, does this make the show suitable to watch?

(Hannah Gifs, 2017)

Some psychologists including Erika Martinez who is a licensed clinical physiologist in America sees the show as “glamorising suicide” which can lead to a “copycat sort of effect”. (Miller, 2017). It is believed by some psychologists that young adults will not recognise that the proceedings are fictional. (Miller).

In Australia, teachers have sent letters to parents warning them to not let their children watch the show due to it’s traumatic content. (Lyons, 2017). While the school recognises that parents should discuss suicide with their children, they do not encourage the show to be watched. (Lyons). The show is proving to impact viewers as the national ‘headspace’ School Support Program and eheadspace, has received an increasing number of calls and emails. (Headspace, 2017). They have received so many that they have released a warning on their website. (Headspace).

“I honestly disliked that they showed the suicide, even though they did warn the audience. I barely watched it, but I heard all of it” — Anonymous Survey Response

If you haven’t watched the show, there are confronting rape scenes and at the end of the show, a suicide scene. Personally, I remember watching these scenes and having shivers. My eyes teared up, as I couldn’t bear to watch what was playing on my computer screen. It was so confronting. By viewing these scenes, I can see why professionals like psychologists and teachers are not encouraging young adults to watch the show. But is it only the graphic scenes that make the show harmful to watch?

“I feel it’s intended purpose was very relevant, however there wasn’t any help services shown in the show that pushed to help Hannah” — Anonymous Survey Response

In the show, there was a guidance counselor and a class about mental wellbeing but these services did not help Hannah. As a viewer, it creates an impression that support services won’t actually help you. Instead they are just requirement for schools to have. The impact of this is that it may deter viewers from seeking help from support services as they don’t see them as beneficial or helpful.

Another point is that the show never gave viewers information about hotlines or websites they can visit if they need assistance. As the purpose of this show was to raise awareness about bullying and suicide, I feel that support services should have been more evident as well as encouraged. Especially as viewers may emotionally relate to what is occurring or be confronted from the scenes which take place, they can become vulnerable and should seek the help from others.

On the other hand…

“It talked about real issues that we face in today’s society and it didn’t shy away from the ugly parts” — Anonymous Survey Response

While the show is discouraged for individuals to watch, it is also encouraged as it creates awareness about suicide and bullying.

The show can be seen as teaching individuals about the effects of suicide, especially to those who have never been exposed to it before. In the show, it reveals how suicide not only impacts the individual but also the people around them like their family and friends. Another element of the show is that it reveals the warning signs of someone who is experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts. This can allow viewers to pick up warning signs from people around them and offer help to those in need. Warning signs may be dismissed in the past but now there is a greater chance of them being noticed due to the awareness created from the show.

“I like how realistic the bullying aspect of the show comes across and how people’s actions and words affect others” — Anonymous Survey Response

Hannah experienced bullying through out the show from cyber bullying to stalking and even small remarks from others which were rude or inappropriate. At the time, the characters didn’t see their actions as harmful until Hannah passed away. This creates the idea to viewers that you never understand what someone is going through because any action, big or small, can harm them. As bullying is an evident issue in society, the show can discourage individuals from bullying each other as it can negatively impact their self esteem and mental health.

In a survey I conducted, 81.8% of respondents said that they would recommend others to watch the show where as only 18.2% of respondents said they would not recommend others to watch the show. Who do I agree with?

Survey results from the question: Would you recommend others to watch ’13 Reasons Why’? Blue = No, Purple = Yes

While this article may seem like I’m sitting on the fence, I have decided that I would recommend others to watch the show. The show is receiving controversy because it is unique compared to other shows and it addresses the issues of suicide and bullying. Almost five million Australians (which is 25% of the population) have subscribed and watch Netflix. (Roy Morgan Research, 2016). Netflix is a new media form and this has created a platform which has allowed social issues to be addressed to create change.

As I watched the show, it definitely changed my perspective about bullying and suicide especially as I have not personally experienced it myself. The show is eye opening and just like it changed my perspective, I’m sure it will change others too.

(Character Posters, 2017)


References

Character Posters [Image] (2017, April 12). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://fashionindustrybroadcast.com/2017/04/12/why-netflixs-13-reasons-why-is-so-important/

Hannah Gifs [Image] (2017, April 27). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://garoto-seex.tumblr.com/post/159288593564

Headspace. (2017).13 Reasons Why warning. Retrieved from

https://www.headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/geelong/13-reasons-why-warning/

Jensen, E. (2017). Why Selena Gomez is ‘very proud’ of ’13 Reasons Why’. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2017/04/28/selena-gomez-very-proud-13-reasons-why-wanted-kids-frightened/101019152/

Lyons, A. (2017). This Sydney school has banned its pupils from doing this. Kiis 106.5. Retrieved from http://www.kiis1065.com.au/entertainment/the-feed/this-sydney-school-has-banned-its-pupils-from-doing-one-surprising-thing/

Miller, K. (2017). ’13 Reasons Why’ is not the force for mental health awareness people say it is. Self. Retrieved from http://www.self.com/story/13-reasons-why-suicide-and-mental-health

Netlfix. (2017, March 1). 13 Reasons Why official trailer [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JebwYGn5Z3E

Roy Morgan Research. (2016). Second wind lifts Netflix over 5.75 million Australians — but not everyone actually watches it. Retrieved from http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7077-netflix-subscriptions-and-viewership-time-australia-november-2016-201612011017