‘13 Reasons Why’ loses focus on issue of teen suicide, glamorizes drama

April 25, 2017

Halle Thornton

hthornto@uccs.edu

WARNING: This article contains spoilers.

     If you’re reading this, welcome to your tape.

     Created by Selena Gomez and released on Netflix on March 31, “13 Reasons Why” is a television series that has become quite the topic of discussion.

     The show follows Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and the thirteen reasons why she commits suicide. Her friend, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), receives the tapes, which reveal thirteen people, including Clay, who contributed to Baker’s fatal decision.

     Each of the 13 episodes centers around a different person, exploring how they impacted Baker.

     Controversy has surrounded how the show portrayed teen suicide, making many audience members wonder if the topic was glamorized.

     The show did not make Baker’s suicide the main focus; instead, the creators decided to highlight the high school drama that affected all of the characters involved.

     But the real message got lost in translation.

     Teen suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens; 5,000 adolescents attempt to take their lives every day in the U.S., according to Rolling Stone magazine.

     With such a high number of attempts, especially among teens, the show should have treated the topic of suicide with more severity and shown more ways to reach out for help when you feel like there is no other option.

     The show takes place at Liberty High School where Baker and Jensen spend the majority of their time. As a teenage girl, high school can be difficult, but Baker had it a lot worse than she should have due to the constant bullying that she faced on a daily basis.

     The teens that bullied Baker treated the situation as if it did not matter. Although some of them eventually realize what they did to contribute to her depression, some thought she was over dramatic and an attention-seeker, even if she did experience and was a witness to sexual abuse.

     Bullying, both online and in person, is a very serious problem, especially in high school, and the show did not treat it appropriately with as much severity as it should have.

     Not even the school guidance counselor took her seriously when she opened up to her about how she was feeling; he simply gave her a box of tissues and told her to move on.

     The severity of taking one’s life, the message that was supposed to be portrayed, was an important one, but the show felt more like a high school drama and should have been focused on what it is like to be a teenager in 2017. If that was the purpose of the show, then I give props to the producers, but I don’t think it was.

     The point of making this show was to display how the behavior of kids and adults can sometimes lead people to do drastic things, and for Baker, there was no other way out.

     The show sends out the message that if you take your own life, people will finally notice you, but suicide is never the answer.

     Other options are always available, and unfortunately, the star of this series did not get the help she needed in time.

     Social media has also portrayed the show as a joke: countless videos have been posted of kids making fun of Baker, and treating her suicide as if it were equal to that of a dead fish.

     Suicide is not a joke, and certainly should not be taken as such.

     If you or someone else are feeling suicidal or having feelings of hopelessness, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800- 273-8255.