Netflix’s’ newest original series “13 Reasons Why” is gaining nationwide attention from teens, administrators and various audiences. It tells the story of a teen and her decision to commit suicide, as she records various tapes giving her reasons “why” she decides her fate the way she does. The series hits on a number of issues that teens face everyday – bullying, sexual violence, depression, anxiety and, sometimes, suicide.
“When I first started seeing people tweeting about ‘13 Reasons Why’, I thought it was just another Netflix fad that everyone had fallen in love with and would soon become everyone’s new favorite show.”
Mollie Hill, 18, of Sparta said she saw that the show was trending on social media and decided to give it a chance.
“The first episode started out normal, no red flags,” Hill said. “Once I really got into the show and more and more tapes were played, I felt so horrible … It made me reflect back to high school and wonder how many people might’ve been going through similar situations around me, and it took a Netflix series for me to realize that.”
This show has had various effects on people, as it explores very heavy topics and digs deeper and deeper into these topics as the episodes progress. Hannah Baker, the main character and narrator, is bullied in her high school, and usually also mentions those who simply did nothing to help when they could’ve. She recorded a tape for each person whom she claimed was a “reason why” she ultimately took her own life.
“I think mature audiences can definitely gain knowledge and perspective from not only Hannah’s point of view but others,” Hill said.
“Take Justin for example,” Hill said, talking about one of the characters in the show, that is on Hannah Baker’s first tape. At school, he is the popular jock that girls flock to, but when he gets home, he’s ignored by his mother and abused by her drug addict boyfriend, but no one would be able to see that.”
There are some doubts that are being raised about the impact this show could be having on teens who watch this show.
“I highly suggest that others avoid watching the show entirely,” said Hannah Hobbs, 20, of Alpena. “I can’t imagine if a teenage version of me had seen that on television … it caused me so many triggers trying to get through that first episode.”
“It was more relatable than I hoped for it to be,” she added.
There seems to be criticism that points out the show’s attempt to raise awareness will produce everything it shouldn’t, and that it potentially romanticizes suicide.
“I don’t think it romanticized suicide,” Hill said. “In my opinion, it does the exact opposite … after a majority of the people had listened to the tapes, they slowly started to fall apart.”
“We need to stop hiding and believing what we want to believe and we need to face reality to help people that could be in similar situations.”
Some say that those who are suicidal and depressed should absolutely not watch the show.
“People just take it all too far and I hope that all of them watch this show and realize that you can really push people too far and absolutely ruin them,” said Emma Lemke, 19, of Grand Rapids.
Lots of the criticism is that Hannah Baker’s suicide served its purpose once her tapes were heard. Many people believe since those people who were deemed “reasons why” end up deteriorating, which could have been arguably hoped by Baker, it can glorify the suicide itself, that those people learned their lesson and that Baker was later discovered as the beautiful, tragic figure, who was right in the end.
“The show had many triggers in it,” said Lauren Peterson, 21, of Grand Rapids. Peterson is a psychology major, recently graduated from Grace Bible College. “It went too far… suicide on screen, it went too far.”
“Obviously, I don’t agree with Hannah’s suicide,” Hill said. “Not because I think she could’ve overcome it or any other reason that someone can find to call someone who took their own life ‘selfish’. High school is at such a young age and no matter what you’re going through, it will get better.”
When talking specifically about the story, there is certainly a lot of controversy, but when hearing all the details, some can’t help but wonder if there was a way to avoid it all.
“They (her parents) had no idea what she was going through,” Hill added.
This show should not be taken lightly. Given the various viewpoints of the show, proceed with caution. The first, and right now only, season is composed of 13 episodes and can be watched exclusively on Netflix. Warning: scenes may contain graphic imagery and violence. Many see it as very deep, and the details being extremely heavy.
Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. GRCC Counseling Center: 616-234-4000.