“13 Reasons Why” is a powerful story, really. You know, blackmailing and the trivialization of teen suicide aside. It’s also quite cute how this one-season Netflix original has become the source of a troublesome amount of memes that bring the oversimplification of a serious medical condition to a whole new level.
Oh, wait, no, cute isn’t quite the word I’m looking for. A disturbing sense of ignorance fits the bill a little better.
The essence of the show is quite simple. Teen Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) commits suicide, but before doing so creates 13 tapes to correspond to the 13 reasons, or more accurately 13 people, responsible for her death, effectively blackmailing a baker’s dozen of high school students into listening to a troubled adolescent reveal why they should feel guilty about her suicide.
But the show didn’t make me rethink every word I’ve said or haven’t said to every person in my 17 years of life at all. It’s been really uplifting.
The thing about this show is that it oscillates between Hannah’s life in the form of a flashback and the impact that her death has had on the community and, most notably, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), the star of Hannah’s 11th reason for committing suicide. It’s a bit of a challenge, I understand, to clearly depict whether each scene is pre- or post-suicide.
So, naturally, the decision was made to have Clay fall off his bike in the premier episode and get a cut on his forehead. Therefore, when Clay’s makeup team indulges in a little fake blood, we know that scene must be after the suicide. Now I’m no bike accident expert, but from where I was sitting, the clumsy little kid’s fall did not warrant a season-long gash on his head. At or around Episode 3 would have been the time to invent a more realistic way to distinguish between the two time periods.
Now despite this clearly detrimental issue to the show, it happens to not be the worst part. The real issue is in the show’s glamorization of suicide. The show intends to grip its audience through the drama of the suicide rather than the suicide itself. There is no conclusion to this girl’s life; she commits suicide, but through her tapes she lives on in the lives of her classmates, effectively desensitizing teens to suicide and its permanence.
Don’t succumb to the little voice inside your head beating you up for not being able to relate to the memes that have gained their celebrity through trivializing mental health and suicide, but you will find yourself finishing Episode 11 at three in the morning realizing that the past eight hours have been wasted on a show that requires 13 reasons to watch it, but lacks about 12 and a half.