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Analysis: 13 Reasons Why

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The popular Netflix show 13 Reasons Why aired its first episode on March 30, 2017. Based on a young adult novel of the same name written by Jay Asher in 2007, the story revolves around the life of 17 year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life, and leaves behind audio recordings for thirteen people who she claims contributed to her decision to commit suicide. Since then the show has received quite a lot of backlash and been accused of glamourizing suicide with horrifying visuals.

“There is a great concern that I have … that young people are going to over identify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series,” said Dan Reidenberg, the executive director for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, a nonprofit group working to prevent suicide.

13 Reasons Why explores the themes of violence, hatred, and death, creating the perfect recipe for suicide. Whether it’s Hannah’s tone as she walks her listeners through the tapes or the cruel reality her story possess, everything in the T.V. series has a violent and painful edge. Her tapes reveal that her world is a dangerous place; many of the critical events that lead to her suicide are extreme incidents of violence including rape and death. However, the reason why the show could be so popular is that it addresses a form of violence that we often forget — violence against oneself. Hannah’s inability to cope with the other forms of violence in her life leads her to commit suicide, the final blow.

13 Reasons Why is definitely not just a drama story. Indeed, when she most needs help and care, her peers spurn her and tear her down, leading to her suicidal thoughts. Death is weaved and intertwined with every part of Thirteen Reasons Why including Hannah’s tapes and her high-school story, and what starts as occasional thoughts of suicide turn to careful plans, and finally Hannah’s death.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among ages 15 to 34. “The way things are portrayed in the media does have an effect on the way suicides can happen. This is particularly true for young people that are very vulnerable and at risk of suicide,” Reidenberg said.

Some people say that the series presents the opportunity to discuss life as a teenager in the 21st century. Specifically, the everyday, micro-aggressions found in hallways, school buses, lunch rooms, and online, that occur for many children and teens, that can trigger spontaneous actions, like a domino chain. It is also important to talk about Clay Jensen who is listening to Hannah’s tapes. Tormented by her story he takes revenge on people who Hannah blames for her suicide. He soon realizes that violence is not the answer and notices that another old friend of his is acting much like Hannah and tries to stop her suicide.

13 Reasons Why has brought the overlooked subject of suicide to the forefront. Not only are teens talking to other teens about this series, but families, schools and communities are also discussing this show.  Professional organizations, mental health associations and suicide prevention websites have created talking points to help teach facts about suicide. As more and more people continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, more and more opinions will start to form. So, what do you think about 13 Reasons Why? Does it harm more than it educates, or educate more than it harms? Please comment below.

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