The season finale of 13 Reasons Why shocked viewers by explicitly portraying Hannah’s suicide. Now the show is facing some criticism over the show’s decision over the scene.
Mental illness, suicide advocates, and people are criticizing the show as they consider it counterproductive. In an op-ed for Vanity Fair, writer Nic Sheff stands by the show’s decision.
The big hype over 13 Reasons Why
Based on a 2007 young adult novel, by Jay Asher and produced by singer Selena Gomez, 13 Reasons Why is a show that totally delivered and was without a question another Netflix hit.
The show was a total surprise giving the depth of the series, which deals with sexual assault and teenage suicide. As well as bullying and other issues.In the show, 17-year-old Hannah Baker decides to end her life but not before leaving behind audio tapes implicating her classmates and even faculty members.
The group of teens tries to piece together a story as it’s described in the series of audio tapes left by Hannah. At last, the tapes unravel the mystery of Hannah’s death. On the tapes, she recalls different episodes regarding sexual harassment, slut-shaming, rumors and rapes that she says caused her to end her life. Each one attributed to one of the classmates that her tapes are delivered to.
In the final episode there’s a flashback and then Hannah commits suicide on-screen.
Conveying suicide as revenge (SPOILER ALERT)
The show’s commitment to addressing suicide was proved with the engagement they put to portray Hannah’s suicide. The scene almost felt too real, to be fair it was pretty hardcore and filled with realism. There was no sad music in the background as Hannah cuts her wrists.
Which is exactly why the show is being slammed. First, people consider it was far too graphic and realistic, not only the portrayal but the performance of the suicide.These people fear that those teens that felt identified with Hannah’s struggle might follow her same path.
The director of non-profit advocacy group Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Dan Reidenberg, stated: “There is a great concern that I have… that young people are going to overidentify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series.”
Others have added that the show doesn’t present an alternative to suicide, in fact, it conveys suicide as revenge.
“This sends a message to the show’s very young and easily-influenced audience that this is the only way to confront those who have hurt you. It suggests it is an understandable, even fair, response to being hurt by someone.”
For a show that sought to prevent suicide, it seems like it worked the other way around. Providing a how-to-guide and showing about revenge instead of compassion.Another point in the critics is the fact that there’s no explicit discussion in the show about what’s Hannah dealing with. Throughout the show, there’s no mention of depression, nor PTSD or any other disorder.
This is why some people claim that trivializes the complexity of mental illness. It makes us wonder, what are the contributing factors that led to Hannah’s suicidal thoughts and behavior?
Even when the show provides insight into the cultural psyche and the adolescent world of the American teen, it seems to miss the mark in what comes to its primary concern, which was suicide.
Standing by their choice
However, writer Nic Sheff defends the choice to portray Hannah’s suicide. The writer is no stranger to self-harm, in fact, he brought that experience to inform the Netflix series. He shared why the series thought it was so important to show Hannah Baker’s entire journey, even the darkest end.
He says he thought the show was of primary importance as it was a necessary and rather relevant conversation. He also considered the show would let teens and people struggling know that they’re not alone.
He added that the show also portrays and explores other issues like cyberbullying, sexual assault, depression. Overall, in fact, the writer thought that depicting a suicide as it really is would help clear out the mysticism surrounding it.
He said, ” It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like—to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens when you jump from a burning building into something much, much worse.”
Depicting the death meant to expose people to the real horror of the situation and so shaking them off. “To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all—it’s a screaming, agonizing, horror.”
Nic also stresses the fact that the very fact that there’s such a fuzz around the show’s, in fact, a progress. Finally, he said, “And so I stand behind what we did 100 percent. I know it was right because my own life was saved when the truth of suicide was finally held up for me to see in all its horror—and reality.”