It can be difficult to write an honest reflection of “13 Reasons Why” without bringing in personal anecdotes and irrelevant details. Although the viewer’s reaction to the show in conjunction with his or her own personal experience is undoubtedly important to the show’s success, “13 Reasons Why” also succeeds because it emblematizes and presents significant and taboo social issues.
The popular Netflix original embraces drama from the get-go, lending an ominous tone when its opening narration immediately dictates the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide. She is played by Katherine Langford.
Based on the best-selling novel by Jay Asher, the television adaptation is pioneered by producer Selena Gomez, who undertook the project in order to start necessary conversations, she said.
Critics say “13 Reasons Why” sensationalizes suicide, the dominant motif within the story. Others believe the show—though violent and triggering—may be instrumental in the construction of positive and preventative discourse on topics such as bullying, rape and suicide.
Due to its skyrocketing popularity, the show removes a traumatized person’s right to a safe space. “13 Reasons Why” gained immense traction in the world of social media and popular culture and has found its way into every personal space. Select Tumblr users even specified time frames that advise particularly vulnerable viewers on the scenes to avoid, if possible.
Critics do have a point, and their opinions should be acknowledged without being ascribed the “too sensitive” label. “13 Reasons Why” shows devastating scenes of rape, suicide and violence in graphic detail.
A warning goes off at the start of any particularly gruesome episode, but because the show became so widely circulated so quickly, discussions about its content have become unavoidable.
Spoilers addressing the fan base’s blatant anger with a specific character named Bryce Walker circulated popular social media platforms, like Facebook, just a day after Netflix released the show. Although viewers know of Baker’s suicide from the start, fans exacerbate the scenario by contributing to widely circulating public forums.
The show generated so much popularity that its effects became inescapable, even among those who barely use social media.
The show loses its air of sympathy by depicting high school students who are not relatable—at least not to students who attend high school in a big city. These students have exaggeratedly dramatic lives that seesaw between two extremes: thrilling and dismal. No student seems to face a “normal” day. To many, that aspect is simply part of the appeal.
To other, more vulnerable viewers who have overcome stigmatized challenges like bullying, depression and sexual assault or harassment, the effect is much more amplified.
Even viewers who have not necessarily experienced extreme circumstances like those depicted in the show can feel affected and disturbed by the scenes.
While this show encourages discourse about otherwise avoided topics, there are ultimately better and friendlier ways of sparking this conversation.
“13 Reasons Why” aims to spark discourse by further disturbing its already traumatized audience and depicting cruel scenes of torture and disrespect for humanity.
It is not necessary to demonstrate how Baker’s eyes dull of light when Walker rapes her in a hot tub. Viewers do not need to be perpetually reminded of Jessica Davis’ whimpers when she is brought to consciousness during her rape. The audience can do without watching Clay Jensen’s face become bloodied, brutalized and clotted.
All of these nuances simply build effect and it appears that the show merely aims to profit off the attraction it builds.
The directors and producers deserve to be commended for setting up well for the second season; the plot spurred questions and brought up a subplot that will entice viewers once again.
However, the show does not warrant a continuation because the first season already shocked and disturbed its audience and all questions could have been addressed.
Adding a second season makes the trials of the first season entirely one-dimensional, as if they are just spectacles rather than challenges that exist in real life and steal the lives of many. Adding a second season makes a mockery out of the first by delineating from the actual issue.
Adding a second season, instead, reveals that the producers of the show care about needlessly continuing the story, perhaps in order to make more money.