Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ makes an insincere spectacle of suicide

From romanticization to just pure ignorance, 13RW fails its awareness mission

Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in Netflixs iconic 13RW ad

Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in Netflix’s “iconic” 13RW ad

For most viewers of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” the message is clear: Be kind, it could save a life. But that isn’t what I watched.

Since its release on March 31, 2017, viewers have taken to social media to praise and proclaim their love for the show. Many have even gone so far as to say watching the show should be a requirement for middle and high school students, despite the graphic displays of bullying, assault, and ultimately suicide.

In the season finale of “13 Reasons Why,” the main character Hannah Baker takes her own life in slow, explicit detail- something that directly contradicts doctors and mental health experts. After her death, Hannah leaves behind thirteen tapes with instructions that they be delivered to the people she believed played roles in her decision to commit suicide. What follows afterward is a horrifying depiction of Hannah’s suicide as a means of exposing the actions of her peers and making them feel guilty rather than actually exploring the issues of mental illness.

The main problem with 13RW is that the show does not highlight how mental illness can lead to suicide, but more the dramatics behind a suicide.

If Hannah Baker was portrayed as someone who had a failed suicide attempt and then got help, the series may have had a positive impact, showing how suicide is not the answer. Instead, the creators decided to show millions of people that suicide is not just an option, but it also can provide revenge.

13RW was supposed to be a show to get people talking about teen suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and more. It was supposed to encourage dialogue between generations and expose how perilous cyber, and other kinds of bullying, can be in the age of social media. Instead, “13 Reasons Why” left suicide to linger in the minds of millions of young, impressionable teenagers.