I had a really hard time choosing the rating for 13 Reasons Why.
It has a diverse cast, explores sexuality, tackles how even during adolescence girls are treated in an overtly sexual and disturbing way. It’s also well-written, the acting is flawless, even the soundtrack is good.
But I hate the way it portrays mental illness.
I have clinical depression which I am on medication for, for more information about this have a look at my other blog posts. Admittedly this may have coloured my views on 13 Reasons Why.
I have huge issues with the way that Hannah’s suicide is portrayed; to start her suicide should never have been shown in the series. When suicide scenes are shown on TV there is often a spike in the number of people killing themselves in similar ways. Showing Hannah slitting her wrists so graphically was not a necessary part of the series and showed major disrespect for sufferers of depression.
Recently there has been far more coverage of important issues; gender, sexuality, race, mental health etc. and while this is undeniably a good thing and helps change attitudes and open dialogues about important things, it also spawns new problems.
As these issues have become “fashionable” there have been increasing amounts of people exploiting these topics because due to their poignancy they often draw a crowd and win awards, particularly if they artfully handle a previously taboo subject.
This can be seen in Dallas Buyers Club with Jared Leto playing a transgender person, despite the transgender community asking that a transgender person take the role. It has also occurred with the whitewashing of many roles, as production companies want the money that comes with portraying hard-hitting and “fashionable” issues but do not actually care enough about the subject to portray them respectfully.
While high-profile portrayals help raise important questions and start debates about still-present inequalities, many film studios and directors seem to feel that just by making a film they have done something politically correct that they can pat themselves on the back for, collect their Oscar, and ignore the marginalised people they are supposed to be representing when they complain that their portrayals are inaccurate or insulting.
When it comes to representing important issues such as suicide and depression, it is incredibly important that issues are handled well. If you decide to make a TV show or film about depression you have a duty to ensure that the issue is handled responsibly. 13 Reasons Why did not do this.
The show portrayed suicide as the right choice for Hannah; everyone who hurt her has to face up to their actions and seems to be on the way to getting punished for them. A boy admits his love for her, her rapist confesses, her bullies are punished by each other and themselves, and her guidance counsellor is clearly about to be fired and disciplined for his actions.
Hannah tried to get help once before committing suicide, if I had done things that way I would have killed myself two years before getting effective help.
In the end, Hannah has a boy who loves her, parents who love her, and a circle of bullies about to be brought to justice. Everything she wanted/needed to happen happened in the end. But 13 Reasons Why irresponsibly failed to show one fatal flaw in Hannah’s suicide revenge plan which might deter some people from attempting the same thing.
Hannah never got to see any of this in the end. Despite her voice and narrative running throughout the entire show, Hannah doesn’t get to see the result of her tapes. Hannah is dead. That is what suicide is, death, and somehow 13 Reasons Why doesn’t manage to clarify that.