Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why: What is all the fuss about?

Kids are mean. High school sucks. Guys have a tendency to treat girls like crap. These are the things I’m “learning” from Netflix’s controversial new teen drama 13 Reasons Why. I say “ learning” because I already knew all of these things. If I hadn’t learned them enough from my own horrible years in high school, then I would have definitely learned it by now from all the teen movies I’ve watched over the years.

But Netfix’s 13 Reasons Why has really got people talking since it was released last month and that’s because it’s all about the suicide of a young woman that just couldn’t take her time in high school anymore. That’s no spoiler. It’s revealed in the first episode that Hannah Baker has taken her own life and she has left behind a series of cassette tapes to be listened to, and which promise to reveal the reasons behind her untimely death.

I’ll admit than I’m writing this before I’ve managed to binge the entire series. I’m still a few episodes away from finding out just how bad things get for Hannah before she decides to end her own life. But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m already not surprised that this character felt suicidal.

Glamorising suicide?

Critics are accusing the show of glamorising suicide. From the first episode, there is an element of this. The idea of leaving tapes for people to listen to after your death makes suicide seem like an almost gimmicky, clever way of making sure that people will remember you. It also doesn’t quite ring true. Hannah’s tapes do not sound like a person at the end of her tether. They still sound like the vulnerable but strong and smart Hannah that we get to know over the course of these series in frequent flashbacks.

So far, and bearing in mind I haven’t seen the last few episodes, 13 Reasons Why is revealing complicated responses to suicide. The bullies who appear to have driven Hannah to this desperate measure are still only out for themselves, more concerned with their own futures than the damage that they have done. Some of the kids show remorse and regret, but most of these teens are still really nasty pieces of work.

Mean kids

And it’s this that is as problematic for me as the representation of suicide. These high school students are vile. There’s a few exceptions, but Liberty High is littered with awful people. I remember high school being tough, and I remember very clearly wanting it all to end at some points, but I’m glad I got through it and that I realised that things get easier in many ways as you get older.

I don’t know how 13 Reasons Why is going to end, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to reveal the tragic moment where Hannah takes her own life. I just hope that there is a positive message that comes through. Teens need to know that high school does end, people do eventually grow up, and the world is not as nasty as it sometimes seen when you’re stuck in school.

It’s a cleverly structured and gripping series, but rather than inspiring anyone to commit suicide, I hope it inspires some kids to stop making other people’s lives so miserable.

What did you think of 13 Reasons Why? Will it do more harm than good? Or is it just good/bad TV that we should stop worrying about?

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