New Netflix Series ’13 Reasons Why’ Seems To Glamorize Teen Suicide [Opinion]

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Netflix recently released 13 Reasons Why, a teen-oriented and young-adult-inspired TV mini-series that seems to miss the mark for the intended purpose.

To start things out, 13 Reasons Why on Netflix is based on a young adult novel of the same name by author Jay Asher. Asher, who published the novel through Penguin Books in 2007, was 32 when it released and quite a distance from his own high school years.

With teen suicide serving as the running theme for 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, the theory behind the show seems to indicate that there is always a laundry list of reasons why an emotional teenager might be inspired to take her own life despite the strong community that she lived in, including a healthy home life with loving parents.

If time and technology is any indicator, it is hard to fathom how someone that graduated high school during the mid-1990s would have any clue as to just what a millennial teenager goes through, especially in the era of social media. The internet seems to have emerged as a springboard for teen bullying and the onslaught of smartphones and instant social media access means that teenagers can do mean things that will destroy someone’s life at the tap of a finger.

Now don’t get me wrong, teenage suicide is a growing epidemic and potentially a public emergency in the United States, but there are also other considerations to look at. For example, just how much cyber-bullying does it take to push someone to suicide as opposed to real-life bullying?

Back in the 1990s, real-life bullying was just as much an epidemic as it is today. Kids were beaten up, mocked, tortured, and flat-out humiliated at every corner in their life. But it all happened in person. Nowadays, all that can happen while a teenager lies at home in their bed, sleeping and getting ready for a fresh new day at school tomorrow. But once they get to school, they find out what their so-called friends were up to the night before, which could include posting compromising photos, videos, or screenshots of private messages.

But this played out a little differently in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. Not only did the show make use of modern teens to push a point, but they also used old-school technology to drive it home.

Our suicide girl in 13 Reasons Why was named Hannah Baker. The show started with the fallout of Hannah’s suicide, and the other main character, Clay Jensen, receives a box full of 13 tapes (seven tapes, each with two sides), each explaining the reason why a certain person was responsible for Hannah’s suicide. Also, you guessed it, Hannah Baker made the tapes herself just before she killed herself.

Although I am not encouraging you to watch 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, I feel compelled to warn you that detailed spoilers for the show are coming up next. You should only proceed with that warning in mind.

On tape one of 13 Reasons Why, we find out that one of several jocks started the downward spiral of Hannah Baker by sharing a picture of her in a suggestive position that seems to indicate that she was about to have sex, which she didn’t.

Each tape of 13 Reasons Why is dedicated to a specific person, which ranges from the girl who hit a stop sign and caused a fatal crash all the way to another girl who was caught on camera kissing Hannah (topless) and abandons her to keep her sexuality in the closet.

Hannah also witnessed the rape of her former best friend on one tape and blames it on the girl’s boyfriend, rightfully so. But she did not blame the guy who actually did the rape because he would later end up raping Hannah, which also seemed to be the tipping point for her suicide.

But in the end, 13 Reasons Why on Netflix actually featured 13 painful episodes of unrealistic characters doing things that could be perceived as naive to some, but downright scripted to others. What people need to realize is that there really are teenagers out there that are abused on so many levels that this so-called 13 Reasons Why pales in comparison.

What we are left with on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why are attractive teenage kids who do nasty things to each other and some live to regret their decisions, with one exception of another attempted suicide on the last episode. The characters essentially are dismissive of the suicide, but cling to it as if it were a hot topic. In the end, 13 Reasons Why seemed to convey the message that suicide is trending, and that is the last thing that young people need on a trend list.

If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

[Featured Image by Netflix]