Two weeks ago Netflix premiered the series Thirteen Reasons Why – a series based on the book by Jay Asher. And it has gotten quite a loud response.
As a long-time fan of the book and someone who just recently finished the Netflix series, I think it is time to share my opinions.
Suicide is, to say the very least, a very difficult subject to start a conversation about. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to acknowledge that it happens. This is why Thirteen Reasons Why is important. It starts a conversation about suicide. It brings to light some of the very real reasons that have the ability to bring someone to end their life. And it forces viewers, or at least I hope it does, to confront the fact that what they say to and how they act towards other people matters. We also see in Hannah Baker’s story that it is sometimes the lack of any action at all that can hurt the most. We have an impact on everyone around us – whether we say something or not. It is time that we start recognizing this power in ourselves and change our actions accordingly.
I think that in order for Thirteen Reasons Why to have a meaningful impact we need to stop loving it. We cannot love Thirteen Reasons Why in the same way that we love Scandal or Orange is the New Black. Rather, we need to work at understanding Thirteen Reasons Why. To simply love the series is a disservice. I think that loving the series for the impact it is having, for the messages it communicates, and for the dialogue it opens is worthwhile. But I think we are missing a point if our reaction to the series is a mere adoration for dramatic television.
For anyone who has read the book or watched the series – you can attest to the fact that it is hard to watch. We bear witness to thirteen reasons, including intense bullying and sexual assault, that led Hannah Baker to kill herself – something viewers watch in the last episode. The show is a lot to try to swallow. And yet right now, a lot of people seem concerned over whether or not there is going to be a second season. We appear to have moved on from Hannah Baker and are now curious to what happens to the rest of the characters. Quite honestly, I think that making a second season would be missing the point. The show isn’t meant to be a recall of high-school experiences – it isn’t meant to provide light entertainment. Instead, we need to really think about what the series is talking about. We need to walk away from Netflix not engulfed in the storylines of the characters Hannah left behind, but with an increased awareness of our own actions and those around us.
Who are the Hannah Baker’s in your own life? Who are you impacting? And how, after watching this show or reading this book, are you going to change?
In the aftermath of Thirteen Reasons Why and looking ahead at the impact we have on others and the way we are, hopefully, becoming more aware of this impact, I also hope that we take a second and look back on our pasts. What impacts have we already made on other people? Maybe we said something we shouldn’t have or done something we shouldn’t have without even realizing it was hurting someone. I mean, of course, you are never really going to know 100% of the time the impact that your words have on someone else, but I think that in order to adjust our actions in the future we need to first actually look at how we have been acting up until now.
I want to end by commending Jay Asher on his book and the entire team of people who put together the Netflix series on their accomplishment – they have, at least for this moment, awoken a conscious and opened up a conversation around suicide. They have given us a space to question our own actions towards others and adjust ourselves. I really hope that we rise to the occasion.