When 13 Reasons Why premiered just over a year ago I had mixed feelings about it – and I wrote about them. I am a longtime fan of Jay Asher’s novel and was excited to see what it would look like to transform his words into a television series. I was also excited to see what our collective reaction would be. I’ve been asked many times what my take on 13 Reasons Why is and my response is a conflicted one. I am not going to touch on my feelings about if 13 Reasons Why romanticizes suicide or my feelings about how the series was actually shot and filmed. I really do think that 13 Reasons Why had good intentions and while difficult to watch at moments, started an important conversation and I am grateful for that. But I am disappointed in the way we reacted to it. It brought mental health and suicide to the forefront of our minds and I really think that for a moment we were maybe all a little kinder to one another. But only for a moment. It didn’t last. And I mean in all honesty who am I to say what this show should mean to people or what it should inspire people to do but, to me, to have this show take off the way it did and not have it have a lasting effect on the way we treat other people or the way we talk about suicide seems like a waste. So, as anticipation and excitement rises surrounding the release of season 2, there are a few things I really hope we will do better this time around.
First – the “welcome to your tape” jokes need to stop. So I really don’t know what format this second season is going to take or if it will include tapes the way the first season did. But regardless this is just something I need to put out there. Following the release of season 1 while there were productive, helpful, healing, and hopeful conversations, there was also an outburst of various social media postings that trivialized the very serious issues that the series brings to light. I am thinking of the MANY memes, tweets, etc. that went something like this …
I am really at a loss at how to respond to these. These memes trivialize and belittle the very serious reasons and moments that led Hannah to suicide. When people all across social media decided to take 13 Reasons Why not as an opportunity to have a productive and potentially healing conversation about mental health, pain, and suicide but rather to silence those struggling and poke fun at someone’s experiences – we have reproduced the stigma that keeps people from seeking help. This cannot happen again.
This time around I also hope that we find a way for the conversation to stick. I want everyone to really think about the last time they thought about 13 Reasons Why or actively worked to break down stigma or made mental health a priority in their life. And, I guess, if you can honestly say that that was recently you can skip the rest of the article (but stick around, you’ve made it this far already). I want to say that I know that these conversations can be painfully difficult and at times impossible to have and that’s okay. My point isn’t that everyone should be going around shouting about suicide. My point is that these short bursts of activism or of awareness are not enough. After 13 Reasons Why I saw more people step into these conversations that I ever had before. I saw more people really care. But how long did that really last? A month? Two? Maybe. And I guess this is the struggle of any movement – how do you make it stick? How do we take a television series and allow to it fuel a lasting movement? We really failed the first time. We made suicide trendy. Then we moved on. My hope is that this time we don’t get caught up in all the hype. My hope is that season 2 becomes more than entertainment. My hope is that we step into these conversations and stay there for the long run.
Let’s try this again.