(13) Reasons Why its Controversial

If you ask any high school student if they watch Netflix, the answer will almost certainly be yes. Recently, the newest Netflix original, 13 Reasons Why, has taken the world by storm. The show originally started out as a book, by Jay Asher, that was released in 2007. This book, and now Netflix show, tells the story of Hannah Baker; a new student at Liberty High School who ended her 17 years of life after allegedly being bullied. The only clues as to why she killed herself were left in seven double sided controversial cassette tapes. Each tape was dedicated to a specific person who unknowingly directly or indirectly took actions to help lead Hannah into making this rash decision of ending her life. 13 Reasons Why deals with many relatable topics students in high school often face such as texting, photo sharing, drinking, drugs, bullying, and suicide. Though this show is popular in the Netflix world, there are many controversies connected to it.
There are several different views on the favored Netflix show. Some believe that the show presents the truth to teens who might be unaware of or oblivious to the issues that are happening around them. Others say that the show fantasizes suicide and other concepts that are hard to image a teenager going through. Kate Walsh, the actress playing Hannah Baker’s mother, had a few words to say after the show had been questioned and criticized by viewers. Walsh stated, “Brian (the producer) was intent on making sure that there was nothing romantic or mysterious that anyone could project onto this to make some dreamy, gothy, or some romantic Ophelia moment… it’s ugly and it’s really hard and it should be seen.” This is not the same view that everyone has on the show, though. Ipswich High School freshman, Ciera Doherty-Crestin, said, “I think this show does fantasize suicide… it’s as if Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide, is still alive and there because of her tapes and how the other characters suddenly became so interested in her, but only after she dies.” She also feels that it is highly unlikely that someone would go through all the trouble to create these meticulous tapes to place the blame on friends, teachers, and bystanders. Ciera, and many other 13 Reasons Why fans, feel as though the show over portrays a dramatic scenario. Though it is theatrical regarding certain areas, it also shows that no one really notices things going on until someone ends their life.
Viewers also believe that 13 Reasons Why is impacting high school students. Whether it is in a positive or a negative way, it is happening. Many people felt “shaken up” after watching the shows first season, but some felt more education on the topic after watching. Bryn Limmer, 37 years old,said, “My hope is that it positively affects [students]; that they can think about how their actions and words can affect other people, but of course I have the fear that some student can think “maybe if I do that [(commit suicide), everybody would be sorry”. The show probably does more good than harm because it opens a door for parents and students to have a discussion about [suicide].” Bryn has a 9 year old daughter, and watching 13 Reasons Why made her worry about her daughter’s future. “I don’t know anyone who committed suicide, but I feel really bad for things that kids have to go through nowadays, and I worry to think about my kid, nine years old, when she goes to high school.” Ciera had a similar response to how she felt about the impact of the show on high-schoolers. She said, “for those who aren’t depressed or suicidal, I think it shows us how what we do can really affect someone’s life and teaches us what to avoid doing, but for those who are depressed or suicidal, it kind of shows that the only way to get your message across to other people is by killing yourself and telling those who made you do this. It’s scary to think about.” From a high-schoolers point of view, this shows message can be something that they have never experienced before.

Whether the Netflix hit influences its viewers in a negative or positive way, its message is definitely a strong one.  The shows sensitive topic has been criticized since the show came out. Many people believe, though, that it should be addressed in a school setting. Netflix is saying, “We’ve heard from our members that ’13 Reasons Why’ has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the intense themes and difficult topics depicted in the show. Entertainment has always been the ultimate connector and we hope that 13 Reasons Why can serve as a catalyst for conversation.”

There are both positive and negative aspects to showing the Netflix show in schools. It’s a possibility that it could cause problems and give the students ideas. From the view of a high school student, Ciera thinks “this show should not be shown in school to display a message because the lines between the message that suicide is not the answer and the kind of message that suicide will get your point across blend together too much.” Ciera is not the only one who shares this belief. Many viewers have criticized 13 Reasons Why for blurring the line between reality and fiction. Showing the show in school could confuse students even more.

Other people, like Bryn, think it should be shown in school “because it can start a conversation, lead students into opening up about themselves, and help them realize that they are not alone in this. It’s important to have somebody discussing what high school is like and what students are dealing with because we parents did not grow up in that kind of high school. Sometimes we don’t understand what is going on, and if you don’t have a conversation about this is hard to evaluate those things and understand it.” Showing the show in school could bring up questions and discussions that student would not otherwise talk about. Though the show is controversial for its message about suicide, some people believe it could actually help students deal with that topic. With all the controversies regarding the shows theme, it might or might not be a good idea to show or discuss the subjects of 13 Reasons Why.
Only a few controversies were mentioned here, but it doesn’t mean the others regarding cyber bullying, teen relationships, or social media are out of the picture. All the factors that led to the character’s death are things that teens and adults deal with on a daily basis and should be taken seriously as well. Suicide was the result of everything Hannah, and other people, went through. No one ever expects this sort of stuff to happen. You may see small acts of bullying once and awhile, but never think that someone is going to do something so drastic to end it. Netflix’s new popular show is full of matters that should be dealt with seriously and not just looked past. Everyone has a different view on the show. What are your thoughts?