This show opened to critical reception due to its subject matter and graphic depiction of suicide. However, I decided to watch it anyway, and I’m glad I did.
13 Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah, who killed herself but left behind a series of tapes telling people why she did it. The tapes come with instructions to pass them between several different people who go to Hannah’s school, and we get to hear them along with her friend Clay, who is sure he couldn’t have been one of her reasons.
It’s graphic in places, not just with suicide but with some of the other trauma Hannah experienced before making her decision. However, I think the graphic depictions are warranted, and actually I didn’t find the suicide scene particularly glamorous. There have been things I’ve watched in the past where I’ve felt that was the case – beautiful girls bleeding sadly in bathtubs, looking like they’re somehow enjoying the experience – but 13 Reasons Why shows that suicide isn’t pretty, and slitting your wrists in the bath isn’t an easy way out.
Having been a suicidal teen myself, I think if I’d watched 13 Reasons Why at that time, it may have given me pause to reflect. While the people who listen to the tapes are horrified by Hannah’s decision, we’re not just shown that; we’re also shown how many people she touched, even the ones she may not have thought would care. One of the biggest justifications in the mind of someone who’s thinking about killing themselves is that no one would really care: it’s hard to imagine the impact on other people when you have so little self-worth that you want to end your own life. Hannah’s story might just have made me stop to think about that.
Another thing I liked was the nature of the reasons. Some of them were things most people would look at and think ‘Wow, yeah, I can see why that experience made you want to kill yourself.’ But some of them were the kinds of things that might not faze everyone, and I think it was good that these were included. So often suicidal ideation is a seed that gets watered every time something happens to make you hate your life, or feel like no one cares; often it doesn’t take some sort of huge, life-changing experience to tip someone over the edge.
In summary, I think 13 Reasons Why is a great show and one that can give us all food for thought. However, it’s a sensitive topic so may not be suitable if you’re feeling particularly fragile.