For the past two years, “13 Reasons Why” has become a household name all across the United States and even across the world. The show has sparked conversations for both good and bad reasons. Some viewers believe that “13 Reasons Why” exposes people to the realities of suicide, rape, bullying, and other sensitive topics. However, some argue that the show is not only bringing negative attention to these topics, but actually romanticizing them and could even trigger some people with its graphic depictions.
And I feel the same as most viewers of this show: I personally don’t know how to take a side. There are aspects of the show I do not like, like sending tapes to people and making it seem like its their fault for a suicide, but I also acknowledge there are scenes that people need to see because it happens too much around the world. Since so much attention has already been made against certain aspects of the show, I decided to draw out the important factors that differentiate “13 Reasons Why” from others.
Warning: Spoilers from both Seasons 1 and 2 are ahead. You’ve been warned!
1) “13 Reasons Why” tackles the issue of racial color and gender involved with rape cases.
In Season one, Bryce Walker, a white, popular, and wealthy student rapes two girls within the same year and is eventually taken to court, which results with him getting sentenced to one month’s probation. Keep in mind, one of the girls who was raped was Hannah Baker who had committed suicide, so she was unable to testify against him. This left Jessica Davis, the other rape victim and a person of color, to testify against him. Throughout Season two, she is very hesitant to go against Bryce in court, with a reason she clearly states in the show, “Hannah was sweet and sensitive and white. And look at what they are doing to her. I’m not the right kind of victim to go against Bryce Walker, especially when it’s his word against mine.” She points out that she is a woman who is half African-American and going up against a white, wealthy male. The point, that a white male rapist against a woman of color in a rape trial has a small chance of going in the favor of the victim, seems based on current headlines over racial bias. This is the reality of our world in many cases. The show depicted the rape scene in Season one and went through the journey of Bryce denying everything he did into Season two — generating a feeling of anger when you realize this actually happens in real life and that real life victims don’t always get justice.
2) “13 Reasons Why” does not romanticize suicide.
In Season one and Season two of this show, the show strives to realistically depict suicide and its effect on everyone in the deceased person’s life. Every single character is affected by her death and Season two shows just how Clay Jensen grieves. He sees Hannah every day of his life and imagines that she is there talking to him. In one scene, he yells at her for forgetting how many people actually care about her and her lack of concern in how they would be affected by her death. She responds by saying, “I was in so much pain, I couldn’t see past it.” This opens up the idea that people who are lost to suicide experience so much pain and mental struggle that they think there is nothing beyond the pain. She doesn’t kill herself for attention, but because she is going through pain from which she sees no way out. This reveals the ugly reality of suicide and how many people it can affect.
3) “13 Reasons Why” even touches upon school shootings.
People think by including a topic like this in the show means they are romanticizing it. In the show, Tyler Down is approached by three boys in the school, and is sexually assaulted and beaten after he returns from a diversionary program for vandalizing the school’s baseball field with graffiti. All of his friends distance themselves, and basically disown him, to the point where he feels as if he’s completely alone. That’s not to say that he had the right to engender a potential school shooting, but the show was trying to depict the thought process going on inside the head of a potential school shooter, and go on to carry out the deadly attacks they have in reality. Tyler does not end up shooting up the school, but the creators just wanted to show how cruel kids can be in our day and age, and how detrimental that can be on their mental health.
These are just some reasons why I think “13 Reasons Why” is worth watching. With television shows, there is a more in-depth character development you see up close and personal. This is a character development we do not see in real-life victims and suspects in crimes. The show is trying to shed a little reality on some sensitive topics that happen every day in the world, but a reality that many people have never had to face in their own personal life. You can hate the show or love the show, but the overall purpose of “13 Reasons Why” is to reveal the harsh reality of things going on in the world.