“13 Reasons Why” sparks backlash


Photo used courtesy of The Odyssey Online

Olivia Ye, Staff Writer

I am sure you have all  heard of 13 Reasons Why, a 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher, but recently Netflix adapted the novel into a series that has gotten much attention for depicting a graphic suicide of main character, Hannah Baker.

The show revolves around high school student Hannah Baker as she copes with cyberbullying, sexual assault, and depression. By not reaching out for the counseling and help she needed, she ends up taking her own life, causing relationships she had with people to crumble. The show jumps between past to present, which is shown by temperature changes that have warmer colors when Hannah is alive and colder, more dark tones after her death. Before Hannah is gone, she leaves 13 mysterious audiotapes to describe the events that led to her death. Each tape she blames a group of students on their actions or inactions towards her.

The thing that suicide prevention groups are concerned about is that teens will take it the wrong way.A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed  describing a graphic death can lead young adults into doing copycat suicides.

“But focusing media attention on suicide — while well-intentioned — can lead to the tragic outcome of fueling more if such a national conversation is not handled in the right way,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Further, suicide is usually the result of multiple causes, often involving mental illness, which is not discussed during the show. Mental illness cannot be blamed on a person or single event.

Lakeville North SOS director Jennifer Drangstveit questions whether the counselor on the show is equipped to identify and treat Hannah’s depression.

“I watched a few episodes, and the therapist seemed like he didn’t want to or felt uncomfortable talking about Hannah’s problems. I want kids to know that we take this kind of material very seriously, and if anything is bothering you, you can come talk to me or any other healthcare professional,” Drangstveit said.

Adding extra buzz to the series, executive producer Selena Gomez has defended the show.

“We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest and hopefully help people who are dealing with depression, because suicide should never ever be an option,” Gomez said.

ISD 194 District sent out a warning email to parents telling them the possible dangers of the show.  If students feel disturbed in any way, the email encourages parents to make sure they let their kids know they are willing to discuss the topics in the show with them.

Drangstveit also worries in regards to the maturity level of the show.

“I am concerned for young minds who watch the show, who might not be able to separate fiction from reality. I recommend watching the show with a parent because it brings up good discussion points that everyone should talk about,”  Drangstveit said

Executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Dan Reidenberg, disagrees with the message of the show.

“The fact that Hannah gets to tell her story after her death, through audiotapes, glamorizes the death and sends a potentially dangerous message to viewers,”  Reidenberg said.

While some people were alarmed by the overall message the show, their concern wasn’t enough to prevent Netflix from renewing the series. The second season of “13 Reasons Why” will premiere sometime next year.