‘13 Reasons Why’, a young adult fiction written by Jay Asher turned out to be a hit among its readers owing to that fact that it had a real, if not slightly overdone plot on the basis of bullying, betrayal and its grievous outcomes. Its popularity resulted in the making of its own motion picture (TV show) with the same name under popular show streamer, Netflix. The show as well as the book gets its limelight mainly from the controversies surrounding it.
The story is based around the protagonist, ‘Hannah Baker’ (played by Katherine Langford in the show) who commits suicide due to despair brought on by betrayal and bullying culminating in suicide. Before doing so, she leaves behind a set of 13 tapes for ‘Clay Jensen’ (played by Dylan Minnete) who has a crush on her. The cold narration in the tapes by Hannah herself eventually unravels the story behind her fatal action.
On the insight received by 5 extremely passionate individuals (names below) who had compelling views which I couldn’t help but praise and include, I’ve come to the inference that,
Popular opinion about 13RW is assumed to have been divided into two:
- It glorifies suicide as a viable response against coping issues while also promoting self-harm, the idea of revenge
- Opens up a dialogue about bullying, mental health and consequences of ones actions.
Reflects behaviour that seemed like the were encouraging to go through the act – Atmika
The seedling of this is believed to have sprouted by the fact that the majority of the audiences watching it are the pre-teens and the teenagers which leads to the general perception that they won’t be able to handle the violence and the explicit nature of the show. Though the show was appreciated and even called beneficial because of the not-so-subtle social message of bullying and its repercussions, it also received flak due to its raw and graphic content that was believed to be disturbing.
An important thing to be taken into notice is that the aim of any show is to engage and be relatable to the audience. A sensitive issue such as mental health can be very tricky to portray as if it’s too dark, it may disillusion the viewers while if it’s too sunny it may undermine the gravity of the issue. The problem with 13RW was that it was exaggerated in all its aspects, considering the mentality of the audience.
I say this because from what I’ve seen, the notion surrounding mental health is much romanticized among the masses. Trivial sadness is self- diagnosed as depression and a slight affiliation towards cleanliness is assumed to be OCD. While in reality, depression is the overwhelming and engulfing feeling of lethargy and sorrow felt over a course of time and OCD arises out of obsessive thoughts inducing compulsive behaviors. The ignorance hence leads to very ill depiction of real situations.
Another thing is that since the focus is around teenagers, there is a high chance of copycat behaviorism also encouraging the act. Having said this, I am convinced that the opinion of exposing the show to the young minds is not wrong as the more you get them to think, the more developed their minds are going to be.
This in turn raises a very important question about its aftermath and learning.
Did this lead to the realization that ‘suicide’ is the worst option for one to even consider as it affects everyone around them?
Did it portray ‘suicide’ as an acceptable decision in reaction to mere disagreements and quarrels?
Gives an essential lesson that everyone matters…one way or the other – Srinijoy
So in conclusion, it can be confirmed that the book as well as the show has a reasonable influential value which may or may not be harmful but can certainly trigger some sentiments and or lead to a train of thoughts that may amplify the reaction to certain events. Hence, one must consider ‘13 Reasons Why’ as a show made strictly for entertainment, with a social message to make you aware of the happenings around you. Furthermore, if there is even a little chance of you being affected or relating to the show in ways you know may turn harmful, then I request you to avoid it and NOT fall in to the need to fit in with the trends of your peers.
[Sources: Interview with (1) Saavni Kamath (2) Srinijoy Dey (3) Khushi Varshney (4) Atmika Dechamma (5) Anonymous]