This is not a review! Basically, it’s a discussion of thoughts and feelings I have about the recent adaptation.
I’ve chosen to write about this on my Mental Health Monday post because:
- It affected me mentally.
- One of the main themes is mental illness.
- Representation matters.
If you don’t know, 13 Reasons Why is a YA novel written by author Jay Asher.
Hannah may be dead but she’s still talking.
Hannah Baker killed herself and there are 13 reasons why she did it. 13 tapes passed around to the people who hurt her, who killed her.
Every listener killed Hannah. But How?
I read this amazing book whilst in my early teen way before I was diagnosed with depression before I knew how suicidal thoughts feels and how complicated suicide can be. I loved it. It was deep and didn’t hide from a topic that was so horrific. The concept of these tapes is so different and makes you think about what you’d do if tapes like those showed up on your doorstep.
Rumours of an adaptation of the book have been going around for years and finally, we have it. Netflix, known for pushing the boundaries no television program will, released 13 episodes which I binged watched (kind of).
I watched the whole series in three days taking breaks and damn did it affect me, negatively and positively.
Accurate representations of mental illness and suicide are important so let’s talk about what I thought was good and bad about 13 Reasons Why.
The presentation of depression was accurate in its lack of signs in some cases. The school within the series often talks about the signs to look out for and puts up shitty posters when they need to show they give a shit but they don’t understand that people who are depressed can become very good at hiding it especially if they are afraid of being ridiculed. Depression can be invisible.
Although the series seems to be playing controversial topic bingo I must applaud them for the representation of rape. The shows approach sexual assault as not being black and white and the different between consent and force.
Another check list the show was going for is “how diverse can we be!”. Of course, I’m all for diversity but not for diversity sake. Tonys sexuality was so unneeded, it just felt like a way to scream “hey look at this non-typical homosexual who comes from a hyper-masculine culture”. It felt super crowbarred in.
The school within the show was a huge problem for me. How this school is still open or has any funding is beyond me. The teachers are clueless even when they are trying to help because apparently, they are idiots. Also nearly ever student seems to have a shitty life. It was incredibly dramatic. Everyone has some shit in their lives but really this was ridiculous. I’m not sure if this was a school or a treatment centre.
A lot of stories about mental illness in the YA genre tends to fall into the trope that love concurs all but in “13 Reason Why” Clay loving Hannah could not cure her because Hannah needed physiological help, not a teen romance.
13 Reasons Why is meant to be Hannah’s story but the show lost that in its ambition to play controversial bingo and tell everyone fucking story. This hurt me because I identify with Hannah. I understand what its like to be so consumed by darkness you can’t see the light. I would have loved for the show to explore that more. To explain why Hannah killed herself without thinking about what it would do to her parents but I did like that they showed that she asked for help and there was a system just not an effective one in place for her.
Hannah’s story was changed so much for me that it lost its power. Two other deaths are added to the show, which is insane considering the death toll this small town now has, and that distracted me from the utter shock of Hannah’s death. Teens often don’t experience death so the fact that in one year they have three just seemed over the top for me.
Finally, the climax, Hannah’s suicide.
Wow, this annoyed me so much! In the book, she overdoses on pills but the show just had to add an extra piece of drama by having her slit her wrists. They don’t hide from the blood either. A scene with Hannah laying in the middle of the basketball court in a pool of blood and Clay’s Mum just yelling that Hannah slit her wrists.
The eventual scene of Hannah’s death was very triggering, they show everything. In the behind the scenes they said this was because they wanted to show how messy and painful suicide is but it just felt over the top in contrast to the book. It didn’t feel true to Hannah for her to commit suicide in this fashion. It may have been more powerful or dramatic but that is not what suicide is. Suicide happens all the time it is silent and painful. People suffer in silence.
In general 13 Reasons Why was a hard watch for someone who has had suicidal thoughts and a history of self-harm. I would have preferred more attention t have gone to Hannah’s story and not become an after school teenage drama show.
Have you watched or read 13 Reasons Why? Leave a comment if you wanna argue about it.
Remember mental illness is treatable, suicide isn’t.
IF YOU NEED HELP OR JUST TO TALK HERE ARE SOME USEFUL CONTACTS:
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight)
Listening services, information and support for men at risk of suicide.
0808 808 7777 (Monday-Friday 10am-4pm)
Information and support for people caring for someone else.
Mind’s supportive online community.
Maytree Suicide Respite Centre
020 7263 7070 (24 hours a day)
Offers free respite stays for people in suicidal crisis.
0800 068 41 41 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm, bank holidays 2pm-5pm)
07786 209697 (text message service)
Confidential support for under-35s at risk of suicide and others who are concerned about them. Calls and texts are free from all providers and do not appear on bills.
0300 304 7000 (6-11pm)
Support for anyone affected by mental health problems.
116 123 (24 hours a day)
Chris PO Box 90 90
Stirling FK8 2SA
24-hour emotional support for anyone who needs to talk. Calls are free from all providers and do not appear on bills.
App with help and resources for people who feel suicidal or are supporting someone else.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
0300 111 5065 (9am-9pm)
Emotional and practical support and local groups for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide.
Thanks for reading,