Okay, so this will be a little heavy but I think it's important to address. A little background, I read 13 Reasons Why back in middle school and absolutely loved the book. It's so dark, so complex, and the plot is fascinating. It was an incredible book, but then again, I read it when mental illness had no role in my own life and I was only a bystander, listening to this tale of a troubled teen.
Now, as I watched the entire series on Netflix, I have some different opinions. Spoilers ahead.
First, the concept of committing suicide and then blaming everyone around you for it, is terrible. I understand Hannah's story is way more complex than that, but I hated how even Clay repeatedly told everyone on the tapes that they killed Hannah Baker. No one else killed Hannah Baker. She killed herself. Don't misconstrue this for me judging her, justifying everyone's actions, or belittling their effects on her mental health; but, in the end, Hannah made the choice to take her life.
Second, I felt like she often set people up to fail. Obviously some of the kids made terrible decisions, but Hannah was stuck in this cycle of refusing to help herself. It's not just about seeking help, or trying to rekindle friendships, or talking to people about her issues... If you're stuck in this mindset that everyone should pity you and you can't truly be helped, you'll never find peace. Often times you do just have to go through the motions, but without even a tiny bit of drive to get better, you never will. I felt like Hannah got to a point where she just decided to accept suicide as a way out instead of continuing to fight.
Now, it's not as easy as saying "Hannah, you should have just stayed alive and sucked it up." That is not at all what I am trying to address. But just remember the scene where she STILL blamed Clay for leaving her, even after screaming at him and begging him to go. She claims to not blame him, but I think it's cruel to even put the thought in his head that it was his obligation to stay...it's important to recognize (something that is a common symptom of depression) that she had given up on herself and there was no way anyone could have saved her from that.
Third, I felt like the series glorified Hannah as if she could do no wrong. She was the hero and the victim. But nothing is that simple. Did she do something to deserve being raped? Absolutely not. But it's detrimental to view her, even in death, as this martyr. She made mistakes, too.
One thing I think they got absolutely right was her suicide. As painful as it was to watch, it encompassed everything that could possibly go into a decision like that. Where some would argue that people who suffer from mental illnesses should not watch it, I disagree. It makes it so much more real and gets to the core of how final, sad and tragic it really is. I don't think I will ever be able to get that scene out of my head, watching her parents rush to her side and her mom refusing to believe she is dead. I appreciate the series showing us suicide for what it is.
So, all in all, the show was great. But, I think it really needs to be watched with a close, cautious eye. Just like there's no one way to handle mental illness, there's no one way to portray it.
۞ ally ۞