final episode of 13 Reasons Why should never have been
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It begins with Clay Jensen receiving a package containing 13 audio tapes. When he presses play, he hears the voice of Hannah Baker a close friend who recently died by suicide.
Each tape is for a different person in her life, all of whom are said to have contributed to her death.
Laura Brodnik, Tiffany Dunk and I argue about whether 13 Reasons Why is powerful or problematic, on the latest episode of The Binge. Post continues below.
In the final episode, Hannahs death is portrayed in graphic detail. The blood, her curdling screams, and the method by which she died has replayed in my mind numerous times since I watched it.
In fact, its the first time Ive found a television scene too graphic to watch in full.
I felt sick.
Headlines have dubbed the show smart and compelling, a brilliant study of teenage life, with Forbes claiming that its Netflixs best show in years. The Quad says, You must watch 13 Reasons Why' and The Fix argues there is something relatable in this show for everyone, no matter your age
The reviews that almost universally classify 13 Reasons Why a television show that explicitly depicts suicide as essential viewing, are at best misguided and naive, and at worst, dangerous and irresponsible.
It might very well be a fascinating and brilliantly crafted teen drama.
But its also a suicide manual.
13 Reasons Why completely disregards the guidelines for safe and responsible reporting on suicide.
These guidelines do not exist to silence critical conversations around suicide. They exist, simply, to save lives.
Mindframe advises that we don't a) divulge the method of suicide or b) refer to any explicit details left in a suicide note. These two points form the entire premise of 13 Reasons Why.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says media coverage can "romanticise, glamorise, sanitise and normalise" suicide, and overall, studies show a significant relationship between exposure to suicide and increases in suicidal behaviour.
There are many who argue that suicide is something we need to speak about more openly; that having the conversation is part of the solution and not the problem. And to that I say - we can talk about suicide without explicitly showing it.
The danger inherent in showing it is not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of reputable fact.
As I scoured forums and threads, readings reviews of 13 Reasons, I came across individuals who said they'd been left in a "really bad place" after having watched the series. A number of mental health advocates are troubled by what is now one of the most popular series on Netflix.
Are we about to see a sudden spike in people dying by suicide?
Moreover, none of the 13 episodes offered any resources for individuals who may be struggling. Instead, references are left for the bonus episode.
But it's not just the graphic portrayal of Hannah's death that's problematic. The title itself fundamentally misrepresents suicide.
No suicide can be reduced to '13 reasons why'. This obscures its complexity.
It also sends the message that anyone who has been touched by suicide could and should have done more. As though the onus lies on the friends and families of the deceased.
This is a narrative that mental health workers and therapists have spent decades attempting to undo.
Bizarrely, throughout the entire series, 13 Reasons fails to even mention the words 'mental illness' or 'depression', which is inexcusable given its ending. It misses an enormous opportunity to open up a discussion about mental illness, which is a contributing factor in at least 90 per cent of suicides.
For more compelling TV theories, listen to the latest episode of The Binge.
Instead, suicide is incorrectly seen as the end point of a linear path. As Alyse Ruriani writes for The Mighty, "bullying does not directly cause suicide." Again - it is never that simple.
Suicide, for Hannah Baker, is the ultimate act of redemption. It's powerful. It's vengeful. It's the only way justice is properly served.
People suddenly care.
If that isn't a glorification of suicide - I'm unsure of what is.
13 Reasons is the furthest thing from "must-see" viewing that I could imagine. There are countless people who mustn't engage with this series.
Their lives might literally depend on it.
If you, or a young person you know, is
struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact
your local headspace centre here or chat to them online,
here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from
symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for
a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia
on 13 11 14.
I finally finished 13 Reasons Why last night, weeks after what seems like half the teenage population of the internet did. The Netflix series was majorly hyped from the beginning??a gripping tale of a 17-year-old, Hannah, who has taken her own life, explaining the reasons behind her suicide through a series of tapes from beyond the grave.
When I began to watch the series, I wasnt sure if I should persevere, as it seemed soooo teenage, and although I love One Direction as much as [read: more than] the next person, 26 seemed a bit too old for this high school drama.
However, I became hooked. The escalating trauma of Hannahs life was an eye-opening insight into the lives of teens in the age of social media. The budding romance between Clay and Hannah was dragged out to keep me wanting more. And, although the exploration of rape culture was harrowing, it was well done and shone a light on the violations girls face all too often.
But in episode 13, my feelings towards 13 Reasons Why changed.
The final episode of the series shows Hannahs suicide. This isnt a spoiler, because we know shes dead from the first episode, but either way, this isnt a scene that should be sprung on anyone without warning. In fact, there was a warning at the beginning of the episode, telling viewers that scenes of violence and suicide lay ahead. But that wasnt enough to prepare me for the scene.
Hannah takes her own life by cutting her wrists in a bathtub. Telling us that would have sufficed. Clay is narrating the scene, we hear that she put on old clothes, ran a bath, and cut her wrists with razor blades we saw her take from her parents pharmacy.
13 Reasons Why went further than explaining what Hannah did. They filmed the teenager getting into the bath, cutting into her wrists, shouting out in pain, and breathing heavily as she bled to death in the bathtub.
I knew the scene was coming. But the graphic nature of Hannahs death was too much to bear. I burst into tears during it, and cried about it when I went to bed. I couldnt stop seeing it. It was the first thing I thought of when I woke up. And I dont think Netflix should have included it in the show.
I do understand why the scene was included. The producers have spoken about wanting to show the pain and suffering of suicide, to show that its not romantic, to show the horror of it. But I dont think that warrants triggering people.
I know people who have done what Hannah did to themselves. Luckily they have survived. But when I saw her do that, I saw friends faces. And no warning would have prepared me for that.
Then theres the issue of showing a suicide in terms of the media. Media guidelines state that coverage of suicide should not go into detail on the methods used by the deceased. For example, you can say they took an overdose, but not say what pills and how many were taken. This is to prevent copycat suicides, to prevent a newspaper or TV show giving vulnerable people instructions on how to kill themselves.
13 Reasons Why could have said Hannah cut her wrists. They didnt need to show how she did it. This could possibly show people how to do so??simply by logging into Netflix.
And despite the show being given a 18+ rating by Netflix, the series is directed at teens??who will be the most vulnerable to the imagery.
The show may get people talking about suicide, but I dont know who it will help. I dont think anyone considering suicide would find this scene helpful, nor anyone who has been affected by suicide.
Several mental health organisations have spoken out about the portrayal of suicide in the show, including Australian organisation Headspace, which fears that the scene may distress viewers.
Its not just the suicide scene that could trigger viewers. There are two graphic and disturbing rape scenes in the show. While it is good to explore rape culture in mainstream TV (I would argue that the show is more about rape culture rather than mental health), there is a way to handle it without sensationalising it and using it for shock value.
We need to talk about mental health. We need to talk about suicide. We need to make sure teenagers talk about these things. But I dont think 13 Reasons Why is the way to do it. Suicide is not entertainment, and should not be treated as a tool for drama.
If you need help or are affected by
any of the issues in 13 Reasons Why, here are some useful
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It highlighted so much that needed to be addressed- that we need to think about what we say, that we need to reflect on how our actions can affect others and how you never know how someone may perceive something, or what theyre dealing with inside.
It told Hannahs story with a brutal honesty and left viewers on the edge of their seats, reflecting on their own actions, and realising how they couldve affected others in the past which is exactly what the show intended to do.
The series was captivating, and it proved to be a lesson to those who dont really comprehend bullying, feelings of depression and despair or the act of self-harm.
It opened a conversation that desperately needed to be opened, and finally, people are approaching the subject of both suicide and self-harm within teens, and its actually being taken seriously, which is great.
However, I couldnt help but feel uneasy when it came to Hannahs suicide scene. While it brought others to tears, I couldnt help but feel the scene was somewhat irresponsible.
Why it was irresponsible to show Hannah Baker's suicide on 13 Reasons Why
Firstly, while the series really was all that it set out to be a lesson, a realisation, a genuinely tear-jerking experience, I found it to be somewhat glorifying of self-harm.
Instead of focusing on Hannahs feelings, the show concentrated on the things other people had done and how they dealt with it after the suicide.
While some of the characters were in denial over what had happened, others were remorseful and saw Hannah as being this beautiful, tragic character as opposed to someone who desperately needed help.
I found this to be a rather dangerous move, especially for anyone who was able to relate to Hannah in the feelings of sadness and loneliness, and anyone who may be thinking, questioning or even planning suicide.
The series doesnt tell that person that they need to get help, it tells them that people will realise what theyve done if theyre not around anymore and thats one very dangerous message to send out, and one thats untrue.
Alongside this, I think the scene was somewhat triggering. The attractiveness of the series is that its meant to be a relatable high school experience with a powerful message.
However, some people may have been watching to know that they are not alone in being bullied or dealing with nasty peers. They may be watching to simply find something to relate to while dealing with mental illness.
As someone who suffers from mental illness and has self-harmed in the past, I watched the show because I wanted to see how mental illness was portrayed. Though Im thick-skinned, I found the suicide scene to be distressing, and therefore can only imagine how much of a trigger it may have been for anyone who currently struggles with self-harm.
But ultimately, my main point leads to this the suicide scene was dangerous.
I personally think there was no need for the full scene to be portrayed. Instead of reflecting on how Hannah was feeling in that moment, they cut from the tapes and jumped straight to the scene of her in the bath.
They made it look like a quick and easy way out, which just didnt sit right with me at all. Attempting suicide by harming yourself in that way can result in various different situations all of which are incredibly dangerous.
However, the show depecited it to be a very quick process, disregarding the length of time it wouldve taken for Hannah to lose her life, or any further pain bar the initial cut which would have been excruciating.
I feel the show should have been more wary of this because it terrifies me to think if anyone watching was in a position of wanting to end their life in this particular way, they may have an eased view on how to do it and how it was going to end up.
Instead of being this tragic, traumatic ending of a young girls life that so many others saw, I saw it as nothing more than an accidental how-to-guide which I think is incredibly alarming and irresponsible.
Whats even more worrying is that this scene has been reposted elsewhere without the context and for anyone who hasnt seen the series, they may take this as an actual guide to ending your life.
I understand why the show did it. They
needed to send a message, they needed to entice viewers,
they needed to follow the story but I think they
could have gone about it in other ways that couldnt be
taken out of context or of which couldnt lead people
currently in need of help to ending up in dangerous,
potential fatal situations.
Reasons Why Suicide: Is the Graphic Scene
The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, the streaming services first foray into the kind of young-adult content you might normally see on a network like Freeform or The CW, is, nearly two weeks after its release, very popular.
Like, extremely popular, especially withand no surprise herethe high school, social-media-driven set the series is about.
According to numerous press releases flooding my inbox, the series has had more social-media traffic in its first week of release than any streaming show in history.
The global audience insights firm Fizziology estimates that it has received three times as many mentions as its closest streaming competitionfellow younger-skewing Netflix series Chasing Cameron and Fuller Houseand more than 20 times the volume of award-winning fare like Orange Is the New Black and Master of None.
Even Twitter itself sent a note alerting me to the record number of tweets it was receiving for a streaming series.
This is all noteworthy not just because its news that the show is this popular, but because of what the series is aboutand how graphically it shows it.
Based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, the series begins with the revelation that its central character Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) has committed suicide. She has left behind a series of 13 cassette tapes explaining how different classmates who bullied, betrayed, and even sexually assaulted her left her feeling so empty she decided to end her life.
Those interactions play out in flashbacks as Clay (Dylan Minnette), Hannahs former crush, makes his wayexcruciatingly slowlythrough listening to the tapes.
After he finishes them, he goes to his school guidance counselor, Mr. Porter (Derek Luke), whose failure to respond to Hannahs final cry for help is the 13th reason why, and explains how Hannah killed herself in graphic detail.
As he does, every action that he describes plays out on screen: Hannah turns on the bathtub faucet. She looks at herself in the mirror and resolves to do it. She gets into the tub, still with her clothes on, starts crying, and with her right hand slits her left wrist. She gasps in pain and starts writhing as the blood pours out. She switches hands and does the same to her right wrist.
Both times you see everything: the razor puncturing the skin, the artery opening, and the blood pouring out the wounds. As the tub fills with blood, she loses consciousness.
Its horrifyingnauseating, even. You cant look away, but also you instinctively look away. Her mother (Kate Walsh) discovers the body, and in a devastating single take, calls for her husband (Brian DArcy James) as she clings to her daughter.
To call the scene graphic is an understatement. Its all the more gutting to witness after having watched, at that point, over 12 hours of Hannahs story, getting to know her and her pain and what led to that moment.
But is it too graphic? Too realistic? And, according to some mental-health experts, possibly harmful?
Thats the controversy now that the series has, as mentioned before, debuted to such a blockbuster young audience.
Theres been no shortage of praise of 13 Reasons Why as essential viewing, especially for the young audience that has lapped it up.
While theres a case to be made that the series sort of spins its wheels in its middle stretch of episodes (Id make a case for maybe only 6 Reasons Why), the showwhich is produced by Selena Gomezis groundbreaking in the bluntness with which it confronts the ways acts of bullying and latent sexism in high school read as micro-aggressions but compound to grave effect.
As The Daily Beasts Nick Schager wrote in his review, It doesnt take long to understand that everyone is culpable in 13 Reasons Why, which depicts a pervasive culture of sexism thatll be recognizable to all girls, and should be repulsive (and eye-opening) to any well-adjusted guy.
And as for its handling of Hannahs suicide: As it proceeds into darker, uglier territory, the show reveals how suicide doesnt just materialize out of the ether; rather, its often the byproduct of accumulated hurt from diverse sources (including backstabbing girls).
In the week since the series premiered, however, its that notion that has proved polarizing.
For all the championing of what some consider a necessary realism and frankness about the nature of suicide, there is an equally loud criticism of the depiction as emotional torture pornirresponsible, misunderstood, and even dangerous.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is clear in its stance that the explicit descriptionor, in 13 Reasons Whys case, dramatizationcan have the effect of sensationalizing or glamorizing a suicide death, particularly if the viewer is someone already experiencing risk factors.
A graphic scene like the one in the series can lead to suicide contagion, or copycat suicide, in which someone who watches the scene might learn from it or be inspired by it.
In a piece for the New Statesman, writer Neha Shah details that concern, writing: The realism of the scene feels uncomfortably close to a how-to guide to suicide The show is right to be trying to provide teenagers with a lesson in compassion and sensitivity, but watching Hannah Baker cut her wrists in High Definition isnt doing anything for youth suicide prevention.
And on the Australian womens website Mamamia, writer Jessie Stephens blasts the show for ignoring guidelines for safe and responsible reporting on suicide, but also reports finding, after scouring chat forums and message boards dedicated to 13 Reasons Why, numerous anecdotes of individuals who said theyd been left in a really bad place after watching the show.
The piece then takes the big leap: Are we about to see a sudden spike in people dying by suicide?
But a chorus thats emerged in the wave of glowing 13 Reasons Why coverage is the problematic nature of reducing the act of suicide to reasons why in the first place.
Placing blame on others perpetuates the notion that friends and family of those who take their lives could have and should have done more, which is a misunderstanding of mental illness, depression, suicide, and, in this case, grief.
In the U.K. publication The Tab, Serena Smith argues that the show is an insult to anyone with mental-health issues. The show, Smith argues, does an inadequate job of examining Hannahs psyche, the result of which is that theres no nuanced exploration of her mental health. Suicide isnt caused by other people, Smith writes. Its not murder.
Theres an argument in that vein that, as portrayed on the show, Hannah is a teen on a revenge mission, not an empathetic protagonist.
The 13 Reasons Why creative team addressed some of these concerns in Beyond the Reasons, an after-show-esque Netflix special that includes interview with mental-health professionals.
We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, the shows screenwriter and creator Brian Yorkey said in the special. But we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, author Jay Asher said, They felt for a TV series, if youre going to watch it, you want to show it as horrifically as it actually is.
This isnt a pile-on. Just as there are concerns that the suicide scene was dangerous, there are testimonials to how watching it has also helped people. 13 Reasons Why stopped me from hurting myself, writes Pihu Yadav in Thought Catalog.
More, the series finally bucks the trend in television of using the horrific deaths of women, particularly young women, as exploitative plot devices.
Too many programs shy away from showing the consequences of the devastating things that are done to women, but 13 Reasons made us lookand it made us care about who we were looking at, writes Variety TV critic Maureen Ryan. The series gave Hannah a complexity and a voice that those in her world seemed determined to deny her. It was hard to witness Hannahs death, but it felt of a piece with what had gone before, which was a close study of the growth of one young womans physical and mental distress.
What is happening, and in ways I cant remember happening before, is a popular show is providing an education and sparking a dialogue about suicideparticularly teen suicide. The nuances of it and the means of it might be problematic, and perhaps never should have happened. And theres an argument to be made that a scene like this should never be seen again.
But there is an overwhelming glut of
television vying for the attention of Americas youth.
(To wit, MTV, the former ruler of that demo, just announced
a revival of Fear Factor that will do such horrifying things
as waterlog competitors cellphones.) That its 13
Reasons Why and this issue that is making
noiseespecially with young peoplewell, there
shouldnt be any debate over whether thats a
Is This The
Most Shocking Depiction Of Suicide On TV?
Through the narration, we get to see things from Hannah's perspective, but also the consequences of her own actions in present day as her peers try and grapple with guilt, and pain of their own. There's Clay (Dylan Minette), the boy next door type who has been loving Hannah from afar while never quite stepping up to the plate; Jessica (Alisha Boe), Hannah's former best friend who brutally dumped her over a boy; Justin (Brandon Flynn), who gave Hannah her first kiss only to slut-shame her in front of the whole school, and on and on. It's riveting, in a can't look away, can't keep looking, kind of way. There's no easy way around it: we, like the characters, are bearing witness to a young girl's decision to end her life.
It's a pretty brutal journey, but it's the ending in particular that we need to talk about here: Hannah's suicide scene. (Spoilers ahead!)
I'll confess, I haven't quite made up my mind about this one. On the one hand, it's truly one of the most shocking things I've seen on television in...ever. On the other, should suicide really be easy to watch?
This one most certainly isn't. After her attempt to report her sexual assault to the school guidance counselor doesn't exactly pan out (he tells her she can either disclose the name of her rapist, or "move on"), Hannah only sees one option ahead. Walking through the empty halls of her high school, she speaks some of her last words into the microphone hanging from her backpack.
"I think I've made myself very clear. No one's coming forward to stop me. Some of you cared. None of you cared enough. And neither did I. And I'm sorry. So, it's the end of Tape 13. There's nothing more to say." Then, as the bell rings and the halls flood with students, she just stands there for a moment. She's not one of them it's like she's already gone.
Then, Hannah goes home, makes her bed, returns her uniform to the movie theater where she worked after school, mails the tapes to the first person on her list (Justin), changes into old sweats, and runs a bath. She opens the box of razor blades she stole from her parents' drug store, steps in, slits her wrists and sits there until her breathing grows shallow and eventually stops. There are no euphemistic montages, or [Insert Sad Emo Ballad Here] as her life flashes before her eyes there's only Hannah, bleeding, crying, struggling to breathe, and then dying.
It's the first depiction of teen suicide that has felt real enough to knock the wind out of me. I don't think I could watch it again. But it also feels, in some ways, like a how-to guide to suicide. Yes, teens should be aware of the impact that words and seemingly banal actions have on others. Petty grudges can lead to serious consequences. But is showing the minute details of someone's suffering truly the best path to awareness? At what point does this become emotional torture porn or even dangerous?
13 Reasons Why isn't a perfect show. It's a little too long, and drags in the middle. Some of the action makes no sense. But if it makes us confront these important questions, then it's worth it even if it doesn't quite provide an answer.
If you are thinking about suicide,
please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at
1-800-784-2433 or the national Crisis Text Line at