13 Reasons Why – should it stay or should it go?

13 Reasons Why – should it stay or should it go?

Oh, 13 Reasons Why, what a load of trouble you get yourself into.

Before I get into this, I want to make it clear I am a fan of the show. I appreciate not everyone is. It is a show which divides opinions and there will be people who passionately oppose what I have to say. I would like to ask you respect my opinions, even if you disagree with them. 

As is the nature of the show, I will be discussing sensitive topics of suicide and sexual assault. If you expect you will find this triggering, please do not continue reading.

Another season, another chorus of people demanding 13 Reasons Why is cancelled.

Having just finished season 2, I am feeling shocked, uncomfortable and amazed. If you’ve seen the season finale, you will, I imagine, have a very clear understanding why I feel the first two emotions. The amazed part may leave you a little confused.

I’m going to be blunt: I think the creators of 13 Reasons Why have balls of steel to approach such controversial issues in the way they do. I respected them for this in the first season and that hasn’t wavered in season 2. In a world where we are constantly censoring ourselves for fear of backlash, I find it refreshing that they hold nothing back. Does it make me uncomfortable? Absolutely. And so it should.

Now, do I think the show should have done more to protect those who are struggling with these issues themselves? In season 1, definitely. Do I think 13 Reasons Why have done a better job with this second time around? Certainly. They have taken the feedback on board and tried to put plenty of warnings in place.

Having read several articles about why Hannah Baker’s suicide scene was so heavily criticised, I do understand.

To portray it on the screen like that runs the risk of people copying her actions. It’s not that I don’t care about this side of things, but I believe it’s not a reason to not show it. It was shocking, it was heartbreaking and it was raw.

Despite the efforts to do better, 13 Reasons Why is still facing criticism. Once again, we have found ourselves in a situation where people are calling for the show to be axed (may contain spoilers) Do we, as a society, just want to live in denial about these subjects and not have them shown at all? Is that the appropriate way to deal with them? What are 13 Reasons Why expected to do to get it right?

It seems the big issue in season 2 is the season finale which features a horrifying scene. I’m trying to do this spoiler-free so I’m going to keep it vague. This has set people off, again, on a crusade to end the show. It was difficult to watch. It left my heart racing and I felt short of breath. I’m having trouble getting it out of my head. To evoke that reaction in someone means 13 Reasons Why have created something powerful.

Did it need to be as graphic as it was? I hate to say it, but yes. To suggest otherwise would surely come from a place of fear. Living in a bubble is easy. Having creators pop the bubble is challenging. We are right to be scared, but we are wrong to hide from it. We need things to shock us into action.

Let me ask you this: if you think these scenes are uncomfortable to watch, how do you think it feels to experience it?

Because people do. Just because it’s not widely discussed or portrayed doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Personally, I think the discussion of sexual assault is crucial. 13 Reasons Why does a great job of demonstrating the culture which can sometimes surround it.

It’s not that I think people are too sensitive, but I think we are used to being protected. For some of us, there’s a good reason for this. For others, we just don’t want to face these issues head-on. This is why I think it shocks us so much when someone comes along and plays out events in a real and devastating way.

Without giving too much away, 13 Reasons Why teeters on the edge of a new discussion about gun control in season 2. It is one which has been prevalent in the media, particularly within the past year. I imagine others might think it’s too soon, or that it’s not the right time, but it is exactly the right time for this to be shown. Should the show be renewed, I hope they continue their tenacious approach into season 3 and this particular subject gets more attention.

There are people complaining that the second season didn’t end the way they wanted it to. I get that, but did it end in a realistic way? I’d say yes. We’re used to people sugar-coating things and giving them a positive twist, but that’s not real life.

That inevitably sparks the next criticism which is that, I feel, people are looking to Hannah to represent them and think the show fails to do so. There’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, it’s a fair expectation to have of a show which is trying to demonstrate they’re not alone. On the other hand, mental health and sexual assault are complex issues. Everyone’s experiences are different. It would have been impossible for 13 Reasons Why to represent everyone.

Then, of course, there’s the question of whether or not Hannah even has a mental health illness.

And you know what? It’s this one that irritates me the most. It is damaging and inappropriate to say there was nothing wrong with her and she killed herself for attention. I’d argue this response does more to harm the cause than 13 Reasons Why. I find it frustrating when we are supposedly trying to encourage people to discuss their mental health openly that this is the response to a depiction of suicide.

Hannah is unwell. She might not make it obvious to everyone but that’s the whole point. A lot of people who are struggling with their mental health are hiding it. The unfortunate truth is that we don’t always learn about what they’re going through until it’s too late. There’s also the issue that the handful of signs she did display were seemingly disregarded. This is a common problem when we live in a world where mental health is secondary to physical health.

I feel some of the show is simply misinterpreted. I’ve seen a lot of people suggest Hannah uses her suicide as a means of revenge, yet I never got that impression. Perhaps the tapes were revenge, but the act itself was an act of desperation when everything got too much. From what I understood, she wanted to get away from the abuse, the pain and the memories which were haunting her. I didn’t believe she had done it to punish anyone.

Hannah’s death leaves people feeling guilty, yes, but this is what a lot of people find themselves feeling in the aftermath of losing someone to suicide. If Hannah had just killed herself without any indication as to why, those same people would still be wondering if they could have done more.

If there’s one thing I don’t think the show receives enough credit for, it’s demonstrating the impact of suicide on loved ones.

The way the people who loved Hannah unravel throughout the course of the show is poignant. It teaches us to treasure those we have because everything can change in an instant. It demonstrates how we do not necessarily see how cared for we are until it’s too late. There is a reminder there that, for the reasons we feel like giving up, there are many more to keep fighting.

Finally, I feel that the show does a wonderful job of showing how we all need to do more. We need to keep talking about mental health. We need to be kinder to each other. There’s no way of knowing what others are going through. There are secrets we all keep locked inside ourselves. We need to know it’s okay to reach out when we need help, and we need to be there for others when they come to us.

Even if you strongly disagree with how 13 Reasons Why went about certain things, it’s all the more reason to keep the conversation going.

Not as a means to tear down the show but to educate people. This is why I don’t particularly mind when people express their opinions about it because the only way to get better representation is to discuss it.

That said, I stand by my point that 13 Reasons Why shouldn’t be punished for having the courage to confront people with the sad realities of the world we are living in. I think some of the outrage at 13 Reasons Why is genuine. It is hard to come to terms with the fact these things happen and I think, rather than channelling their energy into getting the show axed, they should be asking what they can do to make the situation better.

However, I also feel like we are living in a culture where people want to be offended. You can’t say or do things without people finding a way to twist it. I feel like this situation would have occurred in any case – maybe not to the extremes it has, but to some extent.

I wholeheartedly believe 13 Reasons Why was created with the best of intentions. They may have fallen short of those sometimes, but 13 Reasons Why had the goal of opening up a conversation and, whether you like the show or not, you can’t deny they have achieved that.

13 Reasons Why

26 Comments

  1. 1st June 2018 / 6:09 pm

    This is a great read! I’ve only just finished Season 1 of this and while it made me sad for all of those involved it made me think and that is the hallmark of a great show.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      1st June 2018 / 6:33 pm

      Agreed! I’m glad to know you enjoyed it. 🙂 x

  2. 1st June 2018 / 6:15 pm

    I couldn’t wait to read your take on this. You expressed this very well and you’re right that the shows brings up topics that need to be discussed. These things happen, more often than we realize. I understand the need to want to protect sensitive viewers, but the people who live through these horrible acts don’t get to complain and have it just go away. We need to be having the discussions and we need to be wondering what else we can do to help and how we can stop this behavior from happening, especially in schools. Excellent post, Ruth.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      1st June 2018 / 6:34 pm

      Exactly. I find it bizarre because the show is, unfortunately, simply showing something which is already reality for many.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. 1st June 2018 / 9:41 pm

    Expressed so much better than I ever could! I’ve actually spoken to someone about how I think this is such an important show for the exact same reasons! Thanks for writing this!

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      1st June 2018 / 10:12 pm

      Aww, thank you! It took a lot of thinking about and editing before I felt like I got it right haha. It really is an important show and, as much as I’m open to discussion about it, I wish people wouldn’t attack it in the way they do. x

  4. 2nd June 2018 / 7:36 am

    Love this – a very real take on it all. I definitely think these issues need to be addresssed and I completely support what you’re saying! 🙂

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      2nd June 2018 / 8:53 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  5. 2nd June 2018 / 6:49 pm

    Such a wonderful post as always! I really need to finish watching this, I’m only halfway through the first season. I started watching it after I read the book. But I’m really excited (and terrified) to finish it and move onto season two.
    Menna x

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      2nd June 2018 / 7:09 pm

      Thank you! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it 🙂 x

  6. 2nd June 2018 / 9:04 pm

    I completely agree with you! I only ever see people complaining about the show, and Im just sat here like “Am I really the only person who enjoyed it?” I think like you said, people want to be offended these days. I think people also forget that this is a TV show created for entertainment. The Greatest Showman is actually about a man who exploited people and used them as slaves to make himself rich while the others earn nothing. There are plenty of similar shows like Broadchurch, Murder in the first, death in paradise and tonnes of crime shows. I think it is unfair of people to put so much hate into one tv show. If you don’t like it just don’t watch it, I don’t know. If I start a show and its not something I enjoy I just turn it off and watch something else… I can understand the frustration by some, but I also think a lot of people are a bit overdramatic. Personally I found it very helpful for my mental health, but I think if you struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts the show clearly is not for you and that is okay. Loved your take on it, and Im glad you too enjoyed it! You expressed your opinion really well, and I agree with everything you said! xx

    http://zoe-ware.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      2nd June 2018 / 9:07 pm

      Yeah, I only ever seem to catch people being critical of it and I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me!

      That’s what I found difficult to get my head around – if you’re not enjoying it, why watch it? You’re only punishing yourself. Maybe we’re missing the point somewhere 😉 Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad we both feel the same about it! x

  7. 3rd June 2018 / 7:43 am

    I think it’s a great thing for the series to push things so far they become uncomfortable. When things become uncomfortable we are more inclined to talk about them because we’re more passionate. Talking about these topics we can become more informed and compassionate – it can only be a good thing especially since life is uncomfortable and theres no escaping that!
    I didn’t read your whole post because even thought what I did read was spoiler free I kept getting paranoid about if I would get spoiled or not so I just read half and I’ll come back when I finish S2.
    I read 13 reasons why about 7 maybe 8 years ago and I wasn’t overly keen I watched season 1 and I have to say it was a rare occasion an adaptation was better! It pushes things a little further but it was more rounded too. The book only focused on Hannah and Clay whereas season 1 gives you more background into the other people on the tapes. By doing this the book makes the topic seem so black and white (all the people on the tapes are bad end of story) whereas the adaptation, I feel, shows that everyone is dealing with their own issues and it might not be in the right way but its the only way they’ve got.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      3rd June 2018 / 11:54 am

      Love this comment! Definitely agree with what you have said, too.

      I haven’t actually read the book but I think I might because I’m curious to see the differences. I have to admit one of the things I enjoy most is all the character storylines and development so it’s a little disappointing to know the book doesn’t include that.

  8. 3rd June 2018 / 8:49 pm

    Hey I agree I liked the show. I admit there were certain scenes that didn’t need to show such detail, but putting that aside it’s sending out a message that these things go on in schools. It pushes ppl to the limits at times. I think it certainly got alot of people talking about Mental health and bullying which is what we want. More awareness xx Great post thank you for sharing. http://mummythomas.blog

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      3rd June 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Exactly. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  9. 7th June 2018 / 11:45 pm

    Really good opinion on the show. I personally like it and the issues they challenhe. I just think they diluted their main goal in the first series to focus on the bullies rather than her as such.

    Amazing post x

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      8th June 2018 / 10:42 am

      Thank you and yeah, it does become a bit focused on her but I don’t think it took too much away from what they were trying to achieve 🙂 x

  10. 10th June 2018 / 1:18 pm

    I have finally finished the season, so got to read your review. I mostly agree with you, although, there is one point which you haven’t touched and I felt like mentioning it. When I looked at all the characters, I realized that to make the show more popular and discussable, probably, creators decided to touch too much of problematic questions. Every first person there has some issues and it felt a little unrealistic. Drugs, attempt of shooting at school, people dealing with coming out they’re gay, guy in rehab worried about his penis, bullying in school, rape, provileged people. Moreover, I didn’t like that all of the parents were portrayed like people teens couldn’t trust and quite often as ignorant or prejudged. The thing is, yes, all those problems do exist, but in the show it was unrealistic due to big amount of them.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      11th June 2018 / 9:40 am

      Yeah, I think those are fair comments. I think they could have done with keeping some of the issues a little more relatable (such as pressure to do well in school, or maybe looking a certain way to fit in) rather than going to such extremes. As you said, though, it was probably to help the show open up conversations about more controversial topics. I definitely agree with you about the parents and adults in general. The balance seemed way off there!

  11. 11th June 2018 / 3:31 pm

    I like this post, you’ve pretty much summed up exactly what I think about the show. I totally agree with you that, though the scene you refer to is brutal and uncomfortable, it is also necessary because it highlights reality. If that were to happen in real life (which it can and does) the victim will feel even worse than the viewer does when watching. Therefore, I think it’s pretty effective in increasing understanding and awareness amongst those who have not had such an experience. I also agree with what you wrote about Hannah’s suicide, I can understand where her mind was in my own way (which I actually wrote a post on, outlining how the actions of other individuals can have a significant impact on our mental health), so I think it’s very dismissive and ignorant of people to claim that she would commit suicide for attention.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      12th June 2018 / 9:09 am

      I’m glad you liked the post and that you agree. It’s nice to find people who think along the same lines because I’ve seen so much hate for it on social media that I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one. I’ll need to take a look at the post you mentioned 🙂

  12. 7th August 2018 / 9:22 pm

    Very well put! Agree in all accounts. Ignoring the issues will not make them go away and the show pushes the limits and portrays reality as it is. It bothers people. It’s powerful. And it’s life.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      8th August 2018 / 10:54 am

      Nice to know you agree! 🙂 I really do think the creators ought to be proud of themselves.

  13. 8th August 2018 / 3:47 am

    Your thoughts on 13 Reasons Why, what it means to you and to awareness causes are spot on! You shared this on Twitter yesterday and I couldn’t wait to read your thoughts. I also like the series and how relevant it is to issues we’re currently facing. The shows creation is a product of our culture and points out some of our problem. It is also very relatable and puts you in another persons shoes, even though it can be uncomfortable. The show does an amazing job bringing awareness to sexual assault, suicide, gun control and relationships. I would be really disappointed if it was cancelled after two seasons.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      8th August 2018 / 10:51 am

      I’m so glad you agree about it. As far as I know, they’re going ahead with a third season which I’m very happy to know! 🙂

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