The Effectiveness of 13 Reasons Why

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     Since the launch of Netflix’s hit series “13 Reasons Why”, worldwide conversation on social issues sparked. While the conversations are had, there is a notable amount of controversy against what message the show sends to today’s youth. The makers of “13 Reasons Why” aim to limit sexual assault, suicide, and bullying by visually exposing the public to these things to prevent ignorance about suicide or shying away from certain problems.

      The people involved in the show believe in stopping these injustices in this way, but others think it glorifies the effects of suicide. This is due to the fact that some are committing suicide in the manner the main character, Hannah Baker, did. The question is whether or not it is helping to prevent or encourage suicide. Did those who commit suicide do so because of the show or were given an idea on how to if they were already planning on committing suicide.

     What initially drew people to the series was the topic which is not highlighted in today’s society. What the public viewed as a drama was really an exposé of daily horrors. The beginning of the show was dramatic, but as each episode went on, there was more and more intense negative situations ended with a cliffhanger. When viewers got attached to the show, they had to watch the horrible atrocities that Hannah and supporting characters had to endure. The makers of the show and author of the book, Jay Asher, believe the most effective way to get people to prevent these things from continuing in real life is to get people to see it. Simply broadcasting these things would repel viewers, but having the assault, bullying, and suicide be part of an interesting plot of a television series could make people not only watch, but want to fight problems exhibited in the show. This strategy of getting people attached to the show to make them be passionate about solving these issues is what makes the show so effective in spreading buzz about the show and long overdue conversations.

     “13 Reasons Why” showed interest in solving these social issues by offering a help website (Talk to Someone | 13 Reasons Why Crisis Information), encouraging viewers who are themselves dealing with problems to get help.  Before the second season there is also a disclaimer for people with certain issues because events in the show can trigger negative thoughts and actions. The series is meant for people who can handle witnessing horrible events and those who have no history of attempted suicide/self-harm. Perhaps those negatively affected by the show were unaware of the psychological risks. Even though there is a warning presented before the start of the show, they can’t tell you exactly what will happen in each episode, so there is a bit of risk while watching. Luckily, some viewers posted trigger warnings online to warn people who could be in potential danger/self-harm. Many can regret watching the show after underestimating what the producers were willing to film. 13 Reasons Why — Buddy Project. The producers and actors involved in the show made a video after filming discussing the controversy evoked by the show and the goals they have with the show. This is to make the reason clear as to why the show was created.

     Prior to the suicide of Hannah Baker, she recorded 13 tapes describing why she killed herself. Each reason being a person she blamed for her death. The first season of the show displays them regretting the choices they made and shows what happened through Hannah’s eyes. One could view this as glorification of suicide because people understand how much pain they caused someone. What is supposed to be learned from this is that you don’t know how people will react to what you do, so everyone should always be kind.

     The second season suggests that there are other options besides suicide or expressing your feelings in negative/extreme ways. Early in the second season, a character exhibits negative thoughts/feelings and decides to reach out for the help by professionals and viewers see the positive effects of that decision. The show’s meaning of a semicolon is expressed in the second season, which is against suicide. It is meant to express that instead of ending the sentence you write (or your life), you can always add a semicolon and continue writing (or living). Also, in the last episode of the second season, we see someone with negative thoughts pull away from making a bad decision brought on by sexual assault. The makers of “13 Reasons Why” aim to convince the viewers of the show to examine your options when something happens to you or if you think you might have mental health issues.

      The show introduces their characters as multi-layered people rather than black and white, good or bad ones. This was meant to show that bad people are not born that way and things must have happened in their life to make them the people they are, which is another reason to end the cycle of abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Throughout the show, the audience follows a character who is victim of several of these issues and at the end of the second season, it is revealed that he almost made the decision to become a school shooter. The show put the public into the point of view of a school shooter without the audience realizing it until the end. This was meant to give insight into how criminals are made and proves their point that hurt people hurt others. The school shooting of Santa Fe High School in Texas was on the day of the second season’s release (May 18, 2018).

      The goal of the creators of the show was not to make an entertaining TV show, but to send a message in the most effective way possible. The team of people making the show did this by intertwining social issues into a compelling story to make people view certain problems in a realistic light. The entertainment value and social messages sent by the show has also made the show effective in reaching a wide audience. With the amount popularity “13 Reasons Why” has received, their message has been sent, but with many different interpretations.