Content warning: This post deals with suicide.
A 17-year-old in New Zealand has shared her reaction to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
Since its release, we have heard how the content glorifies and simplifies suicide. That the graphic exposure to method makes suicide seem more possible, particularly to young viewers. And that the story line, in which suicide is used as a form of revenge, is unrealistic – someone who’s suicided will never witness the aftermath.
“The main failing of this show is that it continues to perpetuate the idea that suicide is a direct result of a person or an event,” writer Bree Brown argues.
“For years, experts have emphasised that suicide is always a culmination of many causes, and almost always those who suicide have severe mental health issues. Having someone suicide and then make tapes blaming other people for her death makes it seem like suicide is caused by one specific thing.”
Mental health organisations have condemned the show’s messaging. HeadSpace has issued a warning to parents about the content.
All this discussion is valid, but we haven’t heard from, or listened to, young people – the show’s target audience.
Bree is the exact person the producers of 13 Reasons Why were picturing when they created the series. They were thinking of her; face lit up by the laptop or television screen and holed up in her bedroom, when they cast Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker.
They were picturing her going to school the next day, tired from watching the show while she was meant to be sleeping, as they positioned Hannah’s body in the scene of her rape.
Bree was front of mind, sitting with her friends on the concrete pavement comparing lunches and talking about the show, when Netflix producers created the bathroom scene in the final episode. When they were deciding the best way to show Hannah taking her own life.