I spent most of yesterday (4/15) reading Facebook comments on this article that was shared at least 4 times by different people in my Newsfeed. It attacks 13 Reasons Why for being a revenge fantasy and argues that “other people aren’t responsible for your mental health.” Those two points alone are very true. And the morality of what Hannah Baker does in creating those tapes is very suspect. It’s straight up vindictive, and cruel.
But the article ignores the main point of the story (both the book and Netflix show). It says that the show should have focused more on Hannah’s (lack of) mental health and depression. But the story is told from Clay’s point of view as he is listening to her tapes which only lets him see what she was thinking about the events and people she describes on the tapes. The point of the story is the fallout of bullying, slut-shaming, and the fallout of Hannah’s suicide.
It is not an advertisement for mental health (although that obviously plays a big part in her suicide, because as the article harshly—and my Facebook friends’ comments—point out suicide is the not the option of a mentally healthy person). It’s a warning about the bullying that happens in school, under the radar of or willingly ignored by the adults in charge (faculty and parents alike). One of the people agreeing with the article on Facebook even said kids are just mean, to which I respectfully say, “and that attitude is why kids still are—you’re obviously not teaching them it’s not okay to be mean, no matter how young you are.”
Someone on one of the Facebook posts said that this show shouldn’t be seen because it blames the people who didn’t see it coming and didn’t do anything to stop the suicide. Which is where I disagree. Hannah doesn’t blame her parents for not noticing, though I’m sure some viewers might. She doesn’t blame her teacher where most of the events described occur in her class (the photo being distributed, the list, etc).
The blame game is bad, no matter who does it. But what’s also bad (and the show does an even better job of showing this since it shows the other tape members besides Clay) is how almost everyone downplays what they did and/or blames Hannah.
The show’s creators say in Beyond The Reasons that suicide was Hannah’s choice. And that’s true. She wasn’t forced by anyone to kill herself. But the article saying that people can’t push someone towards that is also bullshit. Because last year, when I was at my lowest, and no one in my family besides my mom wished me happy birthday, that definitely had a negative impact on me.
So, while everyone can agree the show is good in starting the conversation: totally ripping the show apart or totally loving the show without acknowledging that it glosses over some things, or gets things wrong, is unfair to the show and the messages it is trying to get across.