Montag, 17. April 2017

My Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

Reading all the articles on 13 Reasons Why and why it's supposed to raise awarness of mental health issues and suicide I want to talk about my own opinion on the show.
Like all the tumblr kids, I obviously read the book by Jay Asher back in the day (this is my tumblr if anyone is interested, I haven't really updated it since then though). That must have been about three or four years ago, so I was about 18 or 19. I was very in love, very sad, very emotionally unstable. You get the point – I could definitely relate to Hannah.
There is one point though, that I think I noticed back then and notice even stronger now - I hate the fact that Hannah blames her suicide on anyone but herself.
Because even at my lowest, even when I felt horrible because of a specific person, I never blamed it on that person.  

 Also, the fact that I could relate to Hannah meant that suicide was an option in a situation like that. A situation that almost every teenager will find themself in at some point, I would like to claim. And that is dangerous. When I read the book I didn’t think as much about the fact that she blamed the suicide on other people and more about all the reasons she gave. And I think saying that all those things lead to her having these thoughts and saying that all those people are to blame are two very different things. In the first option it is her decision, her way of dealing with the situation, in the second one other people are to blame. 

Hannah makes thirteen casette tapes on which she explains why she wants to kill herself, the reasons being friends turning on her, bullying, rape, not getting the help she needs, etc.
In consequence, the people on the tapes turn on each other and in the end one of them even tries to kill himself.

What I want to focus on, though, is blaming your problems on other people. I find this highly problematic because a) it justifies the suicide and b) it puts a huge burden on somebody who probably didn’t have the intention of hurting anyone, especially not to the point of them killing themself.
Let’s face it – we all make mistakes, none of us is always the best version of themself. I might have a bad day, be grumpy to a shop assistant without realizing they’re going through a tough time. It has probably happened before. And while of course we should all try to be nice to each other, we cannot stick to that every hour of every day.
Maybe the characters in 13 Reasons Why – the ones Hannah blames her suicide on – were going through a tough time themselves. Maybe they were doing their best trying to find their place in society and just made some mistakes. And then Hannah kills herself and says they are the reason for it and they have to live with that guilt forever.
And that is just plain wrong. Nobody owes you anything. Not their friendship, not their love, nothing. YOU are the person in charge of your life and you have to find ways to deal with what is thrown at you. Of course I’m not a complete idiot and I know that suicide is a serious topic and depression is not a choice. And I’m all for helping people as much as you can. But if you fail at helping someone it is still not your fault if they kill themself. Depression is the cause for suicide, not your boyfriend leaving you or your friend turning their back on you.
It is very „in“ right now to talk about „toxic“ people and how you need to leave them, and if they are really toxic to you this is obviously true. But those articles are often so quick with calling certain behaviours toxic, and mostly ones that are signs of mental illness, such as constant negativity. Have we really become that unforgiving? If I go through a tough time I might send of negative vibes, I might be a bitch sometimes, and I’m thankful for the people who understand that and still remain my friends instead of calling me toxic. You never know what someone is going through.
None of the characters in the show realized what Hannah was going through, but neither did she think about what they were going through. And just because she is the main character we sympathize with her. But life has no main character, everyone is their own main character.

Actually blaming a suicide on someone else – especially for comparably small reasons – is very selfish and dangerous. Your know as little about their life and their struggles as they do about yours. So be very careful with judgement.
In the end suicide is one person’s decision and most of the time caused by an illness called depression. I don’t need to go deeper into why killing yourself just passes the problem on to your loved ones because suicide is not a logical decision and the brain of a suicidal person just works differently because the person is seriously ill. I do want to say though that even if you’re feeling like you are at your lowest, it still doesn’t give you the right to destroy someone else’s life. Life isn't fair, but life isn't fair to anyone. Everyone gets mistreated sometimes, even the people who mistreat you.
To conclude, suicide is a serious topic and it’s difficult and often even dangerous to address it. Art – and books and tv shows are a form of art – do not have to keep everything into consideration. Saying that a tv show is to blame for any suicides is like saying Nirvana’s Polly is to blame for rape cases. You never know how someone interprets a certain piece of art and what it will lead someone to do.
But saying that the show – or the book – are helpful for raising awareness of mental illness and teen suicides is just plain wrong in my opinion. It justifies and even glamourizes suicide and makes it look like everyone else is to blame for it. I do not think the story is doing anyone a favour in terms of raising awareness. 

But what do you think? Do you think the show/book is helpful? Or the opposite? I would love to hear some opinions, especially from people who have experienced similar situations.

1 Kommentar:

  1. Hey Paulina,
    I really like your article and think you make some good, critical points there. Still, I kinda have to disagree with you. While watching the series, I didn't really think that Hannah is actually blaming those people for her suicide. She repeates phrases like " I probably should have let it go " -" it was only a little thing... But little things matter " etc.
    I believe she was intelligent enough to realize that a lot of her problems are not only caused by the actions of other people, but also by the way she dealt with them. I think those two things put together made it impossible for her to cope with life any longer. Even Clay criticizes Hannah for not acting "the way she should have" when she saw how Jessica was raped ( although I can relate to Hannah being frozen in that moment). She experienced so many horrible things and - most of the time - hated herself for the way she reacted to them, so the solution for her was to not have to react to anything at all anymore...
    Also I do think that the series is helpful to raise awareness. I think the way they portrayed how all of these kids are being mistreated in one way or the other and by going even further with Hannah - it really does have an impact on people watching it, reflecting their own behavior and how they may have been mistreated by others. The thing is that the series is so up-to-date, it really is set in this generation with smartphones and sexualising, bodyshaming and whatnot, that a lot of teenagers nowadays are facing the problems Hannah had to face. They may have thought about suicide as well but have never seen a show like this, where they are not only focusing on the reasons for the suicide, but on how "loved ones" deal with it, as well. It's heartbreaking seeing Hannahs Mom. It's heartbreaking watching Clay thinking about the " what ifs". I don't think it's glamourizing suicide. The suicide scene was horrible, long, terrible to watch and painful for Hannah. I have never thought about suicide by cutting open my arms, but I bet that a lot of teenagers see it as an "easy way", whereas the series clearly shows that it isn't nice and it isn't an easy unpainful way to end your life... I realize that it can't put all emotions, all the twisted and self - destructive mind-games the brain is playing on people like Hannah in full detail. But as a " starter" in two topics ( suicide and rape) that aren't spoken about enough, the series did do a good job to get the stone rolling.