Students need to watch “13 Reasons Why” – with caution

Dylan Minnette in "13 Reasons Why." (Beth Dubber/Netflix)


Netflix dropped an instant hit among millions of viewers in March with “13 Reasons Why.” The 13-episode series touched on topics like: alcohol abuse, rape, stalking, sexual abuse, anxiety and of course, suicide.

The television-adaptation is based on the 2007 best-selling book by Jay Asher. The show uses flashbacks to tell the story of what led up to the suicide of Hannah Baker played by Katherine Langford.

Hannah Baker leaves 13 cassette tapes in the hands of her friend Tony Padilla (Christian Navarro). On the tapes, Baker voice-records 13 reasons why she felt classmates drove her to kill herself –  all of the classmates listen to the tapes, except one, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette).

Part of the show’s popularity is credited to the complicated, romantic dynamic between Hannah and Clay. Their relationship has the viewer rooting for the duo for all 13 hour-long episodes, giving the series a glimmer of hope – which sometimes overshadows the over-arching topic of the show.

The show will leave you questioning “What would I do in this situation?” and “Would I forgive this person if I were in Hannah’s shoes?” Oftentimes, the answer is simply no. However, the show is so well-written and is shot in a way that allows you to get a glimpse into feeling what the characters are feeling in that moment, goosebumps and all.

The show is more than a typical high school bullying scenario. It shows moments that are intensely graphic and real for many, including victims of rape and sexual abuse.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the show’s executive producer, Selena Gomez, said, “I wanted it to feel like anyone can see themselves in this.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in America, suicide is the third-leading cause of death of people between the ages 10 and 24.

Many say the show glamorizes suicide but Kelsie Barry, media, communications and journalism student, disagrees. “‘13 Reasons Why’ raises awareness about the causes and effects of suicide,” Barry said.

She said the show gives viewers the opportunity to witness how suicide affects your loved ones and how important it is to reach out for help if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Megan Bronson, a Fresno State alumna, said she believes the trigger warnings, which the show displays at the beginning of episodes with graphic scenes, are not necessary.

“I’m not usually one for trigger warnings because I generally think that media has the right to expose underrepresented images and ideas, but that being said, I don’t know if ‘13 Reasons Why’ did that exposing in a very responsible way,” Bronson said.

As a survivor of sexual assault, Bronson said various scenes in the show were triggering.

“I’m sure many women, like me, went to sleep that night trying to stop reliving their own sexual assault,” Bronson said. “I think there is a difference between exposing an issue to people and exposing people to trauma.”

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), on average in America, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault each year, ages 12 or older.

Bronson said the topics are necessary to discuss, but shouldn’t be used for “shock value.”
If you choose to watch the show, be prepared for an emotional, self-reflective, thought-provoking journey with Clay as he listens to Hannah’s tapes.

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