As one of my first posts, I didn’t think that I would be writing about an ever-debatable television show. But this isn’t just about that battle, it’s the battle about the backward thinking about mental illness and the display of such things in the media.
I have been recently seeing positive posts about the show “13 Reasons Why” only available for streaming on the Netflix service but there is also blowback that has occurred with the way that suicide and suicidal behavior is displayed in that same show. It’s uncomfortable at times to watch and may strike a cord with many people all over the globe, but its so uncomfortable that New Zeland has put an age restriction on the viewing of the program and schools have been warning against it. I understand the need to reduce the sensationalizing of suicide and suicidal attempts but I also see a problem with keeping such a thing tucked away on the back burner.
I understand that it can be uncomfortable to watch. I, myself, found I was closing my eyes as Hannah took the razor to her wrists and finding myself in a state of awe about the realism of the scene. It was brutal. It was emotional. It had me hoping that her parents would find her in time, even though I knew that it was impossible that she survived. The pain in her parent’s eyes was soul destroying, it was powerful for a reason.
That is the point. It is supposed to be hard to watch. It’s supposed to stare you right in the eye and tell you this is the reality; that this is what it’s like to feel like you are losing the battle. It’s supposed to drop it right at your feet and make you think about how you are going to process this once you have viewed every episode and know what every sin that each side of the tape entails. It’s definitely supposed to show you how intricate details that add up to the point that a person feels like they are fighting for something they just can’t win or how to find their way back from the bottom.
Yes, I understand that mental illness is not properly displayed. That it should have been at least addressed but can I be the person that states, not everything is because you have a chemical imbalance or that you see pink elephants in the room? This story was merely about the events that culminated making Hannah feel that there was no other option for her to turn to.
Before you cry out your assumptions that there isn’t a feminist bone in the entire show or that slut shaming is overly apparent. I can attest to how cruel children and teenagers can be. They slut shame and they will belittle a person till just a sliver of the victim’s persona is left. I was bullied most of my adolescent life and I found myself often entertaining the idea of the end. But I changed my outcome and I turned that into empowerment to fight for myself and others. Although, this empowerment might at times felt like it crossed the line of myself becoming the bully in some cases. I became hardened to the outside world, I never cried in front of others, and I became the “bitch” I needed to be to keep others from hurting me.
Hannah couldn’t find that outlet. She trusted people that she shouldn’t have trusted. She was shunned in the worst of ways and only sought out the acceptance that we all desire. Without laying out spoilers for those who haven’t watched the show, some of her decisions led to a terrible outcome. These decisions seemingly innocuous at the time and in no way her fault for the outcome; each action became the ultimate breakdown of her will to live.
What about the way that sexual assault is portrayed some might ask? Why didn’t Hannah say no and because she didn’t say no, is it still sexual assault? I will yell a resounding YES! She never consented. She tried to get out of the situation and she pushed his hands away. Her actions literally said “no”. I was so angry at Mr. Porter for insinuating that in some way she was to blame or that maybe she just “changed her mind”. But this is our world, we are thrown into a place where rape culture doesn’t have a clear definition when we so desperately need it. We need to sit down with our daughters and tell them what they need to know when and if they find themselves in a situation as such. But again, that’s uncomfortable. We silence ourselves about sexual assault and we sit behind assumptions that a women’s accounts of what happened may not necessarily be right because that’s what we want to believe. We sidestep it, we don’t confront it head-on, and most women don’t report it out of shame. Shame is not a feeling that women should feel about stepping forward! But that’s how society makes us feel.
Without getting too much into my personal life, I will say that I have been faced with many of the same situations as Hannah and found myself almost reliving the events right alongside her. I remember that I found other unhealthy outlets during those times to alleviate the pain. But I stayed. I am still here and my story isn’t over yet. That is what “13 Reasons Why” tries to portray. That suicide is not the only option. I was fortunate in ways that Hannah was not. I asked for help, I asked my friends to save me countless times, and I found my way through the pain. This show puts a brave spotlight on subjects others would shy away from and I do understand that everyone has a right their opinion. Try to see it from a survivor’s perspective. Try to push through the uncomfortable moments. Try to see it through the eyes of a person who once thought the way Hannah thought, and then realize how to change your outcome or help change someone else’s outcome.