If you are not familiar with “13 Reasons Why,” the infamous teen Netflix drama based on the 2007 novel written by Jay Asher, it explores the story of a teenage girl who decides to end her life after a string of horrific events.
When I first heard the premise before the series premiered in 2017, I was both intrigued and hesitant. How could a premise for a television show marketed to teenagers be so controversial? I wasn’t sure how it would be received by audiences. However, shortly after premiering, the series garnered a massive amount of conversation on social media. People of all ages and backgrounds were tweeting and posting about the series and the impact it had on them. A lot of the feedback was positive in its courage to explore sensitive material, portrayal of modern youth and representation of characters existing outside of their typical television tropes.
Nonetheless, the series did receive a lot of backlash, specifically for its graphic depiction of the main character’s suicide. Three seasons of the show have aired and so far the series has portrayed controversial subjects such as suicide, sexual assault of both men and women, domestic abuse, and abortion among many other things.
“13 Reasons Why” demands to be talked about. The very existence of the show depends on controversy and discussion. But isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t these topics be discussed rather than swept under the rug? The show explores the realities of teenagers dealing with bullying, depression, mental health and sexual assault. Sure the depictions may be dramaticized for effect, but real teenagers around the world deal with these issues.
According to a study from Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, 78 percent of viewers believed that the series helped them understand that their actions can have an impact on others and around half of all viewers reported seeking information about sexual assault, depression, suicide and bullying.
The series also offers a Crisis Textline after every episode for those who are struggling. Whether you are a fan of the show or completely against it, the show sparks a discussion that is relevant and important. Talking about the issues that this show tackles opens up the possibility to provide resources and help for those who may really need it.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. Text REASON to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.