Since its release, the Netflix original show, ’13 Reasons Why’ has taken over the internet. All of a sudden, I couldn’t scroll a millimeter down my Facebook or Twitter feed without finding some form of meme inspired by the show. For once in my life, I was involved, I got the jokes and it amazed me how this show, based on a 2007 bestselling book of the same name by Jay Asher, could cause this much of a storm. I read the book back when I was around 12 or 13 and it changed the way I saw the world. I loved it and encouraged some friends to do the same – one friend even Snapchatted me on the day the show was released, having remembered that I made her read it – but I didn’t know many others who had read it. So when I heard they were making a Netflix show, I was simultaneously excited and skeptical. Excited because Netflix has a great track record (sorry Iron Fist, not you) and the story that had impacted me and my friends so much was finally going to be told in a medium that is far more accessible. Skeptical because it is a sensitive story with topics that needed to be dealt with extremely carefully and with great respect. Needless to say, Netflix succeeded. In my opinion, at least. Others would disagree and they are well within their right. Some say that the show was too triggering and shouldn’t have shown some scenes in as much detail as they did.
I want to argue. I believe that Netflix took Asher’s source material and adapted it in a mature and sensible way. As a warning, from this point onward I will be talking about spoilers from the show so if you haven’t watched it and are planning to, now would be a good time to go watch and come back. Also, I will be discussing sensitive topics including rape and suicide so please read with caution if any of these things are likely to trigger you.
Before I get into the dark details, I want to give some overall opinions about the show. Firstly, I think the show did a good job in representing teenagers as they are. They swear, they make dirty jokes and they act how teenagers these days act. Other shows take teen characters and give them words like ‘heck’ and ‘frick’ to say. No teenager says that! All teenagers will happily slide the word ‘fuck’ into general conversation without much thought. They also captured how reliant we are on our phones. Phones are on tables, in hands, everywhere and, while its not commented on, I really liked that they remembered that two teenagers at coffee would definitely have their phones on display just in case someone sends them a snapchat. Furthermore, the talented cast and extended screen time allowed the creators to delve deeper into the minds of the supporting cast who we never really got to know outside of Hannah’s tapes. I loved this aspect. I wanted to see how the people on the tapes tried to justify their actions and even started to sympathise with with some of them (not Courtney…or Bryce, definitely not Bryce).
Anyway, on to what this post is really about. Before three of the episodes, trigger warnings are displayed. Two for rape. One for suicide. When these were displayed, I was, obviously, aware of what sort of scenes were up ahead. What I wasn’t expecting was how disturbing and uncomfortable they were to watch. But I believe this was the point. The show did something very mature and showed the rapes and suicide in a raw, unflinching and unromanticised way. It was meant to make you feel uncomfortable and there’s probably something wrong with you if you watched it and didn’t feel uncomfortable. People say that it was triggering and I know that. As someone who suffers with depression, I found the suicide sequence incredibly difficult and triggering to watch. I spent the next half an hour crying and texting my boyfriend, trying to make the urges go away. But I was fine and afterwards I was glad at the way it was portrayed. It didn’t patronize or talk down to the audience. I am sick of films and TV shows that just hint at these issues but never show them. It makes no real impact on the watcher. Watching Hannah slit her wrists or lie limp while she’s violated impacted me in a way that has stayed with me.
Now, I cannot speak for everyone and I don’t doubt that people have been severely triggered by the material. I just think that the creators had the balls to show us these scenes in a mature way. They didn’t just skip over it because they were scared of the backlash, they showed us something that happens all too often in a very real and unflinching way and I salute them for it.
Storm Hannah is far from over. People everywhere are saying that it’s really opened their eyes about bullying, rape and suicide. I just think it’s a real shame that it took a TV show to do so.
Thanks for reading.
(Picture from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13_Reasons_Why)