Reasons Why We Should Defend Controversy

MatthewKee, Staff Reporter

In case you haven’t heard, Netflix has done it again, producing another hit series. This time though, their newly acclaimed series “Thirteen Reasons Why” has spurred a lot of debate. The plot of the show takes place after the suicide of a high school student and follows the events and toll the death has on the people of the community. The series is grimmer for a teen show, but I believe that Netflix has pretty much nailed many portrayals of some controversial problems head on. Here’s why.

Suicide is a problem that has been accumulating attention of many people in the past few years, as it has increasingly become a persistent problem among teens. While we have become more aware of the issue at hand, the perception we have been given is heavily censored. We’ll list the general causes and slap on the cause of death as a suicide, but the details are never actually revealed. Without specifics, one can hardly imagine why someone would take their life, which often leads to the conclusion that the victim isn’t so much a victim but someone with a vendetta. The show does a fantastic job in just bringing awareness in a raw and pure form.

On top of the already dark subject of suicide, the show goes one step further to address another very bleak issue, sexual assault. There are too many negative connotations regarding this issue that usually end up blaming the victim more than the aggressor. With the show, they do a phenomenal job in emulating the feelings that a victim undergoes, shown in Jessica and Hannah’s scarring experience with Bryce. From the unnerving assault scene to vital signs of the aftermath of their actions, both of these characters allow the audience to sympathize and develop a better understanding of the trauma.

While I believe that the show has few flaws, the biggest complaint that many viewers have is that the show doesn’t realistically depict these events or that it romanticizes the idea of suicide, with Hannah’s death being the prime example of this. I do agree that Hollywood and stories tend to do this a lot, altering events or scenes for dramatic effect. However, I’m okay with the way Hannah’s death turned out, only because I don’t think the audience would have been able to handle or comprehend the severity of the choice she made. In the book that the story is based on, Hannah kills herself through pills, which would be difficult to illustrate the impact of her choice visually. On the other hand, had they shown Hannah bleeding to death on the bathroom floor, I’m sure the scene would be more than the audience could handle.The show already includes numerous explicit scenes, especially with how they dealt with replicating rape, and I don’t think that showing a graphic suicide scene would be necessary to get the point across. Regarding accuracy though, the psychological aspect of the show is spot-on. In their follow-up documentary “Beyond the Reasons Why ” the showrunners and actors discuss how they referenced many psychologists and organizations to ensure complete accuracy. The psychologists also consider and reflect on how realistic the characters’ psyche is.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” is not a show for the light-hearted. It’s tough for people to experience or comprehend what went on in the mind of an individual who committed suicide or for people who have thought of taking their life. The series did the best job they could in emulating the emotional struggle and internal fight that Hannah faced, and I don’t think the harsh criticism is warranted for this show. Yes, suicide is a hard pill to swallow, but we can’t just show half the story. Otherwise, it’s very difficult for people to grasp the severity of the situation fully. Suicide should not be an option, and to prevent it from happening we must recognize that there’s more than one, five or thirteen reasons why someone might have taken their life. There’s a saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it also takes a village to bring one down.

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