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Netflix’s look into teen suicide

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Cover photo for  Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

Cover photo for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

Google, Public Domain

Google, Public Domain

Cover photo for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

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Hi. It’s me. Live and in print. No return engagements, no encore, and this time absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of Hannah Baker’s life.

13 Reasons Why, Netflix’s newest book-to-screen adaptation has taken the world by storm. It seemed that everyone had binge watched the show during its weekend premiere and on Monday, the hallways were abuzz of conflicting opinions, outrage and spoilers.  It tells the story of  Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old girl who commits suicide and leaves nothing behind except tapes that accuse 13 people of being the reason she took her own life. While watching, viewers often experience the heart pounding suspense of waiting to discover who would be next on the tapes (and what seemingly sweet, main character Clay Jensen did to earn a spot on them). There are also many emotional, hard-to-watch scenes that leave many in tears. Perhaps the most poignant scenes of all were the dark, graphic, explorations of socially taboo subjects such as suicide, sexual harassment and bullying.

A lot of 13 Reasons Why appeal comes from the strong feelings that viewers felt from watching the dark events that Hannah and others went through. Not only are these subjects mentioned, but they are vividly shown; nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. Because of these intense graphics, some critics argue that the show is not appropriate for Netflix. Most, however, would agree that these are important real-life subjects that need to be discussed.

“There was rape, and they showed the rape,” Mabry Edwards (11) said. “And same for the suicide; you see what she does. I think that’s important so we’re not just hearing about [rape and suicide] because a lot of times we hear about it in news stories and social media but it’s not in person and we don’t get to see the actual emotions of how it happened.”

The show has also captivated millions of teenagers as many can relate to the brutality of the high school experience.

“I think it’s completely relatable,” Edwards said. “The social media part of it all and the texting and sending pictures… I know people that that’s happened to and blow it off and slut shame each other… I can relate to that.”

English teacher Sharmika Harris formerly taught the novel 13 Reasons Why to her English classes. She chose this book knowing it would spark meaningful discussions from her freshmen students, as well as encourage those who usually skim assigned reading, to read. When she taught the book, Harris focused on key themes.

“I focus on the help and the friendship aspect of it,” Harris said. “ For me, what I feel like could have saved Hannah was having friends;  real friends, not frenemies.”

Edwards also believes that 13 Reasons Why carries an important message.

“A lot of kids these days don’t understand how their words and actions affect others,” Edwards said. “It’s important to show girls, and guys too, it’s ok to speak up about it and go to the police if something happens to you.”

Bullying happens. Sexual harassment happens. Suicide happens. There are hundreds of things we as teenagers can do to prevent them. Perhaps seeing life (and death) through Hannah Baker’s eyes teaches us the easiest yet most important thing we can do; simply be a friend.

 

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Netflix’s look into teen suicide