'13 Reasons Why' VS. Handling Teen Suicide: Netflix Show Fails Real Rape And Bullying Victims Too, Experts Say

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 17, 04:00 am
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Shonda Rhimes' Success By The Numbers
Experts said Netflix's "13 Reasons Why," which stars Katherine Langford, failed to address teen suicide, rape and bullying properly.
(Photo : Netflix US & Canada/YouTube)

Netflix has a new hit in the teen series "13 Reasons Why," which launched 13 episodes last March 31. The show about teen suicide, however, has experts disagreeing about how it handled a serious issue like someone taking her own life. They believe the show also did not help real victims of rape and bullying.

The Selena Gomez-produced series easily became Netflix's in demand and critically-acclaimed show on its first few weeks of release. It featured the story of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) who committed suicide but left 13 audio tapes behind to tell people who to blame for her demise.

Experts, however, said the act of leaving audio tapes made the events around her suicide dramatic, thus glamorizing what she did. Dan Reidenberg of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) said the act relayed a wrong message for troubled teens who, as it is, have problems deviating facts from fiction, as per Washington Post.

The series, "13 Reasons Why," also showed how Hannah witnessed her friend getting raped or how schoolmates bullied her. She confessed to a school counselor before her suicide about her depression, and yet these issues, which happen frequently in real life high schools, were also mishandled on the show. No one suggested therapy for Hannah; not even the school counselor, Alexa Curtis of Rolling Stones noted.

Experts also criticized the graphic way Hannah took her life in "13 Reasons Why," which played out in the final episode. Producer Gomez, who admitted to mental health struggles herself, said their intention was to show teen suicide as honestly as possible. To compound on the show's theme, Gomez and Netflix also released the companion piece, "Beyond the Reasons."

"We wanted to make something that can hopefully help people because suicide should never ever be an option," Gomez said. Experts aren't buying it, though. "Any graphic portrayal any of that is a big red zone for danger for contagion," Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

After car accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted. Most experts are in agreement "13 Reasons Why" missed the chance to educate teenagers on how to deal with their mental struggles in the best way possible.

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