Netflix original series have completely revolutionized the television industry as we know it, as the online platform continues to produce hit after hit. Most recently, Netflix has begun adapting well-known books into television series. Earlier this year, viewers saw the release of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and now, a re-working of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.
“Thirteen Reasons Why” was released as a television series by Netflix on March 31. The series, based off Asher’s New York Times bestselling novel, follows the point of view of high schooler Clay, who was allegedly involved in fellow classmate Hannah’s choice to commit suicide.
Hannah leaves behind 13 cassette tapes, each describing a person who contributed to her death, and creates a makeshift scavenger hunt around her hometown. Clay is given a map and ordered to travel to each of the places Hannah describes, all while listening to her voice on an 80s-inspired vintage cassette tape as Joy Division and The Cure drearily play in the series’ soundtrack.
The series has gained mass following and rave reviews, but it is also a perfect illustration of a story that glamorizes suicide. While it is based off Asher’s novel, the Netflix adaptation goes even deeper to create a beautiful, romantic 80s essence around a subject that is neither of these things.
A story about the impact of a person’s death is an incredibly harmful one to impressionable viewers and readers. While the knowledge that Hannah’s death had such a wide impact on her high school peers may be sadly comforting, this is something that Hannah will never be able to experience. This concept is widely overshadowed. As Hannah’s voice is narrating throughout the entire show, it gives the eerie illusion that she is still present.
Furtherwmore, while creating a story of the impact of someone’s death is one thing, blaming others for an essentially personal decision is on a completely different level. As Hannah chose each of her “13 reasons,” she points fingers, creating a lifetime of guilt for 13 people.
She even threatens to release the tapes to the public if the people who are mentioned on tape do not follow her exact instructions. This aspect of the story highlights the overarching theme of vengeance and manipulation, rather than mental health or suicide.
It may come as no surprise since this book was widely successful when it was first published, to the point where it has finally made it onto the small screen. The concept of “Thirteen Reasons Why” is incredibly enticing due to the mystery and the taboo behind what causes someone to take their own life.
When it comes down to it, however, the reason behind someone taking their own life is no one’s business other than their own. This is something that the book, and now television series, tragically fails to capture.
As a serious matter, presenting suicide in a juvenile manner to many impressionable viewers is nothing short of irresponsible.
With the national suicide rate being at an all-time high in the past 30 years, it is disappointing to see that the Netflix producers saw this book as a lucrative business opportunity when in actuality it is triggering. “Thirteen Reasons Why” may be a huge hit as a Netflix original show, but it will unquestionably contribute to our culture’s fascination with mental illness in all the wrong ways.