In defence of ’13 Reasons Why’

13-reasons-why

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the latest Netflix sensation ‘13 Reasons Why’, a story centred around teenager Hannah Baker who reveals the reasons she committed suicide through a series of tapes sent to her peers from school following her death.

The show has been widely criticised for its graphic depictions of suicide in the final episode, and Australian mental health charity headspace has been quick to raise concerns about young audiences watching the show.

The show’s writer Nic Sheef has explained the rationale behind their decision to depict these scenes to Vanity Fair, but the debate has been flung wide open: do the scenes glamorise suicide? Does it exploit vulnerable people? Is the message too negative?

After watching the show, I think ’13 Reasons Why’ wanted to show not merely the reasons why Hannah commits suicide, but why suicide is not the definitive option.

Although Hannah’s suicide is painful to watch and disturbing, warnings are given about the graphic nature of the content beforehand, and the episodes prior to this scene (there are 12 before her death is shown) slowly and inevitably build to her suicide. Anyone that decides to watch the show knows what they’ll be in for – would a show really talk at so much length about its protagonist’s suicide only to skirt around her last moments? I wouldn’t think so.

Hannah’s suicide scene offers a very gutsy insight into the fragile mindset of someone who wants to end their life. For me, the key word is ‘fragile’ – Hannah, and others who might be contemplating suicide, are exactly that. I think this is exactly the point of the show – to highlight that suicide can often become an option to someone when they’re very fragile and feel there are no other avenues left. Personally, I feel the show is explicitly telling audiences to prevent someone from reaching such a state. Let’s think about the moments where Hannah shows resilience, has hope and where her peers and family reach out to her. The issue is, it’s just not enough – they don’t ask Hannah if she’s really okay, they don’t listen and they certainty don’t pay enough attention. The suicide scene in ’13 Reasons Why’ is therefore the warning sign that we as friends, family members and peers need – it’s telling us to ask, listen and be more for someone who might need us so that they avoid becoming so fragile and begin to think that ending their life is a solution. Rather than an encouragement, this scene and the entire show is waving a big red flag in our face. Help is around – we must seek and give it.

Suicide is a word so often feared and discarded in our world. Now that a show like ’13 Reasons Why’ has decided to openly tackle it, we’re quick to shut it down – we’re hurriedly tweeting that they’ve taken it too far, that it should be removed from our screens, that its been done all wrong. But what about the other content that is waiting to be enjoyed on our to-watch list? A lot of us seem all too happy watching graphic scenes of murder, sex and war in TV shows and movies. We hurriedly buy tickets and rush to the cinema to watch grisly horrors spewing blood and guts. We hand children tablets and phones giving them access to content and information that is far more distressing than ’13 Reasons Why,’ and yet we hide from the reality that is suicide – a reality that is so, so prevalent in our world.

It seems that as a society, we’re constantly talking about reducing stigma, having more open and transparent discussions about showing something real and authentic, but are perhaps not ready to open our eyes to it just yet. I understand the concerns and worries about that ’13 Reasons Why’ may encourage ‘copy cats,’ but to focus on Hannah’s suicide scene alone when the entire show portrays instances of horror, (rape, violence and bullying) seems somehow unfair. And what Hannah goes through when she ends her life is goddamn frightening.  Hannah doesn’t look like she’s enjoying it. There’s no glamour to it. And certainly not when her parents find her body in a blood bath.

Suicide is a truth which is graphic, and the world we live in is not all unicorns and rainbows. We need something honest like ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ in a world that sugar-coats and manipulates our reality.

 

 

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Why you should be watching “Orange is the New Black”.

Orange is the New Black has been receiving a lot of praise recently. I  myself came across many an article constantly telling me to watch the show, and although I tried avoiding becoming a fan of a new TV show (because I’m so bad at finishing them) I had a huge feeling that Orange is the New Black would probably be very good…

…and I was right. Anyone reading this post should flock to any TV-show streaming website and watch the first season of the show, if not a few episodes to get a feel of it. Here are five reasons why I think you should be watching Orange is the New Black:

1. It makes you laugh!

I think we’ve all had enough of shows that are dark and twisted and constantly keep you on your feet. Although that’s good for mentally stimulating you, I believe it’s important to have a break from intense and strenuous programmes and watch TV that brings a smile to your face, or makes you laugh out loud at least once or twice in an episode. Orange is the New Black will definitely make you feel a little happier as you meet characters who are all distinctly memorable, with bubbly and strange personalities that leave you shaking your head or simply with your head in your hands. The characters, who are all lively and bizarre, add the comic element which propels the show forward and leaves you feeling somewhat attached to them. Even more hilarious than that is the discussions about sexuality, sex and religion that emerge from the show, not to mention the various goings-on within the prison which are extremely praise-worthy.

2. It’s set in a prison. That’s cool.

I’m sure other dramas may have been set in prison, but this is a first for me (and possibly for many). Orange is the New Black explores the lives of the female inmates both inside and outside the prison while focusing on their past and present. The show attempts to give what is possibly a realistic insight into the lives of an American female prison. For example, we get a glimpse of sneaky prison politics, the relationships between the women, the corruption that resides amongst the employees and the ups and downs that come with being a convict. This prison drama definitely leaves you thinking on an emotional level, which some TV programmes can fail to do.

3. It tugs at your heart-strings.

Orange Is the New Black definitely reaches out to people on an emotional level. Now, I’ve never had to associate myself with anyone who has criminal convictions or had to visit a member of my family in prison, but the stories that emerge from within the four walls of the prison somehow feel personal. The back-stories of the females that the show centres around are touching, and make you think twice about those held within a prison faculty. I guess what the show aims to do is remind us that criminals can also be kind and good-hearted too, if not have a good conscience despite the mistakes they have made. The show surprised me, so I’m sure it would surprise others too.  

4. It’s about a sense of community. No matter how warped.

The togetherness of the female inmates conveys a huge sense of belonging and community. Everyone helps each other out, and despite some groups sometimes disagreeing, you do get the feeling that underneath it all, there is love between everyone. I think that’s really nice to find in a programme. It can give you a warm feeling to watch a show that brings people together even in harsh circumstances.

5. It’s easy to follow.

Orange is the New Black doesn’t beat around the bush and leave you second-guessing events. It is what it is. Every episode gives you a simple yet effective plot to follow, and before you even know it, the 50 or so minutes of each episode are over and you find yourself flocking to the next episode. It literally grips you and makes you want more.

I think I’ve covered enough areas. I now leave it to anyone reading this post to find the time to give this show a chance. It’s definitely promising, if anything.