University of Wisconsin–Madison

13 Reasons Why NOT

13 Reasons Why is a popular television show depicting a teenager dealing with the bullying and criticism that defines high school and eventually her suicide.  The show portrays a typical teenager with a normal family and a few close friends.  As far as the audience knows, she has no mental health issues and lives a fairly happy life. The show is made up of 13 episodes, each one a tape the main character left behind and each tape dedicated to someone who caused her to end her life.  I personally enjoyed the show while watching it, but recently read a Buzz feed article criticizing this Netflix hit.  What Buzz feed pointed out and a major flaw that I seemed to miss was that the main character, Hannah Baker, blamed everyone else for her death and never attempted to reach out to anyone or get help until the day she ended her life.  Another major flaw that Buzz feed pointed out is that many suicidal individuals suffer from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.  As far as we know, Hannah Baker suffered from neither.  The show overall had a negative tone to it and focused on pointing blame rather than resolving issues.  The article’s criticism of 13 Reasons Why relates back to themes of girlhood we’ve discussed in class and especially to the keywords “popular” and “culture” “Mean girl culture” represents the negative aspects of the term “popular” aka girls thinking highly of themselves and bringing down others in the process.  “Mean girl culture” is consistent in any high school you may find yourself at because there will always be girls facing insecurities of their own and because of this, bringing down others.  Another aspect of girlhood that this article relates to is the concept of “Ophelia”.  Ophelia is a term depicting girls as vulnerable and emotionally fragile confining girls to single way of dealing with emotions.  Hannah Baker is portrayed as a vulnerable character because she constantly lets people’s hurtful words and actions bring her down without any attempt to stand up for herself.

1 thought on “13 Reasons Why NOT”

  1. This was definitely my main issue with the show as well. Hannah Baker portrayed those experiencing suicidal thoughts as dramatic, blameful people. She showed no evidence of trying to overcome her hardships and openly resolve her issues. Instead she gave up very easily, conveying to viewers that suicide is the best option when looking for an easy way out. She also made sexual assault survivors appear weak, rather than showing their actual strength.

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