You know, when anything is a hit people feel the need to jump on it and scrutinize it. Now, as I hope you see with this website, not all scrutiny and criticism comes from people making rash opinions but informed ones. Those of which come from a place that reminds us that not all entertainment should simply be seen as just that. Leading to the topic at hand.
IndieWire, specifically writer Jude Dry, notes that without noting access to a suicide hotline, alongside the idea of, based on Gene Siskel’s 1973 interview with the Chicago Tribune, that they quote, there being no such thing as an “anti-” film, show or what have you. Meaning, the depiction of something, even if it wasn’t the intention, romanticizes it. Thus being the foundation of Jude’s article in which they note how this the show romanticizes suicide. Now, just in case, like me at one point, you aren’t fully sure what it means to romanticize something, basically, it means to make something seem more attractive or interesting than it appears. A common example would be you romanticizing the idea of you and another person together, even if you have nothing in common or don’t know that person. For Jude, in terms of this show, it appears that they are of the opinion that simply by depicting suicide without a barrage of “Suicide is wrong,” “It Gets Better,” “Here are resources” and etc., the show is romanticizing it.
Now, when it comes to the show I’ll admit that Hannah’s reasons for killing herself may not be universally understandable. I myself struggled at times to understand some of Hannah’s decisions and her reasonings behind them. However, I feel like there isn’t always a need for everything to have a disclaimer or clear PSA type message attached. Like, just because this show deals with young people and a girl committing suicide, that doesn’t mean it needs a hotline number for that, one for rape survivors, and another for teen drinking.
Something which I say while acknowledging that TV is part of our, be it a kid or an adult’s, daily education. However, no disclaimer, or having the cast read some PSA, is going to change someone’s mind. I mean, just think about it. Speaking as an American, there is this program called D.A.R.E. that has been touted for decades. Yet, despite all the warnings which come from that program and others, alongside our meager health classes, you will still find teens, and pre-teens, smoking, drinking, having unprotected sex, and doing drugs. We know it is wrong and the consequences, are aware of the resources to stop or prevent certain things, but we made our choice.
Now, don’t take this as me supporting the idea of suicide outright (I do support physician-assisted suicide), but I do think in a world which wants to make the claim of “It Gets Better” and that bullying can end in a generation, there has to be an acknowledgement that it doesn’t always get better. That bullying doesn’t end in school but also spills over into your adult life. The only difference being that you have no choice but to deal with it because you have bills to pay.
Getting back on topic, I think the main reason why the decision was made for Hannah to slit her wrist vs. taking pills was for the sole reason to not romanticize suicide. They wanted to show it as painful, bloody, and not simply popping a handful of pills, some ice tea, and then being found looking like sleeping beauty. Also, the whole point of the show was a PSA! It just wasn’t crafted like a 90s after school special.
I mean, for those who watched and paid attention, the show doesn’t romanticize suicide at all. Each reason Hannah lists helps exhibit how each and every one of us contributes to people having suicidal thoughts, on top of whatever depression, anxiety, or whatever other mental illness someone may have. It shows you the things, no matter how little you think they maybe, which can push someone toward suicide or over the edge. To the point they can’t just drink away the memories, maybe get high for some temporary relief. No, instead they want out.
Hence why she notes Alex’s list because that setup everything to her getting groped to eventually raped. She notes the rumors Justin and Bryce helped spread because, in this age of social media, you are guilty even when proven innocent. Plus, as noted in Audrie and Daisy, news of what happened to you travels fast and fighting it just makes it into a bigger deal. Hence why Hannah never really pushed back against what everyone said. For, oftentimes, it just makes things worse for you trying to defend your reputation makes people believe you are just mad because someone said something. Leading to many, online and in person, attacking you.
Thus creating that feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no door or window analogy to see them through. It is either continue to suffer or seek what is always the last option. Which, no matter who it is, does exist. It is just the question of, in terms of what you can personally handle, as an individual, have things gotten so bad that suicide moved from the bottom of the list to the top?
For believe me when I say this, no person is looking to die and even without this show, between Google, posters at school, friends, and more, people know ways to try to make things better, to give themselves some type of silver lining. However, when all else fails to ease or end the pain, that is when suicide becomes an option. As clearly seen with Hannah who, repeatedly, tried to create firm and reliable friendships, alongside using writing to cope and give her life meaning.
However, because of consistent disappointments, in herself and others, suicide became the last and only option. Especially when Mr. Porter made it seem that either she’d have to live with what she saw and what happened, or add more weight to the cross which was already crushing her.
So, no, Thirteen Reasons Why doesn’t romanticize suicide. It just shows you the truth about how and why people make the decision that is it better to die than live in this fucked up world another day. Especially if the only thing people can give them is some thin hope that it does “get better.”
I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.