Everyone’s gotten on the ’13 Reasons Why’ bound wagon recently, and as someone with a mental illness that has suffered symptoms and similar life experiences to the protagonist of this television show, I feel like I need to say something about it, to get it off my chest if nothing else.
For those that don’t know, ’13 Reasons Why’ is a television show on Netflix about a young girl who commits suicide after a horrific sequence of events. She leaves behind 13 tapes explaining the reasons and info about the people who contributed to her eventual death.
Now you’ve probably seen the ridiculous amount of memes saying something like:
But for those that actually watched the series or read the book understand that the things mentioned in the tapes, were pretty damn horrible, some more than others, not things as silly and petty as the above example. Bare in mind, these are the reasons she killed herself.
Anyone that knows me, has probably already guessed that I hate these memes. I’m a bit of a mental health protester and have many opinions on those that don’t try to understand mental illnesses. But these memes really are a kick in the gut.
These memes have completely trivialized Hannah’s reasons for committing suicide. And for all those people who are now saying “Dude it’s just a fictional TV show”, clearly don’t realize that people in real life commit suicide for those exact same reasons. It may be fictional, but it represents very real situations. By making a mockery out of it, you are potentially telling someone on your Facebook feed that has experienced those things and has felt suicidal, that those reasons are stupid. Well done you! You just made someone feel unimportant and unworthy of care.
To the people sharing those memes, I ask you one question. If your mother, father, sister, brother or friend went through all of those things and decided to kill themselves (which happens on a daily basis), would you still find it funny to make a joke at Hannah’s reasons for dying? Food for thought.
People that keep saying “We are just trying to lighten the subject” is another nagging peeve of mine. Why are you trying to lighten the subject? Can you not understand the seriousness of suicide? Do you not understand the gravity of it? Why are you trying to make it light-hearted? It’s not light-hearted and never should be. Up until this TV show came out, no one ever talked about suicide, not even in the media. Not really. They skimmed over the topic, never going into too much detail because it was too dark a subject. Have you not noticed how you never actually see someone kill themselves in a movie, how it’s only ever hinted at? Partly because it could trigger somebody vulnerable, true, but also because no one can handle the seriousness of it. Because it is a taboo subject and “shouldn’t be seen”.
But now that we’ve finally gotten you all to see and recognize the seriousness of it, you’re trying to make a joke out of it. Humans are impossible. They say they want to understand, they want to try to help, but when you show them what it’s really like, they can’t deal with it and remain ignorant. Clearly you don’t want to understand that much. Welcome to the real world, grow up, serious things happen daily. Make a joke out of it all you like but it still happens and it doesn’t ease the suffering, it just hides it.
But let’s put this in perspective here: No one would start a meme trend about Syrian refugees dying as they try to migrate. No one would start a meme trend about a person dying of Cancer. No one would make a meme trend about soldiers fighting for their lives. These are all serious subjects but we don’t see people “lightening it up” with stupid memes that sweep the globe. Yeah you’ll get one or two floating about, created by the devils spawn, but not a colossal tidal wave of them like this.
So what’s the difference? I’ll tell you what. Suicide is still taboo. We may think that we are talking about it more now, that it is more understood by the general population but it’s simply not true. These memes have happened as a result of people still treating the subject as a taboo, something wrong and to be hidden. By trivializing it, it doesn’t matter right? By trivializing it, it doesn’t actually happen right? WRONG. It happens like that every single day. It’s not funny. It never will be.
Now that we’ve got the whole meme subject over with (phew) we can talk about people’s problems with the show itself. I’ve heard quite a few different points of view on it now, and not so strangely, I’ve noticed a strong divide in opinion between the genders. Now this isn’t to say all men think this way about it or all women think that way about it, it’s just an observation of mine so far.
So far I’ve noticed, women tend to be a lot more sympathetic to Hannah’s plight, to her reasons for suicide. This might be because Hannah is of course a woman and women seem to connect with her, perhaps they have similar life experiences, who knows? Men on the other hand appear to be much more defensive about it, suggesting that it’s “not fair” of Hannah to blame her death on other people. An intriguing split if ever there was one. I feel the need to repeat though that this isn’t an absolute thing, not every guy and girl react this way, I’ve seen a mixture, but this is definitely the most common split from what I’ve experienced. Why this is, I couldn’t tell you.
But I can give you insight into the opinion of one mentally ill, occasionally suicidal female, on another suicidal female character. It’s this: bollocks to the lot of you.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Hannah is a real person and this was all a true story, because it may as well be for the amount of people who die daily in the same way for the same reasons. People keep saying “Is it fair to pin her death on all of those people?” DAMN RIGHT IT IS. Was it fair of them to make her feel so worthless, so disgusted in herself that she decided to die? In my 21 years of experience in mental health, for myself, with my friends and my family, I can tell you for a fact, no child is born wanting to instantly die. Things happen to you, moments change you, people break you. That is when you decide to die, so don’t tell me it’s unfair to blame it on those situations and those people because without them, it wouldn’t have happened like that. Sure other people might’ve hurt her and she’d of died the same way but there is always a cause. Didn’t you ever learn in science: cause and effect. Actions = consequences. So morally, yes I believe it is fair because it is the truth.
Most would prefer to never know the effect they have on people, no one wants to believe it is their fault, that they are the one to cause such a horrible thing. But let me ask you this, would we ever learn if we never knew we’d made a mistake? Would we ever try to improve ourselves if we were never told that something was wrong? The answer to that is NO. Because humans are lazy, dumb and arrogant. Most people would never even think that they’d done something wrong unless somewhere along the line they had learned that it was. We learn because we are told. We learn because we are corrected, encouraged and guided. But if you take anything from this, think about this: have you considered that the purpose of those tapes wasn’t to blame anyone in particular, wasn’t to hurt anyone at all, but were created to highlight how all actions have a consequence, how we all have a duty to each other, no matter where we come from or who we are.
Perhaps the blame game tells us that everything we do has a price, and asks us to question whether we are willing to pay the price of such a burden? They are a warning to us all, if you cannot accept the full blame and consequence of your actions then don’t do the thing in the first place.
Then we have the question of: “Was it fair to put equal blame on all of the people in the tapes?” Admittedly this one stumped me a little and I have multiple, somewhat contradictory views on it. All of which I believe could be the correct answer, but if you haven’t realized by now that most questions in life have multiple answers, then I’m afraid it’s likely you never will.
Morally we are taught that some crimes are worse than others. That shoplifting is a lesser crime than murder. That a humiliating joke is not as bad as a sexual assault. Religiously we are often taught that all crimes are equal, this is a common notion for many religions. So what’s the difference? Which one is right? I personally tend to sway more towards the all crimes are equal notion. Religion aside, I have my own reasons for my belief.
For you to understand this, you first need to understand what it is that makes something bad. Is it because it’s been named as bad? Is it because it hurts someone? What is it we use to measure how bad something is? Most people I know tend to measure how bad something is by how it affects others, how it hurts others. For example, if a young lady was mugged in a street and she started crying so much she became dizzy, fell over, hit her head on the floor and died, we’d all think that the mugging was the problem and a terrible crime. But if another woman walked down the street, got mugged in the same way but laughed it off and lived a perfectly happy life, the mugging wouldn’t bother us so much. Why? Because of how it effected the victim.
Therefore I believe a crime/sin to be of equal measure depending on its effect and the consequences of it. Likewise, the actions mentioned on the tape might also be considered of equal cruelty because all of them made Hannah feel horrible and consequentially resulted in her suicide. Please remember that just because you in the audience might react differently to some of the issues, doesn’t mean that another person might not react so well. Refer to this image:
Regardless of the situation, a feeling is a feeling.
But it is a difficult one because if someone was to ask me, what do you think is a worse crime, murder or stealing an apple, I would wholeheartedly say murder. I’m only human after all.
There is a big debate as to whether this show has created a positive or negative impact on the public in regards to the issue at hand. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether it’s negative or not, but I can say from my own experience watching the show, I feel a little bit better knowing that I’m not the only one that has been effected by some of Hannah’s experiences. I feel a little comforted knowing that there are others in the world that have felt the things I have, it makes me feel slightly less alone in my own battle.
So that’s that I guess. I realize this entire article has a somewhat ranting, childish tantrum feel to it. But sometimes you’ve just got to let off the steam in whichever way works best. I hope this has been an informative, eye-opening experience – if not, I’m not too bothered because I’m going to be going for a nap in 2 minutes time and I’m excited for that.
But please do try to take care of each other, remember not everyone’s experience is the same as yours. Not everyone can cope with things like you do. Once you get the hang of that, understanding the show becomes much easier. Understanding people becomes much easier.
Keep safe and don’t let the imbeciles get you down!