Let me preface this by saying that just as much as this show was needed to depict the ongoing struggles of being a teenager, this show has taken the matter a little too far. Season one was accused of romanticising suicide, which was amplified in season two, and came back full force in season three. I have always advocated for shows that don’t gloss over matters, however, there are ways to shine light on important issues without casting shadows on the realistic aspects as well. For a show concerned with highschoolers, the writers seem to never showcase the mundane side of being a teenager and frankly, overly dramatize highschool ongoings.
Yes. Substance abuse, bullying and sexual assault as well as violence are highly important issues, yet it isn’t always in everyone’s best interest to reduce suicide to a plot device…there, I said it. The first season hones in on Hannah Baker taking her own life and the aftermath of her doing so in a series of tapes, each dedicated to a reason (a person). However, great emphasis was continually placed on the methodology behind the suicide, with a camera lingering on the incident from start to finish. Here is when we ask, “Was it vital to witness a method to taking one’s life in depicting the wider more intricate image of suicide?”. Let’s not forget the second season, impecably backdropped with an attempted suicide (again in which the method became the integral plotline) even though, as we find out early on, it was unsuccesful and conveniantly followed by amnesia disabling any form of analysis or understanding of suicide…once again.
An aspect that should be critised about the show is the clumsy demenour in which it portrays rape culture. The scenes in the first season were critical as they somewhat attempted an accurate portrayal of sexual assault. Yet, what I fail to understand is, why everyone, from the baseball coach to the guidance counselor, know of its existence and yet choose to be dismissive. It gives off a message to those watching, that the elders among us, specifically those we deem powerful, will inevitably fail us…so there’s no point in trying. This was also met with most, if not all, the victims having little to no recollection of their assault ever taking place. Was it somehow convenient for the writers to not have any of the characters except for a teenage boy actively pursue the rapist? And why is there no demonstration of what kids should do when they are in similar positions? I’m sorry but adding a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode with a link to a help line seems like a feeble attempt at proposing solutions and shedding light on those in similar positions as the show claims to do.
For an accurate depiction of the effect of trauma on a person, there needs to be substantial knowledge of what they/ their lives were like prior, which this show has never even attempted. We know nothing about the characters prior to their struggles. We know nothing of Hannah Baker prior to her death and the knowledge we are given is when surrounding characters are put on trial. Lies are spread in an attempt to completely demonise and morph her, to the point where her mother questions if she even knew her own daughter. This is a common trend that does not end there. The entirety of the third season dilutes the perpetrators’ actions in order to bring out the positive side of them and in turn makes the victims look hysterical. Although, it could be viewed as an ode to perhaps how these situations are addressed in real life, I have never seen it to the extent of what was presented in the show. At one point a rapist is seen as a victim of society and those who have been affected by his recklessness and shameful behavior as the one’s leading it. In what world am I supposed to empathise with a rapist and scrutinize a victim? And who keeps letting this show obliterate real issues by reducing them to mere plot devices?!!