Over on my old blog I wrote about “13 Reasons Why I couldn’t binge 13 Reasons Why” after I finished season 1. I’m now just finished watching season 2 despite the little sensible voice in the back of my head telling me not too.
13RW is (incase you don’t know but you probs do) about a girl who commits suicide and leaves tapes explaining why she chose that path. The series explores many issues including mental health and suicide as well as bullying, loneliness, rape/sexual assault and of course, being a teenager. You hear about it and think finally! A show that will explain how we feel!! But instead the graphic scenes and long episodes leave us feeling mentally drained and/or triggered.
As a girl who went through school (and college and work and everything) dealing with anxiety and depression, this programme hits you right where it hurts. The comments made against girls smacks you in the face – real life exhibit A where I was made fun of for having an arse and now the same folk are liking every single Kardashian/Jenner pic there is. The bullying and loneliness Hannah feels is all too real for me too. I had friends in school, I had a boyfriend, I’ve had boyfriends and more friends since I left school, I’ve always had a family who cares and yet here I’ve been, sitting for the last seven years feeling like the loneliness person in the world. And if you were to sit a line of 20 girls down in front of you and ask who felt a boy had taken advantage of them in any way shape or form, the likelihood is that all 20 would raise their hand. So many people have felt the way Hannah felt, as well as Clay and Jessica and Alex and Courtney. Yet when we watch it, it doesn’t fill us with hope.
In the final episode of season 1, you *graphically* see Hannah kill herself. I watched that when I was already feeling very depressed and it took me months for baths to no longer be a trigger. A bath used to be a relaxation method for me. Days of avoiding showering and taking care of myself would then be washed away in a mound of bubbles with Netflix on and being able to lie there and not think. After I saw it, it had the opposite effect.
Season two sees them all continuing to deal with the aftermath but with new struggles – Hannah’s trial mixes into them all trying to continue to live. Alex, having survived his suicide attempt, is filled with anger. Jessica, who survived rape, is struggling to deal with her own emotions and seeing Bryce. Clay is also full of anger. Justin’s life has been ruined by living on the streets and taking heroin.
13RW is incredible for showing how bad life can be but as a show that is also raising awareness, it can bring people back down into a terrifying dark place. We can show how engulfing mental health issues can be without triggering people who are trying to get by.
Thankfully now they have resources for you to use which they didn’t have before and season 1 was without trigger warnings. But now they explained at the start of season 2 that if you are struggling then be cautious in watching as well as the more difficult episodes having warnings. But it’s not enough. We all already saw Hannah kill herself, we all already saw her being raped as well as Jessica, we saw the bullying and everything else. We’ve already seen it all, or so we thought.
There is no amount of trigger warnings that can prepare you for the last episode. Watch with care, especially those who are triggered by sexual assault. In fact, my advice would be just don’t watch it but I know you most likely will. I watched it days ago and that image will haunt me for the rest of my days. I’ve had nightmares about it too. Sexual assault isn’t something I’ve been through though feeling pressured is and if this is how bad it affected me, how is someone who’s been through it going to feel? They say if you’re going to be triggered then don’t watch it. But it’s hard, it’s hard not to get involved in a show that half the world is talking about. We watch it hoping it’ll make us stronger but it rarely does. We hope we can turn round and say hey this happens, let’s talk about it but instead we feel sick (understandably, it’s a horrific topic for anyone) but it doesn’t actually help people, does it? Did it help you seeing it? Can you honestly say Tyler’s scene helped you? It shocked the world yeah, but not exactly in the best way.
13RW is a show so many people admire and to a degree, so do I. Finally someone’s talking about suicide and yet every time I watch it just breaks me, it just hurts. It doesn’t help me and I know it doesn’t help others.
Is it helping? Or is it just triggering the world? Is it just giving people the wrong ideas? Is it just hurting everyone instead of helping us?
I think if they had to show it with Hannah dying, the important scenes should of been less graphic. It didn’t have to be so full on to get the point across and then all of us could enjoy the show, talk about the show and share our thoughts or personal experiences. I also think they should show an alternative – one where Hannah survives. See her family and peers worried for her survival, see her waking up, see her agreeing to therapy and getting the help she needs. Let’s see her get better and her realising suicide wasn’t the answer. Show people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation that things can get better – fill us with hope. Show us that if we fight, we can win.
Show us there is good in the world even when we can’t see it ourselves.