Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Netflix recently published a new teaser trailer for the second season of 13 Reasons Why, boasting that “the tapes were just the beginning.” The creation of a second season will only worsen the societal problems caused by the show’s first season. Specifically, this show romanticizes suicides and teaches viewers that their stories will be heard and avenged if they kill themselves.
This Netflix show depicts the story of a teenager, Hannah, who kills herself after facing horrendous bullying from her peers and being raped. Her story is told through a series of cassette tapes she leaves behind ascribing 13 reasons for her suicide to individuals she largely holds responsible for leading her down the path.
By depicting our hero, Clay, listening to the tapes from Hannah, whom he had a crush on, the story begins to resemble a romance from beyond the grave. It romanticizes her actions, creating an irresponsible narrative that mentally ill viewers may seek to replicate.
Studies suggest graphic depictions of suicide can lead to copycat suicides. 13 Reasons Why ignores this concern by directly showing Hannah’s death on screen. This itself is enough reason the existence of the show likely does more harm than good. With 13 Reasons Why geared toward a vulnerable and impressionable teenage audience, its depiction of suicide is dangerous.
In fact, after the release of the show, Google searches regarding suicidal ideation, such as “how to kill yourself,” increased dramatically. This suggests that it could have sparked a series of searches about suicide. Now the show is coming back to inflict even more damage.
The entire premise of 13 Reasons Why glamorizes suicide to its audience. In the real world, when someone takes their own life, their story ends. They are no longer around to see how it affects people, and they do not get to tell their story.
In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah gets to share her story from beyond the grave, and the trailer for the second season seems to suggest Hannah’s parents and Clay will seek to avenge her suicide. This does nothing other than glamorize and mislead the audience about the consequences of suicide, which may be enough to push vulnerable viewers toward committing suicide themselves.
Creating a second season only exacerbates these problems. It will also worsen the perception that suicide is the beginning of a story, as opposed to the reality that it is the end of one. Continuing this story is irresponsible and has the potential to continue encouraging copycat suicides.
There should be dialogue surrounding suicide, and media can help spark that dialogue. But the way 13 Reasons Why approaches the issue creates an atmosphere conducive to pushing vulnerable viewers to kill themselves. If other shows want to depict this issue, they must be far more careful to do so in accurate and responsible ways, instead of dramatizing, glorifying and romanticizing suicide.
Mitchell Rock is a senior government and politics and physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.