A girl with a broken soul; bullies, rapists and the sensitive stigma of depression; 13 tapes that left both the characters and audiences broken: “13 Reasons Why” was an informative yet extremely controversial show that was deeply criticized for its reckless handling of extremely sensitive topics.
Season two follows the trial between Liberty High School and Hannah Baker’s parents. Hannah’s mother believes the school could have done more to stop the bullying and neglect Hannah faced leading up to her suicide.
Each episode includes a new person testifying either for or against Hannah, recounting their memories and relationships with her and giving audiences an insight as to how they are coping with her death. This inclusion of other people’s point of views, rather than just following Hannah’s tapes, gives a better development of who Hannah Baker was, as well as how each character may have made mistakes in their past.
In season one, Hannah Baker was definitely seen as the victim of bullying, rape and other tragedies that lead her to the eventual suicide. However, by hearing the point of views of others who had some sort of relationship with Hannah, it makes some of the characters that were previously demonized come across as more human than monster. There is not only a development of Hannah’s backstory but a much more intense development of how each character is coping with the suicide.
The last season of “Thirteen Reasons Why” was deeply criticized for how it handled intense topics such as suicide, depression and rape. Many felt that it glorified mental illness and suicide, as well as showed graphic content with little to no prior warning.
It seemed as though the creators of “Thirteen Reasons Why” took this criticism to heart; before the beginning of episode one, there is a disclaimer made by the entire cast, warning of the serious topics involved in the show and how it may be triggering for some viewers to watch. Additionally, at the end of each episode, there is a crisis line to Google that includes both the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine.
Along with including the crisis lines and additional disclaimers, some of the characters focus more on the reasons to stay alive, rather than the reasons to die. Hannah Baker’s mother emphasizes one of the main characters, Clay Jensen, that no matter how many reasons people find to die, the reasons to stay alive always outweigh them.
Furthermore, some of the characters that previously struggled with mental illness are seen getting the necessary help and determining how to best cope with their illness in a way that isn’t so violent.
While regarding the topics of mental illness, “13 Reasons Why” has made a slight effort in improvement, there are other issues brought in to season two that are not necessary to the plot.
They show many incidents of teens threatening other teens with guns, as well as a bully victim longing to turn to guns as compensation for the cruelty brought upon him. While it is true that these issues are very prevalent in our society, some of the situations were brought up in a way that was so graphic that very few viewers could watch.
Not only were the bullying scenes extremely graphic and unnecessary to further the plot, but the issue of gun violence seemed to be handled in a careless manner. It seems as though bully victims naturally want to turn to gun violence, and as though one meaningful conversation is all it takes to stop them.
The same cast and crew have returned for season two of “13 Reasons Why,” featuring Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen and Kate Walsh as Mrs. Baker. Created by Brian Yorkey and continuing as a Netflix original series, “13 Reasons Why” has received mixed reviews. While earning an 8.2/10 on IMDb, it received a mere 54 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, proving the series isn’t for everyone.
While improving on its handling of topics such as teen suicide and mental illness, “Thirteen Reasons Why” continued to poorly handle sensitive and triggering topics that affect many teens in today’s society. While still maintaining an interesting plot line, an impressive cast and an important message of coping with tragedy, certain issues that were not necessary to the plot were included for what seemed to be the “shock factor.” If you do choose to watch the series, make sure you are in the proper mental state to do so and remember that help is always here.
—by Julia Fickenscher