WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Anyone who has a subscription to Netflix, or knows someone who has one, knows that the show 13 Reasons Why recently released a second season. Anyone who has a mental illness, or knows someone who has a mental illness, knows that this show is extremely controversial among the mental health community.
I made the decision to watch the show when it first came out because I had already read the book years ago, and I was curious to see how Netflix chose to portray the book. By the end of the season, I thought they depicted the book pretty well and obviously sprinkled in some extra details. However, I was shocked at their decision to show a rape and a suicide on show that was advertised for awareness. When I think of raising awareness for issues like sexual assault and depression, the awareness is focused on helping victims, prevention, and resources. What I don’t think of when I think of awareness is showing the actual acts of these terrible things. I was able to get through the season with minimal damage but I could see how people with fresh wounds or even scars that had faded can be affected by this show.
Watching through the second season, I realized I was growing more anxious with each episode. I could honestly talk about a number of story arcs shown in this season, but I’m only going to focus on one, and that’s Tyler. In season one, we learn Tyler is a school photographer that gets harassed pretty often. Its clear there are people on top of this school and Tyler is not one of them. We also see that Tyler, like every human being, has major flaws when he takes pictures of Hannah Baker without her knowing. While this is always a wrong thing to do, and ultimately contributes to Hannah’s suicide, life at Liberty High only gets worse and worse for him after this until he is alone. In the new episodes, Tyler becomes isolated after losing the one friend he had managed to make. He is dealing with very intense emotions of anger and frustration with the school faculty for not intervening with the bullying and sexual misconduct that was occurring. We see Tyler become more familiar with firearms. While this is not inherently dangerous, as it is very important to be able to handle a firearm safely if you choose to do so, Tyler begins to associate the guns in his hands as a means to enact revenge on his bullies. As the show progressed, all these hints were leading up to a school shooting in my mind and I was very hesitant to finish the season. I kept at it though, with remote in hand, just in case I needed to not be watching anymore. And then, Tyler goes through a program where he learns to control his anger and learn how to understand all of the intense feelings he was having. It seems like the crisis was averted, he got the help he needed and he actually looked better. Everything seemed like it could get a little bit better, but the people behind this show are good at making you forget that there are still bad people at that school.
In the final episode, Tyler is cornered in a school bathroom, beaten, and sexually assaulted by one of the baseball players with a broom. The moment this scene started I had a physical . I understand that this scene is meant to raise awareness for male victims or rape and sexual assault and that is a very important thing to do. However, this is another example of how showing the actual crime can actually be very traumatizing for people that have actually gone through it. Adam, my boyfriend, and I were in shock after this scene, just very uncomfortable. The episode started to come to a close at their high school dance, with a very emotional scene featuring one of my absolute favorite songs (The Night We Met by Lord Huron – seriously, go listen to it) where all the main characters come to comfort each other after the roller coaster that was this season. We also see Tyler going into his basement, grabbing a case filled with handguns, assault weapons, and ammunition. We see him pack them into his car and drive to the school. He gets out and throws a backpack on, carries a pistol on his leg, and what looks to me like an AR-15 (feel free to fact check me on that if its not an actual AR-15, that’s just my best guess based on my experience with firearms) in his hands. Clay Jensen, one of the shows main protagonist, runs out of the dance and confronts him. He stands in Tyler’s way, preventing him from getting inside, talking with him. As police sirens start to sound in the distance, Clay convinces Tyler to give up his weapon, climb into a getaway car, and drive off. Clay is left holding the rifle as the police get closer. And that is season two.
I’ve got to say, I am so relieved that they didn’t show an actual school shooting. My younger brother still has a year left of high school at the end of the summer, and I don’t think I could watch something like that knowing that it is a real possibility. This is obviously a very important issue right now in this country, and awareness is needed to help prevent those tragedies. This show made a point to show how quickly that can become a reality. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, whether its gun control or more guns, we all can agree that this is a relevant and pressing matter that needs to be dealt with now, and that each side needs to be open minded and cooperative. I’m tired of both sides of almost every political debate refusing to have a conversation and look at problems from all points of view. It is important for people to know that these things are happening, so that they can actively take part in helping
Well, I didn’t think I’d be dipping into politics during this, but I get sidetracked and go on tangents so it’s not a huge surprise. Thanks for not getting lost along the way! Obviously the show also dives further into depression, rape, rape culture, suicide, as well as substance abuse, but it also shows characters getting help. Whether its through small therapy groups, programs, or a stay at a mental health facility. You begin to see characters with mental illnesses start to recover. Whether you like the show or hate it, it can help start a conversation. The more you talk with others and share experiences, the more people can become aware of their own actions and misconceptions.
Tell me what you thought of the show! I’m also dropping some resources that you can go to if you or someone you know needs help getting through this crazy mess of a world. Remember, you are never weak for asking for help.
Crisis Text Line:
Test REASON to 741741 or visit http://www.crisistextline.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Call 1(800) 273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
The Trevor Project:
Call 1(866) 488-7386 or visit http://www.thetrevorproject.org
A suicide prevention organization focused on the LGBTQ community.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network):
Call (800) 656-4673 or visit http://www.rainn.org