From nucleus - November 2018 - Review tv review: 13 Reasons Why
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13 Reasons Why topped Jumpshot's analysis of most-watched original shows on Netflix in the US when released in 2017. (1) The series chronicles the final year of the life of Hannah Baker, a high school senior, who takes her own life. She leaves behind 13 cassette tapes to be passed around her peers after she dies. Each episode covers one tape, which focuses on one person, and Hannah's view of their role in her suicide.
Popular also in the UK, the show was cited as a key topic of teenage discussion by the local youth counselling service at a GP training day I attended recently. Though critics responses were very positive, a broader range of reactions were seen in the Christian and medical spheres.
Some Christians advocated outright avoidance of this series, (2) while others were more balanced. (3) A respected journal linked the show to an increase in online searches for suicide in the days following the series' release. (4) The article noted that World Health Organization guidelines on suicide suggest warning messages and helpline numbers should be shown with such material, none of which were present initially.
I found the tragic story quite believable and barring the odd trans-Atlantic difference largely consistent with what I see in general practice in London.
How might we respond to this series?
But a well-executed series can lead us unquestioningly to accept its underlying ideas. Does Hannah really have the deep insight into events suggested by her tapes? Has she really got her revenge on those who were involved, now that she has died and left the recordings? Even if she was wronged, did it really justify all her actions? The second series questions these things, but still left a sense that Hannah had taken control by ending her own life. Is that really ever the case?
13 Reasons Why undoubtedly has artistic merit. Even though the underlying message and some of the content may concern us, questioning and thoughtful viewing will help us understand the background behind some of the patients who present to us. ?
Laurence Crutchlow is CMF Associate Head of Student Ministries and a GP in London
1. Redoble A. A way in for Netflix originals? Americans streaming behavior analysed bit.ly/2rcstrS
2. For a particularly forthright example see: 13 reasons why: one Christian's response. Graceful Abandon bit.ly/2CPXOI4