By Halyee Holt
How far is too far? How substantial of an influence does our media messages create in our technologically-savvy society? Could the way producers go about remodeling the values within the younger generation be too crude, inappropriate and disturbing? The new, Netflix original film, 13 Reasons Why, has seen to have occupied the interest of every teenager in contemporary society.
In the TV series, 13 Reasons Why, a timid and innocent teenager, Clay Jensen, experiences traumatic and eye-opening revelations after listening to 13 cassette tapes that his dead classmate left for him. Hannah Baker, a 16-year old girl who committed suicide, created 13 tapes that contain her 13 reasons for killing herself. On each tape, Hannah goes into excruciating detail of why each of the 13 peers at school contributed to the cruelty that led to her death.
Most teenagers are drawn to shows that express the issues they have witnessed or face themselves. This film utilizes their own message while capturing the interest of teenagers through the dramatic and over-the-top focus on serious issues. Our society needs to acknowledge the desperate need for revisions in our rules, processes and value systems. However, is the way we go about creating this change too far?
In this book-inspired series, Hannah Baker highlights many topics including social constructs, gender roles, familial negligence, sexual harassment and assault, distribution of drugs and alcohol, sexual experimentation, self harm, verbal bullying, school reinforcement and rape. When teenagers are exposed to damaging concepts deep within the contexts of the current entertainment, are we carefully constructing the terms in which we present this information?
The show warns the audience of the crude content and partial nudity at the beginning of the episodes containing particularly innappropriate portions, but nothing prepares oneself for the act of rape or suicide. Arguably speaking, the three most provoking, unpleasant and bothersome scenes would be the witness and act of rape and the act of bleeding to death. Unfortunately, the younger ages face these types of difficult and unhinging situations. According to the Parent Resource Program, “Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.” In addition, RAINN states, “1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.” They utilize a very descriptive, unblocked approach to appeal to the audience’s emotions. Is this the only way to reach the audience on a level that persuades them to change their own lifestyle and values so that these situations cease to occur? Does this pathos style contribute to the beginning of change within school system, peers and society overall?
Whether you are a concerned parent or an intrigued individual, we need to face these demons within our own society. Regardless of the way in which this show exhibits serious topics, it ends on a more positive cliff hanger. The 13 kids start to feel guilt and take responsibility for their part in the bullying of Hannah Baker. In addition, the tapes are released to the school board and the Baker family. Will there be a sequel to this show due to the high ratings? Most likely there will be. Hopefully we will see more of an inspiring story line that allows positive influence instead of the crudeness that came with the approach of the first series. Netflix, like any other business, is trying to create a large profit and this show sells. With that being said, we as the audience of all media messages need to open our eyes to what content we want to distribute in order to create a change and how we want that information to be presented.