Reasons why ‘13 Reasons Why’ is the worst piece of entertainment today | brunch$columns | Hindustan Times
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Reasons why ‘13 Reasons Why’ is the worst piece of entertainment today

The American web series on digital bullying and teen suicide gets everything wrong, feels Rajiv Makhni

brunch Updated: May 14, 2017 12:55 IST
Rajiv Makhni
13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original show that talks about the suicide of a teenage girl, Hannah Baker

It’s been deemed the most tweeted show of 2017 and the most discussed show on Facebook. But it is an online series and this is a column mostly about Tech. Why am I talking about it here? Because a lot of what happens in Thirteen Reasons Why, is about technology. How today’s digital generation skims but doesn’t delve deep into relationships, how it doesn’t understand the permanency and repercussions of social posts and pictures, and more importantly, the absolute lack of privacy in today’s ‘click and share it with everyone’ world. All of that leads to the extinguishing of a very young life.

The very first few seconds reveal that this is a story from beyond the grave, thanks to the voice of Hannah Baker, a teenager who is no longer with us. And the 13 reasons why she took such an extreme step. It’s one of the most watched series online, and consumed mostly by teenagers and school children themselves. Which is why, it’s a serious problem. Schools are sending out letters to parents asking them to censor it from their children while parents are terrified that it even exists.

Here are the reasons why this is by far the suckiest piece of entertainment today.

It makes suicide cool

Yes, it glorifies suicide, paints it in romantic colours, makes it sound like a good option and one that can be considered if your life isn’t going well. It makes ending your life quite a normal thing to do. It’s not suicide, it’s a cool thing to try out!

The show glorifies suicide as the solution to all problems

Not really over for you

Hannah Baker records 13 tapes and leaves them behind. To be heard after she’s gone. She then becomes the voice-over for all the events that happen after she kills herself. In effect, it showcases that you can kill yourself and then be around to observe the aftermath and people’s response to your decision.

It makes revenge a good thing

Hannah kills herself to teach certain people a lesson. That they were mean to her and weren’t around when she needed them. You weren’t nice to me, now I’ve killed myself and left you these tapes describing in excruciating detail how bad a person you are. Live with that guilt now, I’m out of here!

How to kill yourself guide

The depiction of how Hannah kills herself is graphic, raw and very messy. It’s shown in fantastic detail. It’s also a great 101 on how to get it right and not screw it up. The blood gushing, which way to cut, how much water in the bathtub – all presented as a suicide perfection manual to be followed.

It reaches out to the perfect audience

The story is about teenagers and school life – the ups and down, the fun, the dates, the attractions, the challenges, the jocks and suicides. Isn’t it great that it’s also aimed at that very audience. Teenagers! The most impressionable, and those that do experience suicidal thoughts due to pressure and immaturity.

Life challenges are impossible to handle

Yes, Hannah is shown to have some major challenges and problems. But she’s responsible for most of them due to her seriously bad life choices. Again and again. Pretty much like any teenager. The showrunners present suicide as a good response for when the challenges of life seem to overwhelm you. No lessons in how to overcome challenges, or why taking a bad decision every single time can lead to bad situations. Nope! Just suicide!

There are 13 cassettes that talk about the reasons that led to the girl’s suicide

The story and characters suck

Hannah has great parents. Involved and comforting, they’re always there for her and take active part in her life. Ditto for a few friends and a great counsellor at school too. But the story line conveniently ignores them when needed. Thus when she kills herself, she’s convinced herself she has no one. Huh?

Technology is the main villain

She records on cassette tape, and the main reasons why Hannah loses it are all tech and social media related. The first trigger is a (not very nice) picture taken of her and shared on instant messaging with the whole school, followed by more meanness resonated through social networks. They show technology as the villain without giving any lessons on how to be handle social media when it turns against you.

And more...

Unfortunately, all the controversy (including this column) is making it even more famous. May I suggest an alternative. Watch the show yourself, with your teenage children, with groups and show it in schools. Watch it and call it out, for what it is. A completely crap series that gets every single thing wrong. If there was ever a series that could be a showcase of how to misrepresent young lives and suicide, well, this one ticks all the boxes!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, May 14, 2017

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