Article by Sarah Pickett | esPResso Staff Writer
The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has sparked a major conversation surrounding one of the the biggest social issues in recent history, teen suicide. Based on the novel by Jay Asher, the series tackles a number of struggles for teenagers today, including school bullying, sexual assault, homosexuality and mental illness. The story follows Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old girl who moves to a suburban town for a new start, but ends up being harassed and eventually commits suicide. She leaves behind a series of cassette tapes, which explain the 13 reasons for her suicide. Instead of leaving the cassettes with her parents, she leaves them to the students who were most influential in her decision to take her own life.
Similar to other teen dramas such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heathers and One Tree Hill, the series exposes the troubling reality of the average high school students’ life. However, the use of social media sets it apart from previous high school dramas. The modern technology raises the stakes and creates an additional platform where bullying can take place.
Selena Gomez, actress, singer and long time advocate for social issues, has taken the role of the executive producer of the series. Her involvement in the project has popularized the series, expanding its audience even further. In an interview with New York Times she states, “I wanted it to be credible,” she continues “If I’m a part of it, that’s going to cause a whole other conversation.” Social media posts on her personal accounts have acted as another form of promotion for the show.
Before the premiere of the show, France Netflix launched an interactive online experience for smart phones and mobile devices. The web experience allows fans to explore the content of Hannah’s phone, including her messages, social media pages and contacts. This allowed for audiences to gain a better understanding of Hannah’s day to day struggles. In addition, it was a successful promotion for the show and created much anticipation for its premiere.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading causes of death for people ages 15 to 24. 13 Reasons Why addresses it in an authentic way that has resonated with a large fan base. The hashtag #13ReasonsWhy has been streaming with mostly positive reactions to the show. According to Twitter data, there has been 3.4 million tweets about the show in just one week. The popularity and positive reception of the show is just one step in the direction of decreasing and ultimately ending teen suicide. Hopefully, its popularity will force people to see the serious repercussions of bullying and ,perhaps the most important message, that suicide is in fact 100% preventable.