If you've opened your computer at all within the past six months, then you've more than likely seen something about the Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why.
Whether you're a fan of the show or not, it's impossible to deny its significant impact on pop culture. Indeed, the 13-episode series has become somewhat of a phenomenon in a very short amount of time, taking over people's timelines and newfeeds everywhere.
It's true what you've seen about the show probably has to do with its controversial nature. Thematically, the show addresses difficult, triggering issues like mental health, bullying, rape, and suicide; and, as a result, producers have faced serious backlash from viewers regarding how the show broaches such sensitive subjects.
In particular, major critiques have surfaced about the way 13RW depicts Hannah Baker's suicide in graphic detail. Many have said the show essentially offers a step-by-step guide for anyone considering suicide, and that it glamorizes the subject for television.
Recently, in an interview with Teen Vogue, Katherine Langford (the actress who plays Hannah Baker) offered her thoughts on the one scene that has sparked such a broad conversation in the media. Langford said,
I don't think there was ever a moment where we didn't want to show Hannah's suicide because that wouldn't have been staying true to the vision of the show. I felt like it would have sugarcoated the severity of the issue. It's not pretty, it's not romanticized, it's not a beautiful tragedy—it's agonizing, and it's physically painful to watch.
Clearly, Langford agrees with the show's decision to include Hannah's suicide with such vivid detail as opposed to censoring it. The actress went on to talk about how she thinks this scene, and the show in general, has brought necessary attention to formerly "taboo" topics. She said,
I think one of the best things that the show has done, from what I've heard and what I've seen, is it's started a discussion in a really big way. I think it's that discussion where I feel like the impact or the change can be made. The show may not necessarily be the change, but if it can be the instigator for that kind of discussion, then that's where I find that it's helpful.
One thing Langford says here is certainly indisputable: The conversation in mainstream media about mental health and suicide has picked up in recent months.
Whether or not the Netflix series is the catalyst for this long overdue representation, we can't know for sure, but shows like this and Dear Evan Hanson have certainly been given the platforms to bring these issues to the forefront of viewers' minds.
As representations of subjects like this become less quiet, it is more important than ever to understand that with a platform comes a very strong responsibility to approach topics sensitively and with a keen sense of awareness.
Of course, we look forward to seeing how 13 Reasons Why will continue to open up the discussion about mental health in its second season, because, as Langford said, it is "one of the best things that the show has done."