What ‘13 Reasons Why’ Teaches Us About Bullying, Rape and Suicide
13 Reasons Why is a show, adapted from a book about a girl who commits suicide and leaves 13 tapes to explain what and who drove her to kill herself. The show has arguably many problematic facets, but when watched without reading between the lines, it delivers a slap in the face of all those individuals who were ever unkind to any other person, with or without justification.
The show is valuable in the way it contextualises the impact of school bullying, and is relevant because Indian schools are rampant with cases of insidious ragging.
The girl with curly hair is called Malinga, while the boy with darker skin was named Andhera. They are called these names out loud, and our teachers visibly suppress giggles at how witty her students are. These names always stick on, but most bullied didn’t believe they were victims.
The Show Accurately Portrays Slut-Shaming of Girls
While the show makes you aware of the nuances of communication you enter into, it also deals with the very important issue of slut-shaming women – a behaviour that shuts girls down all over the world.
Most Indian schools have a 'slut', a 'wannabe' and an 'it girl', and all three categories are seamless, subject to an upgrade, and a downgrade after a party scandal. Some boys in our school once recorded an 'upskirt', and faced strict action which included nothing. The girl was pressured by her classmates to bail them out. She did.
The show did a great job in illustrating how girls could feel with anonymous confessions and statements made on websites like ask.fm, how their self-worth is impacted when perceived as ‘hoes’, and all they have to go through to reverse that reputation.
The Need For Proper Counselling For School Children
Disappointingly, 13 Reasons Why did not deal with mental health adequately. However, it addresses the nonchalance of the school counsellor when approached. This should be an important lesson for all Indian schools, where counselors usually address issues relating to college applications, and are not willingly approached by the students suffering from emotional and social pressures.
These children are particularly vulnerable, and this vulnerability has been the essence of the show 13 Reasons Why. Just like Sex Ed, schools need to talk to children about these issues to create an atmosphere where people suffering from these can come forward and trust their teachers. These teachers can then monitor attendance, how students are coping with their studies, who they are friends with, and ensure their vulnerability isn't exploited by oblivious children.
The Show’s Treatment of Rape and Suicide Was Erroneous
The protagonist of the show was a victim of rape. While it may be construed a reason for the suicide alongside bullying, the viewers must be able to tell the difference of the impact of the acts.
The issue of suicide itself has also been irresponsibly portrayed, with a glaring, grotesque visual of how the act was carried out, posing as a potential trigger to anybody who might be contemplating it.
Hannah’s tapes also take a strange retributive undertone, and give off the impression as though this is her way of exacting revenge on her perpetrators. This is a terrible message to send out to anybody who might be depressed, and the impression that they regain control of their narrative only after they kill themselves is extremely harmful.
Individuals must always need to be reminded of this, and be actively encouraged to seek help for all problems – big and small. The Indian parent attitude on character-building and letting children fend for themselves needs to be discarded instantly. While it is important to make your children emotionally strong to withstand peer pressure, vigilance is required to ensure that this happens in a healthy way.
Finally, the lesson of kindness is one that is being forgotten. In a bid to ensure competency, perseverance, focus, and skill, being nice and helpful and happy is being de-prioritised, and that must be emphasised on again.
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