Netflix Originals are gaining more and more popularity. On the one side there are series such as “Orange Is the New Black”, “House of Cards”, and “Narcos”, which have an inevitable peak when a new season is released, but then remain popular until the next season comes out. On the other hand, there are also series like last year’s “Stranger Things”, which are usually the most talked about show for a few months, and are then silently forgotten about until a new season is released, or until they are nominated for some important award. The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is certainly one of the latter, a show that right now is on everyone’s mouths, but will probably fade into oblivion in a couple months.
The reason why (no pun intended) “Stranger Things” lost its popularity so early is probably because the word spread out so quickly that most of its target audience binged it within a month from its release. However, this did not happen only because it was a gripping and addictive series, but also because of its extraordinary quality. “13 Reasons Why”, on the other hand, is not that good. It’s clearly not bad, and it certainly is gripping, but that’s not what a great TV show looks like. Nonetheless, it gained a lot of attention so fast for one main reason: it’s targeted at teenagers and young millennials, who control the vast majority of social media. It has already become a source of memes, and this has pushed many critics and mental health experts to blame the show for having trivialised depression and suicide. And, frankly, they’re not wrong.
13 Reasons Why, in fact, portrays Hannah’s suicide as a revenge on her schoolmates, as she seems determined to make them feel guilty for leading her to commit suicide. This is where the show (and, presumably, the novel it’s based on) makes a huge mistake: the concept could have worked, but the final result, and in particular the portrayal of Hannah’s personality, is definitely wrong and misleading. Nonetheless, the series does convey a positive message, and although the narrated events are exaggerated, the show’s morale is incredibly simple: be nice.
And perhaps this is what the younger generation needed: to see the extremes their blame-culture can get to, and the consequences this can have on people. The show sends an anti-bullying message that the hyperbolic and social-media addicted youth can understand. They are asked to think about how important it is to be nice to each other, and to reflect on how exaggerated and overly dramatic people can be at their age. The result is, yes, a misleading show which portrays mental illness inaccurately, but also a parody of what teenagers think and of their exaggerated behaviour. Hopefully, the younger generation will grasp the true meaning of the show, becoming aware of how absurd some people’s behaviour can be at their age, and of the effect this can have on other people’s feelings.