13 Reasons Why (Harmful)

Dalainey Gervais, Associate Features Editor

CW: Sexual assault and suicide 

For a series supposedly about mental health awareness for teens, 13 Reasons Why spends four seasons romanticizing suicide and self-harm. This Netflix original, and one of their most controversial series, features Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford)—a depressed high school student who left behind seven cassette tapes containing 13 audio recordings. Each tape was assigned to a different classmate, listing them as reasons for her suicide. Throughout the series, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) becomes obsessed with uncovering Hannah’s reasons, while dealing with depression and anxiety himself. 

Each classmate on the cassette tapes has a dedicated episode that dives into their state of mind before and after Hannah’s death, highlighting the diverse ways people grieve— which is arguably the only positive thing about the show.

Inspired by the eponymous book, the Netflix series first aired in 2017, and was produced by Selena Gomez as an attempt to spark mental health conversations among teens. Ironically, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry demonstrated a rise in adolescent suicide rates in the United States as a direct result of the series. 

13 Reasons Why showed explicit scenes of the main character’s sexual assault and suicide. The portrayal of Hannah’s death by Langford was not only graphic, but it romanticized suicide as many viewers believed that the actress looked at peace. 

Almost two years after series’ original release, Netflix removed the suicide scene, added more content warnings, and suggested teens watch the show with an adult. 13 Reasons Why is not a story of high school teens facing their mental health challenges; it is a harmful story of revenge. 

Split (Harmful)

Whitney Buluma, Contributor

The psychological thriller Split follows Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), who has dissociative identity disorder (DID) and 24 distinct identities. Since DID is relatively uncommon—around one per cent of the population suffers from it—any media portrayal can strongly shape the public’s view of the disorder. Instead of approaching DID with the sensitivity and care it deserves, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan recycles the frustrating cinematic trope of depicting people with mental illness as …….

Source: https://themedium.ca/harmful-versus-helpful-portrayals-of-mental-health-in-film/

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