13 Reasons Why is proving to be a controversial show. It’s already Netflix‘s most popular series on social media, with many viewers lauding it for addressing the difficult and largely taboo issues of suicide, self-harm, and teen bullying, and some critiquing it for being too triggering, too graphic, and altogether too painful for anyone to watch, much less teens.
Whether you find the show chilling and revealing or a glorification of teen suicide, the new “this is your tape” memes that have sprouted around the internet (and been tweeted by Netflix itself) are entirely missing the mark.
The memes suggest that Hannah Baker (the protagonist)’s reasons for committing suicide are silly and small by mocking the reasons she takes her own life, and the “this is your tape” line she says to each person who contributed to her decision. It also completely downplays the effect that bullying, sexual assault, mental health, and a million other things can play on a person’s decision to take their own life. Trivializing suicide is not funny, not even a little, nor is painting those who commit suicide as dramatic or sensitive.
Netflix seems to have joined in the fun as well (please note, this use of the word “fun” is dripping with sarcasm.)
When Hulu tweeted: “Streaming only on Hulu. Not on Netflix. Try your free trial today!” alongside a clip of Hulu original shows, Netflix decided to emulate Wendy’s in an attempt to be ~trendy~ and snappy and respond:
Unsurprisingly, some people were upset.
Others defended Netflix and the jokes, calling those who were offended “triggered” or “sensitive.”
The problem is, this meme directly counteracts what the groundbreaking show is attempting to do. 13 Reasons Why is hard to watch. It’s raw, it’s graphic, it has a detailed suicide scene and multiple rape scenes that are unflinchingly realistic. It paints high school the way it is for many teens — as a difficult, lonely place. Diminishing all of the realness, all of the troubling taboo topics of the show by painting suicide as an over-dramatic whim is not just problematic; it’s harmful.
As someone who has probably every Joe Biden meme saved on my phone, I’m not against a strong meme. Just please don’t make it about suicide. It’s not too much to ask.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.