Have you ever been so depressed that you’ve honestly thought suicide was the only way to end your suffering? Yeah, I know that went 0 to 100 in . 2 seconds but believe me, I’ve been there. So have my two best friends, Hannah Baker of 13 Reasons Why, a new Netflix series sweeping the nation, and Charlotte “Charlie” Davis of Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. Now, I know you are wondering why I am writing about two pieces of Young Adult entertainment that openly speak of suicide and the recovery process. Mainly because both 13 Reasons Why and Girl In Pieces manipulate the trope of “love will save you” to appeal to society.
We’ve all heard about the new Netflix show entitled 13 Reasons Why which follows the aftermath of a student’s suicide. Based off that description it should sound like a series dedicated to raising awareness. However, that is that exact opposite of what the show actually portrays. The show instead ignored the advice of medical professionals who urged them to not sensationalize suicide among other things. They glamorized suicide as a revenge act blaming Hannah’s friends for her actions and her inability to seek help as she immortalized herself and her suicide in a suicide note.
Why? Because society has become obsessed with a romanticized version of mental illnesses and suicide. The show romanticized it as a way for a boy, Clay to finally realize he was in love with Hannah. But also when you die by suicide you are no longer culpable for the actions you had. These two narratives only further the stigma around mental health in that they are toxic and used sole for shock value. Suicide isn’t romantic or edgy, because saying “I love you” does not fix the suicidal thoughts or how alone a person feels.
It only desensitized us of how painful it is only caring to use it as a plot point to blame someone else. Where as in Girl In Pieces, it shows the long recovery after a suicide attempt and no matter how much support from others the thoughts still linger that suicide was more than just a plot point but a start to forgiveness. 13 Reasons Why gets suicide wrong because the only person who can save you is yourself. Next, both forms of entertainment entertain the romanticized suicide and recovery trope through relationships involving the main character. Hannah has Clay, an average boy she worked and was friends with.
While Charlie has her old best friends Mikey and Ellis. Hannah’s relationship is the entire series meant to play out like Romeo and Juliet, her as a martyr. Except here is the problem, she blames Clay for her death not directly at least. Their relationship makes the whole suicide act unrealistic especially in the aftermath. To Hannah and the audience Clay is to blame for her death simply because he didn’t love her right. It sends the message to girls to find their own Clay Jensen who will kiss their attention seeking self-harm scars and tell them how pretty they are.
The show capitalized off a tragic love story to appeal to teenage girls looking for their knight in shine armor. Additionally, the same could be said for Girl in Pieces, Charlie is in love with both of her best friends Mikey and Ellis. However, this is more Romeo and Juliet than 13 Reasons Why because a motivating factor in Charlie’s suicide attempt was Ellis’s suicide attempt then with having a crush on Mikey and believing he would help her through recovery. Girl In Pieces utilized the trope of love in a similar way with how Charlie also found her knight in shining armor who eventually let her down like Clay.
They both send the message that a boy will be the answer to save you in a relationship and that you will never save yourself. That love will only come when you cry out for help and will often be mistaken when boys don’t stick around. I know I have bashed both 13 Reasons Why and Girl In Pieces, however there is some good in their respective stories. They both raise awareness for mental health and suicide and do open the discussion up in society since they are still treated as taboo subjects.
They bring a new light to the health care through their awareness showcasing the little amounts of support mentally ill patients actually receive. In 13 Reasons Why counselors are distracted and not focused on student issues often seen ill-prepared to handle bullying and suicidal kids. Their use was to elevate the mistreatment many ill patients face to achieve proper therapy and medication, but also how many are turned down because they are suicidal which would open a potential for a lawsuit.
But in Girl In Pieces, it explained that when they are taken seriously and do receive the proper treatment they can return to a functioning life that they can hold a job and participate in society. Finally, the two address how the little things do add up and how suicide isn’t a spontaneous act that it is methodical meaning it was seen as the only way out of their terrible situation. That the old saying “Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was never true in the first place.