Conversations on suicide : 13 Reasons Why
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The television series 13 Reasons Why, released in March 2017, was followed by a wave of controversy over how it portrayed the suicide of its protagonist. Some critics thought that the show handled the suicide exceptionally well; others thought the overall premise and handling of the subject matter were irresponsible. The present study sought to examine the full spectrum of critiques of the show in order to determine whether they lined up with media guidelines for the portrayal of suicide, as well as to determine what dialectical tensions existed among the critiques. This study found that there were some areas in which journalistic critique of 13 Reasons Why did line up with media guidelines; however, there were far more instances in which journalists veered into territory that was distinct from what was mentioned within guidelines. Within this territory, there were several webs of dialectical tensions in which opposing arguments discussed similar concepts but drew differing conclusions. The primary areas of disagreement found in this study included 'accurate and relatable portrayal-versus-romanticization' of mental health issues, 'suicide as necessary-versus-suicide as irresponsible,' 'actions have consequences-versus-outsourcing blame for Hannah's suicide,' and 'suicide as preventable-versus-suicide as inevitable.' Some of these opposing poles could have been balanced via better storytelling, whereas others point to more foundational issues with the show.
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