The following contains 13 Reasons Why spoilers and mentions of rape and suicide.
Netflix's new show 13 Reasons Why, starring Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford, has captivated and unsettled viewers in equal measure, in addition to creating somewhat of a storm on social media. Amongst the spoiler alerts, the Clannah vs Clony shipping, and the black and white gif-making, there has been several more serious posts addressing the purpose of the show.
While some have said that 13 Reasons Why makes you consider your actions more carefully and realise the importance of kindness, others have claimed that it shouldn't take a TV show for people to treat each other with respect.
It is true that people should know not to be cruel to one another, regardless of whether or not a TV show taught them not to. However, completely disregarding the fact that 13 Reasons Why can - and does - teach a valuable lesson about how much our words and actions can matter is futile and unhelpful.
The series is full of complex, three dimensional characters, and they each have their own motivations for doing what they do. Hannah tells the story through her perspective, but we as the audience see more deeply into the lives of the other characters, and we begin to sympathise with them. Well, not all of them. (I'm looking at you, Bryce Walker).
I think we can all agree that the actions of Bryce are inexcusable, but when it comes to the others, things aren't so black and white. How many of us have been angry at the wrong person because we were feeling insecure, like Jessica, or Zach? How many of us have done something stupid to try and impress the popular kids, like Alex, or Marcus? How many of us have lied about something because we were scared, like Sheri, or Courtney? These characters are supposed to be relatable; they are not supposed to be bad people. And while their actions are not excusable, they are explainable.
Bad actions do not always come from bad people, nor do they always come from bad intentions. Everyone makes mistakes and does things they later regret in 13 Reasons Why, and this is an incredible reflection of real life, especially against the backdrop of high school. Teenagers are not perfect - arguments and rumours happen. Hannah's story is not a black and white tale of school bullying, it is of several bad actions that are committed against her by individuals - and although ultimately they are wrong, most do have motivation and explanation. Most of these characters are redeemable, just as people are.
But while it may be true that these characters can be forgiven, nevertheless, collectively they were the cause of Hannah's decision to take her own life - and therein lies the show's purpose. Individual actions may seem harmless, but you do not always know what is going on in a person's life. And while intentions may not always be cruel, consequences can be devastating.
13 Reasons Why is so incredibly raw and real, and it was not intended to be easy to watch. The harrowing rape scenes with Jessica and Hannah, as well as the graphic suicide scene, are supposed to unsettle the viewer. This is not a mystery of a manic pixie dream girl and her story is not meant to be romanticised - this is a story of an imperfect 17-year-old who takes her own life after a series of terrible things happen to her. Her death is violent and bloody and scary to watch, and seeing how it affects those around her is no less haunting. The show is profound and thought-provoking, and it certainly made me consider my previous and future actions towards others. Sometimes it takes powerful media to put things into perspective, and choosing to be self-righteous and slamming others for learning from this series is not only counter-productive, but completely misses the intent of the show.