Suicide is one of the prominent taboos of contemporary society. It is the ‘main word’ that nobody wants to hear, but ignoring the word does not solve anything. The causes for suicide go much more beyond that of simple explanation. I believe those who have decided to end their lives are misunderstood, unable to overcome the adversities that surround them. Suicide is like a puzzle of unpredictable factors and does not present one ‘root cause’ as much may presume. When looking more in depth into television series with the issue of suicide, the way the idea is presented is the main cause of the negative effects they present. The way things are explained and elaborated on television series has proven to have a significant effect on its audience, whether it is positive or negative. The audience gets attached and ‘binge watch’ the shows, but some people take this to an alternate level. This means take into literal meaning the actions produced in the series. Nowadays, the best example to show the use of suicide in television series is one of the most trending television show: 13 Reasons Why.
The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, goes like this: Clay Jensen returns home after school to find a box with cassettes, which he later discovers were recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush, who committed suicide two weeks earlier, leaving behind tapes. This show is the most prominent example of the effect TV series have on the audience. Being the most recent example, the specifics of this show has had various effects to the audience. The show goes into what is known as the ‘butterfly effect’. The effect refers to the fact that an initial disturbance in a system, through an amplification process, can generate a large effect in the short or long term. And this is exactly what is projected in the series. A text message with a photo that says more than a thousand words about Hannah, brought as a consequence a whole chain of acts that ended up leading to a violation, and sometimes it seems that everything was isolated.Everything starts with something, and ends up with something worse if the context does not help. Hannah helped us connect the facts.
Few shows have taken on the issue to talk about suicide. As explained by the director of the TV show, Selena Gomez, the main goal was to help raise awareness and prevent suicide. I strongly believe that was not the case. The show does not present anything to promote the awareness, and it does not show an alternative to the choice of suicide. This means that the show, in a way, idealizes the idea of suicide. I believe this idealization arises from the lack of objectivity to observe only the positive side of things. It tends not only to ignore imperfections and defects but to exaggerate these negative points even more. So, when a person creates a mental image about death, believing that if he/she dies, all his/her problems will be solved. Although many times those who commit suicide are not aware of their way of perceiving death, their unconscious makes them believe that everything will be resolved with death. For this same reason it is important to be aware of the sensitive subject that is the topic of suicide; therefore, portraying it in a TV series so ‘idealistically’ will have negative consequences.
The issue with social media is that the spread and interpretation of the items transmitted via the television series, will receive a different response. This is referred to how the material is taken in. To further prove my point that showing such graphic and sensitive topic truly does have a negative effect on its viewers, I did some research. The statistics showed that there was a significant increase in the online searches for: “how to commit suicide and how to kill yourself”(Otterson, 2017).The shocking results “were cumulatively 19% higher for the 19 days following the release of 13 Reasons Why”(Otterson,2017). These results are just a small preview of how significantly the content of a show can affect its audience. I also looked into scenarios of the real world. There have been a couple of instances of copycats. I am not saying that the show promotes suicide, but to people battling with mental disabilities, such as depression, it can serve as a trigger. For teenagers, sadly, “suicide is the third cause of death”(A.M,2018).This means that the trigger for the television show, 13 Reasons Why, has directly affected it teenage audience negatively. There was a real case that occurred in Peru. A young boy jumped out of his balcony and left behind tapes to everyone he believed contributed to the decision of taking his own life.
As a communicator it is our responsibility to be careful and really investigate before publishing and transiting a message. As seen like the boy from Peru, there are real cases of people taking the messages from the T.V into their own hands. The mistake for 13 Reasons Why was the lack of prevention for suicide portrayed.It idealized the situation. There is a reason why not many others shows choose topics that relate to mental disorders. It is because of the sensitivity of the matter and the unpredictable results of the audience. In other words, be careful with what you publish. Thanks to the statistics, it really showed that T.V. shows do have an effect on the audience.
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