Since Netflix released its latest series 13 Reasons Why on March 31, the book-based teenage drama has received nothing but praise for its casting and elegant treatment of such a hard subject matter: suicide. The story revolves around the death of Hannah, a high school student who has left a series of tapes explaining her decision to kill herself to the bunch of students who, she illustrates, have caused her to do so. The young adult novel it is based on was written by Jay Asher and published in 2007. In 2011, it was #1 on The New York Times best-seller list.

My roommate, a loyal Netflix-er, immediately binge-watched the series and dismissed it as bland and unimpressive. I was surprised when suddenly my newsfeed was rife with articles praising 13 Reasons Why’s extraordinary success at having portrayed such a delicate and tabooed theme: mental health amongst young adults. The book has now spiked to the top of USA Today’s list of best sellers, ten years after its publication, and the show’s success on Netflix is unprecedented: “According to statistics from global audience insights firm Fizziolog, 13 Reasons Why has seen more social volume than any other Netflix original series. Since Amazon and Hulu shows don't generate anywhere near the level of buzz that a new Netflix release does, we can basically take that to mean that it's the highest social volume achieved by any streaming show, ever.”

After watching a few of the episodes myself, I have to say I’m just as unimpressed as my roommate and also shocked at how much ridiculousness the show managed to get away with. It felt borderline unethical to watch Clay and his father joke about how out of style the word “boombox” is, when I knew the reason he needed the machine in the first place was to play tapes he’d received containing messages from his dead friend. These messages said that her suicide was his—and twelve other’s—faults. If such a thing ever happened in real life, I would hope no one would produce a quirky teen drama about it on Netflix. It is a dark and horrifying story that was sensationalized for the sake of the next hit, and it’s not the first time this has been done.

Narcos is another Netflix original that tracks the life and capture of none other than Pablo Escobar, the druglord who—according to his hitman—is responsible for at least 3,300 deaths. And that’s just what’s on record. Escobar was a ruthless, cunning murderer who gets portrayed as a suave, powerful and almost godly figure in Narcos, so much so that his own son came forth with criticism about the show’s glorification of his dad. “I receive tons of messages from youths asking for help to be like my dad. They want to be that criminal, they send me photos dressed up like him, with his moustache, his hairstyle,” said Juan Pablo Escobar, who changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin after his infamous dad’s death. It seems that though he wanted to disassociate himself from any connection to the drug lord as quickly as possible, yet Netflix didn’t mind hosting Narcos.

13 Reasons Why creates the same tension for a very different narrative—one that’s probably much more relevant to its viewing audience—which is why I was so surprised to see how easily the show had been accepted. A Forbes article titled “13 Reasons Why '13 Reasons Why' Should Be Your Next Netflix Binge” frustratingly glosses over all the very legitimate criticism the author had to offer in order to praise things as superficial as the music, the genre and the time frame.

Only at the very end does the article comes clean: “The really weird thing about this show is its treatment of mental illness. Suicide isn't always caused by mental illness, but depression and the way depression can lead to things like suicide is often much more complicated than just how other people impact someone's life. Bullying can lead to suicide, but often there's other issues at play, including physiological reasons that have nothing to do with heartbreak. To a disturbing degree, these reasons, the less dramatic but more realistic reasons, are given short shrift in favor of a mysterious conspiracy. That's good for entertainment but it leaves many of the harsh realities of teen suicide on the sidelines.”

Those are all extraordinarily important points that need to be brought up, discussed and absolutely torn apart before a show like 13 Reasons Why becomes a hit for trying to capture the painfully complex spectrum of mental health, peer pressure and bullying amongst high school students. Instead of doing so, the show’s audience has been captivated by the irresistibly dark dramatics of the characters and the storyline. The true success of the show, then, lies not in the way it portrays suicide or mental health because it does such a terrible job in that regard; what 13 Reasons Why accomplishes is a cliché set of stereotypical characters caught in a sad, dark situation that they’re all a bit too helpless to get themselves out of. These characters make things like depression and bullying seem like quirky side effects of being cool, brooding and misunderstood. In my opinion, they do more harm than good for the discussion of these topics in the real world.

The plots of these kinds of stories sensationalize dark truths in order to get a shock factor, which makes their appeal utterly problematic. The show does not helpfully point out how friends could step into a dangerous situation, nor does it show what depression normally looks like. It feeds the audience with the cute, sad quirkiness of Clay, the admirable badass-ness of Hannah and the delicious mystery of who did what—none of which come in handy when you’re a depressed teenager living in the real world.

When the drama outdoes the purpose, it becomes a dangerous product.

Daniela Flamini is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “musings of an immigrant” runs on alternate Wednesdays.