In the Year of Our Lord 2020, a diffuse understanding of what constitutes “media” has increasingly flooded the world with easily consumable content—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Disney+, and others create and distribute online television and movies, while the traditional Hollywood studio system works frantically to keep pace with its nimble digital competitors. Alongside cable television, this triumvirate of mainstream content-makers contends with the proliferation of media that has arisen in recent years—podcasts, fringe websites, talk radio, YouTube, social media. With a camera and microphone nestled neatly in your pocket, one can create, edit, and distribute content of any kind with ease—and the cultural impact, like the technology that enables it, is rapidly evolving.
Recently, a phenomenon has emerged where the phrase and concept “mental health” has become a popular method to gain clout for both celebrities and wannabe celebrities. As society has become a slightly more accepting place for people struggling with their mental health, rappers and singers, as well as TV and film, have tried to use this heightened societal focus for clout.
Those of you who know me are probably aware of the fact that I’m a massive Batman fan. I grew up watching the animated series, dressing up, and reading stories about Batman. So naturally one of my favorite villains, if not my favorite, has been the Joker. Completely devoid of morality or any sense of human decency, the Joker causes chaos and mayhem wherever he goes, pissing off Batman and driving him ever closer to the edge. One of the reasons I think the Joker makes such a good villain is that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He is just this being of pure evil that has no regard for any of his actions and how they affect people.
Initially, 13 Reasons Why was praised for bringing attention to issues of mental health among adolescents. The show was characterized as “daring” for addressing such a controversial and complicated subject. However, many mental health professionals have criticized the show for misrepresenting depression and suicide. While there are certainly come aspects of the show that beneficially portray issues of mental health, as a whole, it fails in this respect.
When I was in middle school, my family’s favorite show to watch was Monk. A crime procedural show about a detective with OCD, Monk always delivered a gripping mystery mixed perfectly with humor (often at the expense of Adrian Monk, the detective.) I still love this show, and for years after those cowards at Netflix removed it from their service, I’d scour the internet to be able to re-watch it. But since the end of high school my feelings on the show have definitely matured, especially in regards to how the show portrays OCD.