Before I write about this I will state now there will be spoilers in this blog post, so if you haven’t finished the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, I suggest you don’t continue reading. I’d also like to state that I have read the book also. Although the book is powerful in its own way, I found a much deeper connection and I found it harder to watch the series. Lastly, if you’re reading this and you have no idea what 13 Reasons Why even is, what have you been doing with your life?
13 Reasons why is the story of a young teenager named Hannah Baker, who made the painful choice to take her own life. Before dying she made 13 tapes explaining the 13 reasons why she decided to commit suicide, and the 13 people who played a part in it. I will say now though that the TV series does differ from the book in many ways, some minor and some major, but it does still remain true to the story its trying to tell. Do I believe that they should have left the series with a few lose ends clearly hinting at a series two? No. I believe that they should have made it one series only, but its all about making money now a days I guess. The story touches on themes such as bullying, rape, depression and many things that more and more teenagers and young people are being exposed to.
I am someone who has always struggled with mental health issues and I haven’t made a secret of it. As soon as people hear the words mental health, it comes with a string of other words such as attention and desperate. They even touch on this in the show. In one classroom scene, an ‘anonymous’ note is left for a teacher to read to the class, which is later obviously shown to be from the main character herself. “What if the only way to stop feeling bad is to stop feeling anything at all, forever” were the words written on the note. “I think whoever wrote this is just looking for attention” and “maybe its a joke like someone is messing with us” were comments that followed after. This is something that I know to be true with how certain people view being suicidal. Young kids are being told and taught to believe that if someone is in need of help, that its just a cry for attention rather than believing they actually need it.
Many other things happen such as Hannah loses her two closest friends as they begin dating rendering her alone. Another kid stalks her and takes photo of her in the privacy of her own home, and another publishes a private poem she had written in a school magazine. The show takes a very dark turn when one of Hannah’s old friends Jessica is raped while heavily intoxicated at party by the ‘main jock’ Bryce, and she unfortunately had to witness it while hidden behind a door. Later on its revealed that at another party, Hannah is raped by Bryce himself after he forces himself on her in a hot tub. It was a topic of conversation when Hannah didn’t physically say the words no before or during the rape scene. The books Author Jay Asher has said that it was done on purpose. Jay sates that the lack of clear verbal non-consent was a deliberate choice as thats what people always hear. He says “when a girl says no, she means no. But there are plenty of times when girls are too afraid to say no for various reasons, but it doesn’t mean that because she hasn’t said no, that its ok.”. In the scene with Mr Porter in the last episode Hannah is unable to open up and talk about what had happened to her and she was unable to call it rape, and thats okay. Hannah isn’t meant to be a perfect character, she has many flaws. The physical and mental pain that comes with being raped and the shame certain people are made to feel I believe is what made Hannah feel as though she couldn’t be open and honest. I believe that if they were to shy away from the real nitty gritty of the nature of which they are depicting then I believe that to do others would minimise what real survivors go through everyday. Things like this need to be shown to young adults as everyone has a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. The harsh reality is that 1 in 5 girls alone are thought to have gone through or will go through a sexual assault in their lifetime. That is a sickening amount which could be reduced if we properly educate kids and really show them just how much things like sexual assault affect someone for the rest of their lives.
One of the main running themes throughout this whole series is very clearly bullying. It all starts off with one of the 13 making up a rumour about Hannah. He kissed her but then told all of his friends that more happened, which eventually had a ripple affect and caused peoples thoughts and attitudes to change towards Hannah. I’ve seen this happen first hand at school. I had friends who would either say or do something and next thing, just like Chinese whispers, it had spread like wildfire with so many different versions that you have to wonder how people had overstretched the truth. Bullying is something that sadly has just become the norm in most schools nowadays. This show has a good way of also giving the message across that cyber bullying mainly doesn’t end when the school bell rings at the end of the day. I believe it’s a generational thing as many adults nowadays didn’t grow up around social media and technology when they were in school. This show is a great way for adults and parents to really understand the effects that cyber bullying can cause for young kids currently. Passing notes around class comparing each other based on looks and ‘experiences’ is something that I’ve also been a witness to. It caught me off guard how authentic and uncensored Netflix actually made the show. Here, the kids say “fuck” in comparison to the girls of Pretty Little Liars, another typical unrealistic pretty teen drama, that will only go as far as using the word ‘Bitch’. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the fact that they swear is why the show did so well, but I did think it helped in shaping how realistic this world that the characters live in really is and how it mirrors society today.
Many people have voiced their opinions that what Hannah does can be misconstrued as sending the wrong message to the people who had wronged her and that suicide can be a good revenge against them. I do not believe that in anyway, due to the fact I have felt in a similar situation to Hannah herself. I do not believe that the message wasn’t to glorify mental health or suicide, but to show that no matter what you say to someone it can have a lasting affect. If you read on of my earlier blog posts about bullying, I have stated that the things people had said to me growing up still haunt me now. Granted they don’t have any effect of me anymore, I still carry it around with me everywhere I go. The show does a really god job at showing the damages things like rumours and words can do to a person. I think that showing such strong and over whelming images that 13 Reasons has will really help kids who have never been bullied understand why its not right and has to stop. Imagine knowing you’re a bully to someone and then watching a show like 13 reasons why. I would like to hope that they would put things into perspective, and stop. I would hope that people learn that you really don’t know what people are going through and school is tough enough as it is. It’s dangerous as a society to not talk about suicide, because that doesn’t give us much room for hope. Hannah really stopped becoming a human being the eyes of everyone that treated her unfairly at school. The snowball effect kicked in and she became an object that people thought they could do whatever they wanted to her. After her suicide, they talk about all the warning signs that they missed just out of pure arrogance. She tried to reach out to peers and even teachers but no one helped her. She shut herself out from the world. She cut all of her hair off and her personality began to change. These are just a small handful of what Hannah goes through, but it might be different for anyone else going through a similar situation.
When Hannah ultimately decides to take her own life, they really do not shy away from the ugliness and thats why I believe that this show is so authentic. I am someone who has struggled with self harm and to watch a real depiction of what happens to someone from start to finish in their last moments on this planet is something I will never forget. I hid my face from the screen and cried my eyes out for hours after I finished the TV show. I don’t think I will ever be able to get that scene out of my head. I believe that showing these very disturbing images to young adults can help them really understand just how far a person can go who is suffering at the hands of someone else. I believe that not only will they appreciate everyone else, they could start to appreciate their own lives a little better. It’s very easy as a viewer to say “oh well she could have spoke to her parents or a different teacher” but again I believe it takes a very strong person to stand up and actually fight after being torn down so many times.
If you know someone or even is someone who feels like their life is worth nothing, I promise you it is. I can promise you that you are something worth fighting for. I can promise you that whatever dark part of your life you are in right now, you will get out of. Its not always easy and its not always quick, but it will happen. Below is a link to a suicide website where you can go if you or anyone you know is experiencing or you believe it going through a hard time and you want to help.
Megan Rose Wing