13 Reasons Why: Must Watch
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret… is to press play.
In 2017, Netflix’s new original teen drama based on the International Bestseller book, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher became the most-tweeted Netflix show during it’s first week of streaming. The show approached topics that are usually frowned upon by the society; and that is why everyone, no matter what age, should watch it. The show revolves around the story of high school student, Hannah Baker who recently enrolled into school but has a difficult time fitting in. She later commits suicide and leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes for her classmates; each tape is about a person who plays a part in breaking her soul.
The show covers major issues such as teenage suicide, mental illness and also the impact of bullying on one’s life. When the book was published, back in 2007, social media was not so popular amongst teens; therefore, some changes have been made in the movie adaption. Hannah’s classmates bully her through social media; a picture of her in a compromising position is spread through out school, earning her the title of a slut. That being the first reason behind Hannah’s perplexing suicide. Each reason is described through Hannah’s perspective and how she felt through out her high school experience.
The show starts with Clay Jensen, who arrives home and sees a package waiting at his doorstep. Upon opening the package, he finds 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah, herself. He later finds justice for Hannah and believes her story when all the other classmates tried to manipulate Clay, telling him she killed herself for attention.
“Hey, it’s Hannah, Hannah Baker, don’t adjust your, whatever device you’re hearing this on. It’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore, and this time absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life, more specifically, why my life ended.”
The first tape is about Justin Foley, Hannah first crush and kiss who spread the rumour that they did more than just kiss, thus labeling her as a slut. Next comes Alex Standall who made a list and nicknamed Hannah as “Best Ass of the Freshman Class” as a form of revenge on his girlfriend, Jessica Davis, Hannah’s friend. The list resulted in Hannah being groped and harassed in her school by the juvenile boys and being slut-shamed, again. The third tape is about Jessica Davis who slaps Hannah, accuses her of being jealous and leaves without letting Hannah explain. Hannah later mentions in her tape, “Boys talk, girls listen and everything gets messed up.”
Tyler Down, who had a crush on her, allegedly took pictures of Hannah through her window and is the fourth reason behind Hannah’s death. Number five on the tapes is Courtney Crimson, a pretty, sweet and nice girl in her class, but Hannah calls her a phony. She spreads the rumour about Hannah being gay. Marcus Cooley gets matched up with Hannah through a Valentine’s Day survey and he tries to make a move on her. She pushes him away and he falls on her floor and later admits he wanted to see how easy Hannah was and what would she have let him do.
When Zach Dempsey’s attempts to comfort Hannah after the incident with Marcus are ignored, and is rejected upon asking her out, his feelings get hurt and he decides to steal Hannah’s encouragement notes left to her by her classmates, in Peer Communications class. Hannah explains why those notes of encouragement were so important to her by saying that humans are social species and that we rely on connections to survive when feeling lonely. By taking away those notes, Zach further increased her feeling of loneliness. “Statistics prove the subjective feeling of loneliness can increase the likelihood of premature death by 26%.”
The eighth person to receive the tape was Ryan Shaver, whom she met in a poetry class and really trusted him as he helped her with her poems. He later stole a poem very personal to Hannah and published it, leading to her classmates further mocking her after reading the first few verses.
“Today I am wearing lacy black underwear
For the sole purpose of knowing I am wearing them.
And underneath that?
I am absolutely naked.
And I’ve got skin. Miles and miles of skin;
I’ve got skin to cover all my thoughts
like saran wrap that you can see through
to what leftovers are inside from the night before.
The highlight of Hannah’s poem was about her feeling lonely and depressed, how the words thrown at her have broken her soul and how long will it be until she gives up. But the thing about people is that they’re quick to judge and in Hannah’s case, nobody understood the hidden message she left behind. Clay Jensen was the next person to receive the tapes but Hannah assures him that the only reason she included him was for him to know why she did what she did. But Clay feels responsible for if he had stayed and not let her push him away, she’d still be alive.
Justin Foley makes another appearance on the tapes. This time, Justin didn’t put up much of a fight when his friend Bryce Walker, raped his unconscious girlfriend Jessica. Hannah, being under the influence of alcohol, was in that room but was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t save her friend. She accuses Justin of not protecting Jessica and blames herself for letting Jessica down. Feeling guilt and shame, this becomes one of the reasons of her suicide. Nearing the end of the tapes, the eleventh reason was Jenny Kurtz, who offered Hannah a ride home but knocked down a stop sign with her car, resulting in a fatal accident when she refuses to report the incident.
The twelfth person who played a part in Hannah’s death was Bryce Walker, a well-known jock and an alleged rapist, who sexually assaults Hannah at a party. In the last episode, Hannah explains as to why she included all those people in her tapes. Starting with Justin and Jessica, who each broke her heart. Alex, Tyler, Courtney, Marcus, who each helped in destroying her reputation. On to Zach and Ryan who broke her spirit and finally tape number 12, Bryce Walker who broke her soul.
This was the last straw but Hannah decided to reach out for help, one last time and meets up with the guidance counselor, Mr. Porter, who is the last reason in the tapes. When Hannah refused to tell the name of her rapist, he told her they can’t do anything and she should move on. Not being taken seriously when she mentioned she was suicidal, she decides the only way out is death.
The show received many reviews stating it highlights the problems faced by teens, about underage drinking, rape, cyber bullying, slut shaming and survivor’s guilt. It touches the topic of mental illness and spreads a message how every action has a reaction. It’s a show that parents can watch to better understand their children and understand the problems they go through at high school. There are positive messages about kindness and treating others with respect; treating other’s how you want to be treated. Like Hannah said, “When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.”
However, this show has faced much criticism regarding the detailed scene where Hannah slits open her wrists and bleeds in a bathtub. People fear that this scene can trigger suicidal thoughts and many troubled teens that may have suicidal tendencies may try to copy the way Hannah killed herself. They claim Hannah’s suicide was a form of revenge on her classmates, glorifying suicide, making them feel guilty for what they did to her and that the show does not go into depth about mental illness or how one person should cope with it. One person stated that we couldn’t rely on TV shows to tell us to be kind to others.
In the age of growing technology, social media, TV shows and movies are the platforms where such issues can be addressed. The book, however, was honoured with admirable reviews. Readers were told that actions like bullying and harassment can be far more damaging, then one perceives them as, as it can cause emotional trauma leading to suicidal thoughts.
Speaking as someone who faced high school bullying and depression, and how that experience changed me, this show also helped me think about the aftermath of Hannah’s decision. It made me think about how little we know and understand the repercussions of our actions. High school matters, it will always matter, even if we grow old because high school shaped us into who we are today; some for the better, some for the worse. However, it is important to believe that there’s always a helping hand or listening ear nearby, and understand that it’s okay to talk about your problems and share your burden. Teens tend to shy away from talking to their parents and parents sometimes don’t understand what their kids need even though they try their best. This show was not glorifying suicide but educating both parents and teens about the power of listening, paying attention and kindness.
In conclusion, Hannah’s suicide was not a form of revenge on her classmates, or to get attention but a cry for help. She wanted them to understand the influence of their actions and how the little things matter. Hannah Baker was a victim. The reason why Hannah let people terrorize her over and over again was because her self-confidence had been shattered. You can’t expect people with low self-esteem to stand up for themselves but you can try to help them, be there for them.
13 Reasons Why is show that will forever be in a person’s heart and will help them through their daily life. It will make them think about how every little action plays an imperative role in a person’s life; how words thrown around so carelessly with the intention to hurt someone or label someone can emotionally drain them of their self-esteem. Topics such as suicide, rape, bullying and mental illness should be discussed freely without living in the constant fear of being judged and embarrassed. Hannah Baker is not a one single person. She portrays every other person who was a victim of bullying, rape, and mental illness and has dark thoughts. In the end, we all are survivors who can’t rewrite the past but we can damn sure write our future.
(Watch the trailer here)