13 reasons why, is an authentic story about the reasons why a girl committed suicide and how it effected the lives of those who impacted her decision. But not just any girl – Hannah Baker, a beautifully rambunctious girl with wit spilling out of every orifice. Hannah’s story is told through the haunting cassette tapes that she left behind post-mortem and begins when an unsuspecting Clay Jensen receives them. He, along with the others who she believed played a part in her death inherited her last will and testament in those tapes. They detail a terrifying story of negligence, bullying and a bridling rape culture that reflects the current climate in our society which needs to be talked about.
The story is told through the lenses of one girls perspective, detailing an exciting, yet tumultuous a course of events. It’s done this way to heighten and focus on how powerful every single interaction leading up to the inevitable climax was and more importantly, how each one sent her down a path inexorably different from the next. The life of a teenager can be highly emotional. Emotions only elevated by the flux of hormones, all the while trying to keenly navigate the tumultuous social anxiety that dregs itself through each school day – which ironically is something that never goes away.
So why exactly do I love 13 reasons why so much?
It can teach us a lot about ourselves and more importantly, how we affect others around us. Plus, it totally made me feel like a high school girl again.
1 Hannah Baker is flawed emotionally
There are some TV shows that like to paint this holistic picture of perfection. The perfect family or perfect children and then, there’s 13 reasons why. Hannah Baker is a very flawed character and right from the get go, we know it. From that perspective, we can also assume that whilst her story is true, it may have its imperfections as it is told from her guiled perspective.
With respect to the obvious limitations to her story. Having emotional flaws also made it difficult for her to get help from not only her friends, but penultimately, the guidance councillor. In real life, if the person looking to get help lacks the emotional capacity to tell the therapist what is wrong, it then falls on the therapist to be able to corral the patient down a path to get them to say the words. If that therapist (or in our case school councillor) is not adequately trained for such a thing, then the patient will be unable to say what they need to say and never get the help they require.
This played out – rather accurately in 13 reasons why. And I appreciate the subtle nature that two people who were seemingly so close to a resolution fell between the chasm of lost words and an inability to communicate effectively.
It isn’t just Hannah that suffers from this, thousands of women who get raped (including Jessica from the show) never publicly state it. (Of course, we find out in season 2 that she does.)
I personally have never been raped. But, retelling the events is a very difficult, courageous thing to do. It’s painful trying to relive the past, especially when you believe the justice system will simply try to pit your word against him (or her, girls rape guys too.)
Every 98 seconds an American is raped, yet only 310 of every 1000 sexual assault gets reported. That is a terrifying stat which means there are literally thousands of sex offenders that go unreported each year. It also shows that, it’s hard telling people that someone unwillingly penetrated you and although people like to make fun of the doctor saying, “show me where he touched you on this doll.” Its necessary because of how difficult it is to do.
2 Its ok not to be ok
One of the best messages that 13 reasons why has to offer is that its ok to be vulnerable and tell someone else that you are not ok. Everyone wears masks day after day pretending to be batman – or me, but it’s ok to be yourself. Wear your meatsuit proud even if it has pimples and a crooked smile, even if you are homosexual or bi. Pretending to be something you are not consumes a ton of energy and once all that energy has been used up, you are left with fake friends and associates that like you for something you are not.
And no one needs fake love.
So, it’s ok to not be ok. Stop carrying that burden alone and tell someone (You are not Goku, you cannot lift the world on your shoulders.) In a previous post I mention how everyone has someone in their life who desperately wants to help them, but you won’t let them in. I call these people Sam’s. It might be your best friend, it might be some weird guy on the bus, most times its your parents.
Let. Them. In.
Go to a trained therapist and relinquish everything tethering you to the ground. You don’t have to be alone in this. Just think, if Hannah was able to tell someone that she was not ok, maybe she would still be alive.
3 13 reasons why is not afraid to go there
That’s right! 13 reasons why, is not afraid to go there and does it with style and an attractive cast to boot! It doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of living as a teenager and more specifically, a girl. Teenage girls are extremely vulnerable when drugs, alcohol and a predatorial frat boy is sniffing around.
I’m talking about Bryce who is the prototypical jock, coupled with the “I have everything I am entitled to the world” mentality. And unfortunately, the kind of guy who doesn’t understand what “no” means.
It went as far as portraying the entire act of suicide, which in my opinion did the character justice, as shying away from the act would strip away the truth from the viewer. We needed to see the impact her decision had on her, her family and friends. A marriage ended because of it and other people’s lives who will never be the same. Putting scenes such as suicide and rape cast a bright light on the subject matter and only do more to add to the dialogue going on right now. But, that’s the entire point, to create dialogue. If we don’t talk about these serious topics, nothing will ever change.
Suicide is a huge choice, and it doesn’t just affect the person committing it. Having a show based around those who experienced Hannah’s suicide and deal with the repercussions will not only help those contemplating suicide but understand the gravity of the situation and the emotional tsunami something like this causes in a school.
4 Every interaction every single time
From your mom in the beginning of the day, to that homeless man on the side of the street, every single interaction you make can have irrevocable consequences for the person on the other end. Sometimes something as simple as a smile can make someone’s day. 13 reasons why highlights the impact that a negative interaction can have in a spiral of negativity, or the stopping power that one wonderfully timed comment or gesture can have against the same spiral of negativity. So, the next time you see someone that you know hanging their head low, say something nice to them. Make them feel good about themselves, it’s not difficult.
We have a culture that is so far removed from real communication that stopping someone in the middle of the sidewalk to tell them how nice they look warrants a sexual harassment suit. Don’t be afraid to hold the door open for someone else, or lend a helping hand if someone clearly needs help. Smile at other people and if you see a bad bitch, tell her how good she looks. Just because she is gorgeous, doesn’t mean she feels that way. Even if she hisses and snarls you away, she might be smiling under that façade – I hope. If not proceed to pull up your hoody and run.
There are hundreds of interactions every single day that you may want to phone in. Even Clay from 13 reasons why is such a wonderful, thoughtful person, yet he still managed to end up on those tapes due to actions he did not take.
5 People don’t need saving
People like to assume that when someone attempts suicide, that they simply don’t want to be saved and just want to off themselves. Not only is that untrue, it’s a reductionist way of thinking. This show highlights the truth, which is normally somewhere in between. Hannah was clinging to 13 reasons why she should survive, but everyone let her down, including herself. All it takes is one person, one moment and it could all be different.
Her first kiss with Justin devolved into a slut shaming event. Followed by her two closest friends betraying her and leaving her alone. She clung to things that made her feel better, but in the end each of those things let her down, including the school counsellor.
Don’t give up on someone just because you think they don’t care. Really assess the situation. If someone tells you they are suicidal it’s a clear outcry and although its ironic, it normally means there is still time to get to them. When you see posts on Facebook, or get messages by email, maybe even poems read aloud in class written from that one strange kid – pay attention! Because they are looking for it from someone, anyone as they cling to life…. Give them a reason to live.
6 Social Anxiety and the pressures of moving
Moving to a new place can cause culture shock. This isn’t just exclusive to moving to another country. Moving anywhere that is different enough from your current place, i.e city to country, wealthy neighborhood to poor, diverse to white. All these things can put added stress on the teenager and that’s all without the pressures of finding a friend or winning the race to not be a virgin in the midst of the cataclysm that it is to be a young adult.
7 Heightened teenager emotions
From the ages of ten to thirty, memories seem to be more impactful than any other time. That coupled with the heightened sense of hormones that teenagers do have, all coalesce into a volcano brimming ever closer to erupting without a moment’s notice. This is known as a reminiscence bump.
Time seems to flow differently because of this. Negative moments seem to drag on for weeks and months and it is those down periods when teenagers need to be able to reach out to someone. To them it really feels like their world is ending. To them that first love feels like it will last forever. So, it’s educational to see that diminishing a teenager’s perspective can be erroneous, because what they are feeling is completely true for them.
8 In 13 reasons why Old media is still relevant
There is something very virginal about using maps and old cassette tapes, all the while listening to the screech of a vintage vinyl disc being played by a record player. Whilst these items are relics of an old age, or antiquated things collecting dust in your parent’s basement, they still hold value and when we are older, we too will needlessly cling to things we enjoyed in our youth. Not just because it was ours, but because true quality never dies.
In 13 reasons why, these items are not only vintage, they are also retro. They cannot be tracked, and this very idea only adds to the eerie nature of Hannah Baker’s suicide. It was well thought out and planned for months on end. Otherwise she could have simply written a note or left a message on Facebook. But finding out-dated technology and forcing the people that she held responsible to then seek out old cassette tape players to listen to her message was brilliant. Hannah’s internal struggle symbolized through the harsh difficulties of playing through her 13 reasons why she decided to kill herself and the painful, indelible memory that they could have done something about it.
9 Suicide doesn’t just happen.
30% of those who get raped commit suicide. Suicide doesn’t just simply happen. People plan, they contemplate, they wonder about if it will erase the pain and give them the anodyne they seek. It takes time and it is a slow and at times rapid spiral of emotion. Someone in deep depression can fall into the tornado of becoming suicidal, so pay attention and watch out for signs of acting out.
If you don’t know the warning signs click here.
10 Bullying is a problem
Look, teenagers can be cruel. Most times, to climb the hierarchy of high school you need to align with the jocks and the cheerleaders and do their bidding ala Blair and Serena from Gossip girl. It’s a tumultuous grind to the top, a path lit with horrible deeds and probably drugs.
With the invent of social media, bullying doesn’t have to stop when you leave school. Now it can follow you home and remain an unwanted visitor for far to long. 13 reasons why highlights the harsh realities of cyber bullying and how after the click of a key someone’s reputation can change in an instant. A picture gone viral or a video leaked anonymously can change someone’s life forever. Just ask Kim Kardashian. (It worked out for her!)
11 Dealing with death after the fact…
This is partially where season two comes in. The repercussions of someone committing a successful suicide also increases the potential of another person in that area of doing the same thing. So if you know someone has committed suicide, pay attention to your friends and check in. suicide watch is a real thing.
Aside from that, dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult. Clay sees the ethereal embodiment of Hannah from time to time as she acts as his aid to move the story and his moral conscience. I found it very funny how she is literally always there with him. Death is hard to get through, but at least he is getting through it.
If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one check out. “9 things you need to do when your best friend dies.”