My Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why
I’m sure by now you have probably seen, either on twitter or facebook people talking about the new Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why. A quick google search will bring up endless articles on why you should and shouldn’t be watching the show. I would just like to say, please do not read any further if you are triggered by any of the following subjects – bullying, rape, mental health, self-harm, suicide, depression, revenge porn, drink driving. All of these topics feature in the show, and I will be talking about them.
I was going to try to keep this spoiler free, however to talk about it in full I can’t. So if you want to watch it then it might be best if you stop reading now. From the trailer one thing is clear – this is a show about teen suicide. A girl named Hannah Baker has killed herself, and instead of leaving a note she left behind 13 cassette tapes. The series starts as her friend Clay receives these tapes. As he starts to listen he soon finds out that each tape is a different reason why she did what she did. He also finds out that he has his own tape, which means he was one of those reasons.
The show starts off slow, implying Hannah was driven to suicide by high school slut shaming as a guy tells the school she did things with him that never actually happened. Then she loses a pair of friends because they start dating each other and ignore her. One kid stalks her and shares private photos with the school, another publishes a personal poem she wrote in his widely distributed school magazine.
As Clay listens to all the tapes, we soon find out he isn’t the first to listen to them. They have already gone to everyone listed on the tapes so far. The show gets a momentary reprieve when it’s revealed that Clay actually didn’t do anything that bad, he simply let Hannah push him away when internally, she had wanted him to persevere and try to break through to her.
“Some of you cared, just not enough”
But the show takes very dark turns near the end. Hannah witnesses her former best friend Jessica get raped while drunk at a party by the lead jock at school, Bryce. While Jessica’s current boyfriend, Justin, is left outside the room unable to stop him. A friend is killed in an accident, possibly caused by a stop sign being knocked over. Hannah got into a car with someone who is drunk whilst driving. They crash into the sign, causing it to fall over. But then, an already almost broken Hannah attends a different party and ends up being raped by Bryce herself in an extremely uncomfortable scene in a hot tub. It’s after this happens, that Hannah is completely broken and feels like everyone would be better off without her. That’s when she decides to take her own life.
Since finishing 13 Reasons Why I’ve seen numerous articles both for and against the show. With some stating this is something all teens should watch, and then the complete opposite. There are various mental health charities around the world who are saying the content is dangerous and not portraying the subjects correctly. Whilst a few episodes do start with a warning, there is no denying the content is graphic. In the scene showing Hannah actually cutting her wrists and committing suicide, a warning might not be enough.
I know that the directors and producers spoke to mental health professionals and were advised to not show it. But suicide isn’t glamorous, it is something we should be talking about. By showing her do it, it’s got people talking. The scene in the hot tub is extremely uncomfortable to watch, but that’s done on purpose. Again, rape isn’t something we should shy away from. It happens.
“I think sometimes you judge people. We all do but I think sometimes you live to regret it.”
As someone who has previously self-harmed, felt suicidal, suffered from depression and anxiety I wasn’t sure if it was something I would enjoy watching. However as the series went on, I got more and more invested in it. Each episode is an hour-long so it’s a show you need to dedicate time to. I probably made a bad decision when I decided to watch the last 3 episodes in a row, finishing at almost 3 am! But it was worth it. I can see both sides to the argument, but personally, I think it’s something young people should watch. It doesn’t just show someone who is suicidal, it shows the impact of people’s actions on others. How something that might be small and trivial to one person, can be part of a much bigger picture for someone else.
I also think people are focusing so much on Hannah that they aren’t seeing the other issues the show brings up. Justin is made out to be the star basketball player, one of the popular ones. But he’s actually going through a tough time at home. His school performance starts to suffer, he skips school, stays at a friends getting high and drunk. His dad isn’t around, his mum is a recovering and relapsing alcoholic/drug addict, who has an abusive boyfriend who takes it out on Justin.
Alex starts to show more and more signs of suffering from depression as the show goes on. And at the end we are left wondering if he is even still alive after shooting himself. The fact that Tyler has a rather large collection of guns, does he have a plan for those? There’s also Zach who felt alone, despite being one of the best athletes and popular guys. It just goes to show that we don’t really know what is going on in anyone’s life.
Part of me wants there to be a second season because of the questions that the viewer is left with, but then I know it was never intended to be more. It was originally a book, and although I’ve never read it I’ve heard there are differences between them.
DO YOU NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO?
The following organisations offer free and confidential support over the phone:
Samaritans – 116 123. Round the clock support, every day of the year
Mind – 0300 123 3393, 9am – 6pm, Mon – Fri (except Bank Holidays). Advises on a range of mental health issues
Young Minds – 0808 802 5544, 9.30am – 4pm, Mon – Fri. Supports parents and carers worried about a child’s welfare
The Mix – 0808 808 4994, 2pm – 11pm, Mon – Sun. Helpline for people under the age of 25