‘If you are listening to these tapes, then you are one of the reasons why.’
*Warning – This post will contain a lot of spoilers and will cover sensitive topics, please read at your own risk*
Netflix have created a brand new original series titled ’13 Reasons Why’. Based on Jay Asher’s novel with the same name from 2007, this story follows Hannah Baker and the reasons that led her to end her own life. The entire concept for this show is such a sensitive topic in itself and as the story unfolds it delves deeper and deeper into topics that people tend to shy away from/ignore in life. It is heart breaking, powerful and incredibly intense throughout and I loved every minute. This show is so important for everybody to watch, whether you have experienced thoughts/feelings like Hannah or whether you are completely oblivious to the world around you and how people may be feeling.
It is inevitable that you will go through the horrible teenage phase in life. Teenagers are complicated creatures, I should know, I was one. 13 Reasons follows a cluster of teenagers that are all linked together in one way or another through our protagonist Hannah Baker. We soon learn that each of these characters are on the tapes that Hannah created before ending her life and in each episode we learn the mistakes and bad decisions that they made. It also delves into each individual’s life and we see more of them outside of the school setting and nothing is as it seems for any of them. Regardless of popularity or how rich you were or weren’t, this show shows that there is ALWAYS more to the story and you should never, ever judge a book by it’s cover.
The reason Hannah starts to feel the way she does all starts with one photograph that was spread around the school. She had a crush on popular jock Justin Foley and even managed to get a date with him. This was the start of a downward spiral for her. What should of been a magical memory of her very first kiss soon turned into a nightmare when she realised that Justin had taken a picture of her coming down a slide, revealing her underwear. Rumours started instantly and she became an easy target from then on. This is something that unfortunately, is all too common in a school environment. Rumours and gossip are difficult to ignore and they will always cause more damage to the victim then you will ever be aware of. Regardless of whether someone is or isn’t a virgin should never give another person the right to label them a slut/easy.
Friendship plays a huge part in ’13 Reasons Why’. Who are we without our friends beside us? Friends should always come first. This is something a lot of people forget to do, especially when it comes to boyfriends. When you are a teenager, your boyfriend seems like the best person in the world and it is almost guaranteed that you will end up losing at least 1 friend when you get into a relationship. Sometimes it’s not your own fault, sometimes it is. Either way, it is something that everybody needs to be more aware of. In cases like Hannah’s, you may be someone’s only friend and if you leave, who do they have left?
The littlest things always mean the most, one episode focused on a character called Zach Dempsey. Now as a standalone reason, Zach didn’t seem to do anything drastically bad compared to some of the others. In one of their classes, each student had a compliment bag that people could put notes in anonymously for other people. Hannah was receiving a cute little picture of a bunny every day and that was keeping her floating above her dark thoughts and she needed them to keep going. Something out of class happened and it resulted in Hannah yelling at Zach in the cafeteria, as a revenge act Zach stole these notes from Hannah’s bag before she could see them. Sounds pathetic right? To Hannah, at that precise moment in time, those notes were everything she needed to keep her from drowning in her own thoughts and he took that away. This highlights such an important issue in that we may not realise just how much the littlest of actions could hurt another person and drive them to making a life-changing decision.
Clay Jensen is the character listening to the 13 tapes along with us and in time we learn that Clay was completely in love with Hannah, however he was too scared to tell her. Too scared to admit his own feelings and because she felt like he didn’t care enough to fight for her when she was pushing him away, she killed herself never knowing how he truly felt. This episode was so important because Clay never understood what he had done so wrong to be considered a reason as to why Hannah killed herself, he only knew his truth. Then he finds out her version of the truth, the reasons behind why she pushed him away, the reasons why she shouted at him and what she was truly feeling and wanted to happen. He learns that she did love him back when it was too late. My heart truly broke into a thousand pieces. I have seen a lot of tweets and posts joking that Tony used to stalk Clay, but the truth behind it is that Tony is just looking out for Clay. He knew that Hannah’s tape about him would break him and he didn’t want to ever find Clay as he found Hannah. Tony was such an incredible friend to Clay and he didn’t truly appreciate him until the end.
Abuse plays such a huge part in this story, verbal and physical. It highlights parental abuse in the form of neglect, it highlights physical abuse in the form of bullying and it highlights sexual abuse in the form of rape. This is such an important topic and I am going to start with a character called Jessica. Everyone attended a house party at Jessica’s house and she had had too much to drink so her boyfriend Justin took her upstairs with the intention of having sex, however after he realised she was too drunk and had passed out he left her asleep and left the room. One of Justin’s friends then enters the bedroom, pulls her almost lifeless body to the edge of the bed, unbuckles his jeans, pulls her underwear down and thrusts himself into her. Hannah, for reasons explained within the show, was unable to leave the bedroom before this took place and ends up witnessing everything from inside the wardrobe. Justin cannot come to terms with what he did not stop from happening and Jessica could not remember, so Justin tells her that it was him that had sex with her that night, not Bryce. He believed that he was doing the right thing by protecting her from the truth but he was actually making the whole situation 10 times worse for both Hannah and Jessica.
Not long after this event took place, Hannah finds herself unintentionally at another party, this time at Bryce’s house. She ends up being the only person left in the hot tub when Bryce joins her and as you can probably imagine, he forces himself on Hannah. She is bent over with her head on the concrete, lifeless as Bryce continues to rape her. As she describes it, ‘in that moment, I was already dead’. The entire scene is played out for an uncomfortable amount of time and for good reason. Why should we know what was happening but feel comfortable watching it? We are supposed to feel a certain way about what we are witnessing because it is wrong. The show makes a HUGE point about the fact that the words ‘No’ never actually left Hannah’s mouth. Could she have done more to stop this attack on her? It highlights that just because she didn’t specifically say ‘No’ does not mean that she meant ‘Yes’. More people need to realise this and understand the meaning of consent.
A woman could stand in the middle of a public place, completely naked but unless she tells you that you can touch her, you DO NOT touch her. Why would you? Because she’s naked? Because she is asking for it? No one, I repeat, no one asks to be raped and feel so degraded in that sense. There is a scene that is highlighted with Clay and Hannah and whilst Clay is kissing Hannah, he stops and just says ‘Is this okay?’ to which she replies ‘Yes. More than okay’, it took no more than 10 seconds to say and if anything, it added more heat and romance to the scene. When Hannah seeks help from her school counsellor following this attack, he shuts her down. He asks her if she agreed to it and was now regretting it. He tells her to get over it and move on because these things happen. This is a massive reason why girls feel like they can’t come forward about these things and 13 Reasons Why explore this subject in such detail and honesty it really is an eye opener.
The entire show is building up to Hannah’s suicide, which we know is coming from the very first episode. This still doesn’t make for easier viewing. I was sat squirming in my seat during the entire scene as they do not shy away from any of the details and again it makes for very difficult and uncomfortable viewing but again for very good reason. This show is so raw with emotion and does not shy away from the harsh reality that is suicide. It does happen all around us, every day, and we are probably oblivious to it.
Overall, the message within the show is teaching us to look out for signs that someone could be in this dark place and we need to learn what to look out for before it’s too late. We are all so focused on Hannah, Clay, the tapes and piecing the entire story together that we as an audience are put to the test. Did any of you pay attention when Alex tried to drown himself in the pool? When he stated that Jessica was the only good thing in his life and now she was no longer his? When he told everyone that he has no plans for the future? He was the only one who didn’t care if they entire truth came out because he knew that he wouldn’t be around to deal with the consequences. The entire show was focused on suicide and I bet 98% of you did not pick up on all of these signs Alex was showing because he wanted to take his own life. I certainly didn’t. This show needs so much recognition as it truly is one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. The story is beautifully heart wrenching and a definite eye opener. Netflix you have completely outdone yourself with this one!