13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original series, based on a book written by Jay Asher in 2007. The series follows Clay Jensen, a teenage boy who is trying to uncover the mystery surrounding the suicide of his friend, Hannah Baker, who left a series of taped recordings explaining the reasons for her suicide and implicating those people who caused her death. The series has been an international sensation, but has also sparked a lot of debate and controversy. So is it worth watching? Here are thirteen of my thoughts on 13 Reasons Why.
Please note that this article contains spoilers because it is intended to be a discussion for people who have already seen the show/read the book, and also for people who have not seen it but want to seek more information about it before they decide whether or not to watch it.
This article also includes discussion of bullying, depression, sexual assault/rape, and suicide, and as a result might be triggering for some people.
1. Well crap, this is sad.
It’s been three days since Josh and I finished watching the show, and I still feel sad about it. There was something about it that deeply resonated with me, and to be honest, watching 13 Reasons Why really shook me. It’s unapologetic, graphic, and extremely raw. It will break your heart and then stomp on the little pieces. I think I cried at least four times during the last couple of episodes. And not just a few silent tears, but a full on ugly-cry, the kind where you have to hide your face under the blanket.
Don’t watch it and expect not to be affected in some way.
2. Hurry up, Clay.
Holy smokes. Could he have listened to those tapes any slower? I understand they would have been extremely difficult to hear, BUT OH MY GOSH HURRY UP CLAY. If it had been me I probably would have listened to them all in one night because I would not be able to sleep or think about anything else until I heard my own tape and understood the whole story. I felt like it dragged on a bit at times, and maybe they didn’t need to be 57-minute episodes. But it’s an extremely binge-worthy show… I was hooked to the end and I still can’t stop thinking about it (hence the blog post in an attempt to vent my feelings). If I didn’t have work and uni I probably would have watched it all in a day.
3. HOW IS THIS SO RELATABLE?!
13 Reasons Why really gets what it’s like to be in high-school. It shows the real side of bullying, not just the cliched nerd getting shoved into the locker kind, but the slut-shaming, the exclusion, being treated like you are nothing and not important, and feeling like there is no-one there to help you when you need it. Hannah Baker could be any girl in high-school, she is a flawed character and she is relatable. What happens to her is heartbreaking, but this kind of thing happens to girls all over the world, every day. I think the thing that scares me the most about 13 Reasons Why is that every girl has experienced this kind of bullying to some extent, from being harassed, to being slut-shamed, or even to being sexually assaulted, on some level we all know what she’s going through and what it feels like to not feel safe in your own skin.
4. Speaking of slut-shaming…
This show raises a lot of really important issues about teenage sexuality and sexual assault/harassment. There is not a single episode in which some kind of sexual assault or harassment does not occur (if you don’t believe me then read this article about the sexual assault in 13 Reasons Why) From having pictures shared and losing her reputation, to hot/not hot lists, to locker-room talk, to being stalked, to having her arse groped and eventually to being raped and then being victim-blamed by the one person she attempts to seek help from, Hannah Baker experiences basically the entire spectrum of sexual violence. 13 Reasons Why shows us exactly why we need to talk about these issues.
People think I’m crazy sometimes because I get angry about the kinds of things that most people tend to just laugh off. I’m often told to lighten up and not take things so seriously, but I honestly believe that we really need to start taking these things seriously. Sexual assault happens because people think that locker-room talk is just a joke, but it’s because these attitudes are not put back in line that we have such a problem with sexual violence in the first place. If it’s okay to joke about it, then surely it’s okay to do it, right? The majority of women will experience sexual violence in some form at some point during their lifetime, whether it’s being cat-called in the street or actually being raped, and I’ve never seen a show that deals with the impact of casual sexual violence so well as 13 Reasons Why does. I mean, on the day that she is literally about to go and kill herself, her school counsellor blames her for being raped, and then tells her that there’s nothing she can do about it and that she needs to move on with her life. WE NEED TO START MAKING A CHANGE HERE GUYS.
5. The rape scenes were terrifying, and really full-on.
If you have been a victim of rape, or you know someone who has, or even if you’re just a little bit sensitive, I’d be extremely cautious about watching those episodes (episodes 9 and 12 in particular), because they are extremely graphic and potentially very triggering. The rape scenes are vivid, and they left me feeling sick to my stomach and in tears and also wishing to stab Bryce in the face. You can literally see the light disappear from Hannah’s eyes. In Jessica’s case it was equally horrific because she was passed-out on the bed and her boyfriend Justin sat outside the room and allowed it to happen. AS IF YOU WOULDN’T SMASH DOWN THE DOOR AND THROW BRYCE OUT THE WINDOW, WHAT THE HELL JUSTIN?!?!?!
Yeah, well, if you can’t tell I found these scenes really upsetting and it’s going to take me a while to get over the trauma.
6. The suicide scene was a bit much, too.
Hannah’s suicide scene is also very vivid. They definitely didn’t sugarcoat anything with that one. I think it bordered on gratuitous. It would be extremely offensive/upsetting to viewers who know someone who has committed suicide. I think it’s also potentially dangerous to anyone watching the show who is currently feeling depressed or suicidal. The only reason I kept watching was because I somehow felt like I owed it to Hannah to see how she died, after all I knew everything else about the rest of her story. It’s the kind of thing where you’re so invested in the show that you can’t look away even if what you’re seeing could be damaging for you.
Considering that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24 in Australia, I think that mental health, depression, and suicide are topics that we really need to start talking about. And it’s great that there’s a show that’s raising these issues, I just don’t think the suicide scene needed to be quite so graphic. They could have got the same message across in a way that wouldn’t have been so emotionally disturbing. I think that this scene has the potential to give people ideas or to foster a copycat scenario, so I’d be very cautious about watching it or about allowing your kid to watch it. It almost paints suicide as a solution to a problem, or a way to find closure and get revenge – which is obviously not the intention of the producers, but I think it could be interpreted that way by someone who is feeling so inclined.
7. Why didn’t she leave her parents a note?
It really bugged me that Hannah went to all the effort of recording tapes and explaining the reasons for her suicide to her classmates, but that she didn’t bother to leave her parents with anything, not even a note. Surely she knew that they loved her and that what she did would completely destroy them? Of course, her family was going through a difficult time with their money issues, and sometimes her parents didn’t pay the closest attention to her, but they still loved her – anyone could see that. Was there more going on behind the scenes here that wasn’t explained in the show?
8. What happened to Alex and Tyler?
At the end of the show we are told that Alex has shot himself in the head and has been taken to hospital in a critical condition. This doesn’t seem surprising because, aside from Clay, he was the only one who seemed to be truly sorry for what he had done to Hannah. Alex seemed to realise how his actions had caused such a ripple effect in Hannah’s life, and he was truly remorseful. He is also shown cleaning his room, which is what Hannah did before she committed suicide. But we also see Tyler purchasing a gun, and also in a room filled with photos of fellow-students. He takes the photo of Alex down – is this because Tyler shot Alex? Or is it because Alex stood up for him earlier? Is Tyler planning something drastic, like a school shooting? The last episode left me with more questions than answers…
9. And what did Skye do to almost make it onto the tapes?
Did anyone else notice that Skye was on Hannah’s list but her name was scribbled out? I don’t remember them interacting with each other that much, so it’d be interesting to know what happened there. I thought that Skye was a really interesting character, and I wanted to know more about her relationship with Clay and what happened between them. I felt like it was really important when Clay reconnected with her at the end. He was putting the lesson he learned from Hannah (that sounds terrible, doesn’t it) into action, and who knows, it could have saved Skye’s life because she was obviously going through some hard times too.
10. Even beautiful people get lonely sometimes.
Hannah Baker is gorgeous. She’s pretty, she’s funny, she’s intelligent. Sure, she’s not perfect and she has her flaws and sometimes she can be a bit of a bitch (but who isn’t?)… overall she’s a pretty cool person. So why doesn’t she have any real friends? What about Zach? He’s popular, a star basketball player, but he just mindlessly follows his mates around and doesn’t feel like he really fits in with them. They don’t even know that he wants a career in science, not basketball. And Jessica, she’s a beautiful cheerleader, she’s popular too, but she can’t even talk to her own boyfriend about what she’s going through and ends up with an alcohol and drug dependency. Justin seems like he’s got it all together at school, but things are bad at home and sometimes he is left out on the street, starving. The point is, that we never really know what’s happening in someone else’s life. Even beautiful people, or smart people, or cool people, or just anyone who seems to have it all together… sometimes they just don’t. Everyone goes through difficult things, and if we were all just a little kinder to each other, we might be able to make a big difference in someone’s life, or even save that life.
11. There’s still time to save Hannah Baker…
In the last episode, everyone Hannah named on her tapes has been subpoenaed in an investigation into her death. We get to watch a videotape of their testimonies as if it’s happening in real time. But here’s the important detail: the timestamp on those tapes is November 10, 2017. This is huge guys! It suggests that the events in Hannah’s tapes are happening right now and that Hannah hasn’t actually killed herself yet. So you know how I said earlier that Hannah Baker could be any girl at your school? Well there’s still time to make a difference. You can still go to school and smile at that girl or guy, talk to them, be their friend. Shut down the rumours about them instead of spreading them. Don’t think that you know what’s going on in their life just because of what someone else says. Be a kinder person.
12. As much as I want to know more, I hope they don’t bring out a second season.
I was left with so many questions at the end of the last episode, but I kind of like it like that. Life is difficult, and completely unpredictable, and I don’t think we need to know what happens to everyone else. Plus, if they made another season I’d feel like they were capitalising way too much on what happened to Hannah Baker. Her story has been told, and it’s up to us now what we do with it.
13. You are loved.
The whole point of 13 Reasons Why was not just to raise the issues of suicide, depression, rape, or bullying, it was to talk about and promote kindness. We all need to be a little kinder to each other. I think we need to raise our standards and start showing each other some more love. Whoever you are reading this, I want you to know that you are loved. You are beautiful. You are wonderful just the way you are, no matter what’s happened to you or what someone else has done to you. I want you to feel hope for yourself and for your future, because nothing is permanent and bad times will pass, even if it feels like they won’t. Some days it feels impossible to get out of bed, I know, but you need to keep trying and keep believing in yourself. Seek help for yourself if you need it. And if, like Hannah, you find that help is hard to come by, keep pushing until someone listens to you. You deserve to be heard.
So those are my thirteen thoughts on 13 Reasons Why. I’m planning on reading the book sometime soon, too. What did you think of 13 Reasons Why? Do you think it’s a valuable dialogue on the issues of bullying, suicide, and sexual assault, or is it harmful? Have you read the book? Did the series do it justice?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below xxxx
If you are feeling distressed or upset for any reason, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 – you don’t have to go through it alone. You are loved and there are people out there who want to help you.