Warning: This article discusses rape, suicide, and self-harm and also contains spoilers for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why
A few days ago, I was browsing Twitter and saw a bunch of people raving about a new Netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why based on a book by Jay Asher. What initially compelled me to the series is the fact that people were saying it really touches base on important issues that average teen dramas tend to stray away from.
The show is centered around 17-year-old Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes, each of which is centered around a certain individual who serves as a reason for her death. The narrator of the series is Clay Jensen, a 17-year-old boy whom Hannah was close with, who also happens to get his own tape.
What immediately sets 13 Reasons Why apart from other teen dramas is the diverse cast. There are individuals ranging from all different races, and sexualities, something many teen dramas fail to depict. Each of the characters gets their own screen time as well, which really gives you time to get to know the characters and what led them to the decisions they made. It makes the story feel more real and more accurate.
The show also demonstrates that no one is perfect. Every single character in the series, no matter how well-liked, has flaws. Even the characters who are downright awful, you may grow to have a little bit of sympathy for. It’s not just some one-sided character illustration, they are shown as real, multi-dimensional human beings who make mistakes and have reasons for their choices.
Unlike other teen dramas, 13 Reasons Why doesn’t stray away from difficult topics such as sexual assault and suicide. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When it comes time for these instances to be played out as a part of Hannah’s story, they show every single part. It’s graphic and extremely startling. When the show flashes to the part where Hannah commits suicide, they show every single moment. It’s very triggering, and not just some light-hearted television show about teen drama.
A big lesson I took from 13 Reasons Why is that you have to watch how you treat people, as one little thing for you might be something completely different for someone else. In episode 7, Hannah talks in the tapes about how other people may see this reason for her death as petty and small, but to her, it crushed her spirit. It’s a very important lesson to treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, as you do not know what else is going on with them.
13 Reasons Why also shows how you have to look out for the “signs”. The season ends with 2 characters in a situation that may have been prevented if anyone had noticed the “warning signs”. One character, Alex Standall, ends up shooting himself in the head. Another character, Tyler Downs, seemingly begins planning a school shooting. But on the other hand, the main protagonist Clay can be seen reaching out to a friend who he noticed had self-harm scars.
It is a beautifully crafted show and truly heart-wrenching. It demonstrates high school and being a teen in general in a very realistic light. If you feel that watching this show may compromise you, then please don’t watch it. Your mental health comes first and this show is very very triggering.