Thoughts on “13 Reasons Why”

 “If you’re listening to this tape, you’re one of the reasons why.”

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The popular Netflix series are adapted from Jay Asher’s novel, and it all started when Selena Gomez, executive producer, convinced Jay to bring the book to life. When she opens up about her battle with depression, anxiety and rehab (see my post HERE), she adds the fact that she felt connected to the book.  The team behind “13 Reasons Why” includes Brian Yorkey and Tom McCarthy, the director from “Spotlight”.

Mandy Teefey, Selena Gomez

The show presents a teenager, Hannah Baker,  who takes her own life, leaving behind thirteen cassette tapes, each addressed to a different person in her life, explaining how they contributed to her death. “Welcome to your tape” is how Hannah addresses to each character as their tape starts, a phrase which became a buzz after the show started.

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The show focuses on how much everyone suffers after her death, especially when they realise that they are part of it.

Over the episodes, Hannah goes from a typical happy and young person, to a victim of slut-shaming, sexual assault, and all kinds of bullying, ending her life by slitting her wrists in a bathtub after recording the tapes.

The series focus on another character, Clay Jensen, an important person in Hannah’s life and the subject of the eleventh tape. He is the only one who’s an exception on the tapes, Hannah admired and respected him because he didn’t do anything wrong to her and he was different from all of her highschool colleagues, so Baker felt like she had to explain to Clay why she killed herself.

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The series are directed different from how the book is. In the book, everything is explained quickly and not that dramatic, while the show is presented like a “thirteen hours suicide note”.

The reason why I have decided to share my opinion about this show is because as I started watching it, I had no idea what I was getting into. To be honest, I wanted to see it because I am a huge fan of Selena Gomez and by watching the series, I thought that I could understand her life behind the fame.

Through the episodes, every character, especially Hannah Baker, every move and reason became moreand more annoying. I remember watching every episode in detail and thinking, “How can someone be this stupid to blame everyone like that. Get help when you know you need it. If I had been in her place, I would have acted different”.

I was extremely annoyed, while watching the show, with the story and how the characters played it, and I was dissapointed of Selena and kept asking myself why would she direct the story this way since it doesn’t suit her style, but then I discovered “Beyond the Reasons”.

An additional episode which is supposed to explain in detail everything that happened in the thirteen hours. Some characters, psychologists, directors, Selena  and her mother appear in this last episode to share their thoughts about the story and how it blends with the world we live in.

Everyone share their opinion about “13 Reasons Why”, most of them, including me at first, think that this show present their message in a wrong way. It looks like Hannah’s suicide brings her glory and respect since her highschool friends, teachers and parents ignored her problems while she was alive. As I saw, she didn’t talk to anyone about her problems or at least tried harder to, she was always so dramatic about how events happened, and she used to dramatize every little thing.

With this show, many teenagers and kids saw the suicide option as a glamorous effect, feeling like the person who commits suicide has the power. Doing my research, I have found out that in Toronto, six young people were rushed to ER for suicidal behaviour , “13 Reasons Why” being one of the motivations, and around America, teachers send letters to many families to stop kids from watching it.

Even though the series touch sensible teen subjects such as suicide, rape, and bullying, they don’t focus on mental illness. Every suicidal thought starts because of untreated depression, suicide is an act of hopelessness, anger and most of the time, revenge. The series show Hannah thinking that there is no way out of her suffering, but I feel like she purposely wants this kind of victimization, especially after her death. Every teenager has at least one person or resource in their lives where they could turn to for help and a good talk.

They showed Hannah Baker’s case as a revenge fantasy, presenting her story like she wants to achieve something if she kills herself. The series portray suicide as a logical option, showing that this is the only way to get even with people who’ve bullied you.

The fact that the show is aimed at a young audience, and the directors decided to go into too many violent  details, parents would rather see it as a “suicide guide”, but what teenagers should understand is that if they are dead, they won’t be around to watch their bullies suffer, just like in the show.

The good part of the show is that it brings out difficult topics and this is not only a wake-up call for parents, but for the whole society too. Just like in real life, while Hannah was alive everyone assumed that everything is fine and her issues are similar to a normal teen stage.  Parents and teachers need to check in with their kids, students and to build trust and create a welcoming environment where “the victim” needs to feel safe to talk about their problems.

Parents shouldn’t forbid their child to watch the show, they should watch it together. Suicide should be discussed as a temporary feeling, not a final act.

In “Beyond the Reasons” episode, we understand why everything is so dramatic and slightly unreal. Almost everyone experience bullying and some of them sexual assault but not everyone kill themselves.

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They wanted to make some scenes, especially the one when Hannah kills herself, too violent for people to watch so they can understand the pain and how hard it is to kill yourself. In the book, Hannah Baker swallows pills, while in the show she slits her wrists vertically, with razor blades. The scene is painful because of many reasons, the directors wanted people who watch this show to understand not only the pain that the person feels when they commit suicide, but the pain they leave behind.

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Another graphic detailed scene is the one where Hannah is raped by Bryce Walker in the jacuzzi. The scene caused a lot of buzz because is such a detailed scene but the actual ritual for the cast to film is impressive. Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, and Justin Prentice, who plays Bryce, had to talk to a special psychologist who made them understand how it feels to be raped, how they should react and what they should do. The director focuses on Hannah’s face, not on the physical details, she is held down and raped from behind, by a smiling Bryce, he pulls her hair back, then her eyes start to die, showing that she can’t find anymore.

“13 Reasons Why” series don’t show suicide as an option, they show what happens behind, in the real world, after a person kills herself, the real damage. Netflix announced that the show is coming with another season.

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13reasonswhy.info.

 

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