If you haven’t been binge-watching and discussing 13 Reasons Why with your friends, what on earth have you been doing? Based on Jay Asher’s young adult novel published in 2007, it deals with a topic that has, unfortunately, become a real and saddening reality in our world.
In the story, Hannah Baker, commits suicide after relentless mistreatment from her high school classmates, and leaves behind a collection of 13 tapes detailing why she did it–and who she holds responsible. It follows Clay Jensen, who is number 11 on the list and currently has possession of the tapes.
It’s dark and terrifying and downright heartbreaking, but the story absolutely needed to be told. I’m sure that it was relevant when it was written a decade ago, and with a generation in elementary and middle schools now who have no idea what it’s like to live without the internet, it is more important than ever.
Katherine Langford portrays Hannah perfectly; at the very center of who she is, she wants nothing more than a friend, someone who she can trust never to turn on her. However, she’s also flawed. She pushes people away and almost sets them up to disappoint her, although she’s mostly unaware that she’s doing it.
Dylan Minnette portrays Clay, who is heartbroken over Hannah’s death because he was the closest thing to a friend she ever really had and they even had the potential for more, yet he never saw her decision coming and now blames himself.
The entire cast was well-chosen. They represent the characters well together and also do very well in their scenes alone. The emotion is always present when it’s meant to be, and so are the moments of thoughtfulness.
This is meant to spark a conversation, to really make us evaluate the way we treat one another.
I know there have been complaints about the graphic nature of certain scenes, which depict sexual assault and suicide. However, the creators of this show clearly did not design graphic scenes simply because they could. They did it to stay true to the ugly nature of the topics. In reality, these events are painful and deeply uncomfortable, and the issues should not be skirted around.
I was a victim of verbal bullying myself for many of my school years, as the typical target–the so-called “nerd” who was always on the honor roll and didn’t have the social skills that many others did (or they were at least better at pretending they had those skills than I was). It hurts, no matter how much we want to pretend otherwise. To add insult to injury, kids NEVER forget. Especially the ones who are really out to hurt someone else’s feelings.
That being said, kids nowadays really and truly can’t escape that torture the way some of us were once able to. Once they’re out of school for the day, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, email, and text messages are ready and waiting to be the conduits for any nasty comments their classmates choose to make.
The hierarchies and cliques and ruthlessness in schools may never go away, but we can educate teachers, counselors, and students about not staying silent.
“Reach out. Even if you feel like Hannah and that you can’t talk to your parents, or you don’t want to tell anyone at school because you’re embarrassed. Talk to someone anonymously. Just talk to someone. The minute you start talking about it, it gets easier. Just know that there’s life beyond what you’re feeling at the moment.”
– Katherine Langford, 13 Reasons Why
Another season of the show hasn’t been confirmed or denied yet, but I do agree that 13 Reasons Why should not have a second season. We were left with a lot of questions that, yes, it would be nice to have answered, but Hannah’s story was told. It was told well, and it has gotten us talking. Let’s just reflect on that and let the first and only season shine alone.
13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix.
Bradleigh is a co-founder and content curator for The Sirens Rise with a BA in Media Studies. Her favorite things to do are listen to music, get lost in a book, write for hours, and eat way more chocolate than one human being ever should.