The Major Message I Found in 13 Reasons Why

The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has hit the screens in a big way and has faced both praise and controversy in return. After seeing my Facebook newsfeed flooded with posts pertaining to the new hit series I decided to watch it for myself, and yes by watch I mean binge watch over the weekend.

     For those of you who don’t know (spoiler alert) the series follows the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who, after a series of tragic events, commits suicide. However, before ending her life she records a number of tapes outlining the 13 reasons why she came to her decision – the tapes are delivered to a number of students, and teachers who are all included on the tapes as one of the reasons for her suicide. Given that Hannah is dead the show makes use of the second narrator, Clay, in order to bring her story as well as events occuring after her death to the screen.  

     Through both Clay and Hannah’s eyes we get to see the other “suspects” listed on the tapes, their crimes or injustices towards Hannah, as well as their interactions amongst each other after her death. Given that the series is classified as a teen drama it’s to be expected that there will be parts that are a bit dramatic, for instance the multiple fist fights, but generally I found that each episode, and each individual story, contained an important message or lesson - for instance, the stories touched on bullying, rape, depression, drunk driving, and victim blaming. Specifically I enjoyed how the show portrays these issues in a way not normally seen on Netflix; the portrayal was surprisingly realistic and in some cases, painful to watch because I found myself thinking that this could be anyone, my best friend, the guy who sits next to me in class, or even a love interest. Overall however, I found that the series as a whole tries to teach us that we need to be careful of not only our direct actions, but also our words and our inactions. It is made clear on multiple occasions that people's words cut deep, their physical actions, such as rape, assault, cut even deeper, but inaction, mostly through abandonment, can really be the flaming gun in circumstances of mental illness.

     While I do think that people should be careful when viewing the show because of potential triggers, and that the show, in some ways, glorified suicide by making it seem that suicide leads to universal recognition and change, I also think that the show could have a profound affect on the way we treat others. I personally think it’s amazing that so many youth are watching this particular show because every individual who watches it is forced to see the potentially tragic effects that your actions and words can have on others. I hope that those who choose to watch the series take the time to see the depth of the message and begin to consider, and modify, their own behaviors because it really can make a huge difference to those around you.

** I also suggest that everyone who is interested in the show, myself included, read the book as well**

Canadian born and raised aspiring lawyer living in Cambridge and studying at Harvard. I am a Netflix enthusiast and an avid reader who enjoys long naps, cupcakes (who doesn't), and puppies!