13 Reasons Why "13 Reasons Why" is Important

There has been a lot of buzz around the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” co-produced by pop star Salena Gomez, based on Jay Asher’s young adult novel about a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide. Hannah leaves behind 13 tapes describing the events (“reasons”) leading to her suicide. Each episode depicts the story of each tape, and a lot of people are offended with how graphic some of the scenes are, claiming the show “glorifies” suicide.

Whether you love it or....not so much, we found 13 reasons why  “13 Reasons Why” is important.

 

 

1.It takes the problem head on

This show takes each problem head on. All the issues discussed in the show are important, and it’s dangerous not to talk about them. There is no way to sugar coat things like rape and suicide. To look away from assault scenes would minimize what characters went through and what many  girls go through every single day. Showing the suicide scene shows that it’s not pretty, that it’s very painful, and affects more than just the person committing the suicide.

This show did an incredible job of depicting truth and holding integrity in these scenes. They are honest representations of those experiences and pay homage to those who have gone through them.

 

2. It may be able to help people

Maybe this show can help people. That was the goal of the producers ay least. There is an overarching message that you’re not alone. There is always room for hope. Suicide should never be an option.

The show demonstrates how several people in Hannah’s life failed to pick up on clear signs of suicide and failed to offer alternatives to suicide for her. It shows that we need to be careful with other people. We need to make it clear that the people in our lives are never alone, that they matter, that they are worthy and that there are many other options than suicide. We can offer counseling, rehab centers, medication, etc.

It’s okay to not be okay, but it gets better. Reach out.

 

3.Cyber-bullying

This show even touches on cyber-bullying when those pictures are spread around the school. Cyber-bullying is a huge part of children’s lives these days. Parents today didn’t have the internet or cell phones growing up, so they never experienced cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying can be so much more harmful than bullying in real life because it’s just people hiding behind their computer screen. They hold nothing back at that point.

This just goes to show that bullying doesn’t end when the school bell rings. Because of this, kids who are being bullied might feel that there is no safe space. This show sheds light on that and hopefully can spark some initiative in parents being more present in their children’s lives, and more concerned and aware of their well-being.

 

4.Slut-shaming / Victim-shaming

Slut-shaming is a huge problem for girls growing up, and it doesn’t even necessarily end in high school. This is where it is probably most prevalent though. Teenagers are just starting to figure our their sexuality, experimenting in relationships, maybe even having their first sexual encounter in high school. It’s a normal part of life, so there should never be any shame in it if it all happens naturally and with consent. Regardless people make a big deal out of things that aren’t their business and make those who are involved feel ashamed somehow.

Sexual assault already comes with so much shame on top of the pain and violation. It’s already incredibly difficult to talk about it. Victims are often afraid to come forward because victim-shaming is usually more harmful than the assault. Your entire character is judged. It’s easy for a victim to think no one will believe them if they come forward.

This show sends a message that we shouldn’t be talking about “what she did/didn’t do,” but rather what he did and why he did it.

 

5.Pain feels like forever

The frontal lobe of teenagers is not yet fully developed, so everything feels like it’s going to last forever. Parents often forget this and treat their children as if they are over-reacting. Telling a teenager to “just get over it” and “move on” will in no way help.

This show demonstrates how it’s difficult for a teenager who has experienced trauma and immense pain to come to the realization on their own that things will get better, that the pain won’t last forever, that time will heal everything.

Teenagers not being able to understand that yet, with their pain feeling like it’s going to last forever, can often lead to very impulsive decisions.

 

6.Starts conversation between parents and kids

This show starts a very important conversation between parents and their kids. It shows that we can’t be ignoring these important issues. We can pretend all we want that these issues won’t touch our families, but the truth is, the world is cruel. No one is immune to that cruelty.

Instead of ignoring issues, parents should be talking to their children, sharing their own experiences, and what they went through.

It’s easy for teenagers to not recognize or be able to verbalize their own emotions, so parents need to hone in on these things to help their children when they can’t help themselves.

 

7.It encourages Social/Emotional Intelligence in education

13 Reasons Why brings awareness to social settings and sheds light on the importance of communication. We should be teaching social and emotional intelligence in school. It’s one of the most important skills to have, but is one that we are severely lacking as a society.

It takes skill and a safe space to get a kid who have suicidal thoughts to open up. Mr. Porter didn’t have that skill. And maybe Hannah didn’t exactly set Mr. Porter up for success. She isn’t a perfect person, she could have done more for herself, but that’s easier said than done. In all honesty, she came to her counselor for help, and he failed her. He failed to recognize any obvious sign that Hannah was crying out for help, that she was in immediate crisis. As the producer said in the “Behind the Reasons” on Netflix, Mr. Porter might have been sincere, “but you can be sincerely wrong.”

Just because someone doesn’t vocalize exactly what happened to them and exactly what they are thinking, doesn’t mean it can’t be easier to pick up on those things.

 

8.Sexual Assault

Alisha Boe shared in “Behind the Reasons” on Netflix that she has a person in her family who is a rape survivor. When she told her family member how the producers decided on to shy away from the ugliness, she responded that she was grateful. A rape survivor is grateful that they chose to not shy away from the ugliness of the sexual assaults because “that’s the only way people are really going to understand a rape survivor’s mind and what they had to go through.” They are forever changed. It’s a permanent thing.

It shows the bravery, candor, and pain that exists on the other side of survivor and how deeply damaging these things are to a person.

 

9.Bystander Effect / Bro-Code

This is a huge problem in society, especially in high schools. If you see or know of someone doing something really, really bad, if they’re close to you, it’s sort of a general rule to look away or turn a blind eye. That’s not okay. This show depicts that and sheds light on the rape epidemic on college campuses with athletes. Bryce was a predator. He wasn’t a clear or obvious predator, but he had power. He used that to his advantages, and his “bro” turned a blind eye when he raped his girlfriend because that’s just what you do…

Wrong. This show demonstrates that if there are no consequences, someone like Bryce keeps doing things like that. People like that are almost never just a one-time offender. Hannah did, in fact, get to tell her story, and Bryce will pay the consequences.

 

10.Mental Illness / Signs of Suicide

This show demonstrates how invisible a person with mental illness can feel. Her symptoms were left almost completely unnoticed by her closest family members, friends, and mentors. Mental illness isn’t an obvious illness to others, but it is clearly just as crippling. So for the people calling the character of Hannah Baker a “whiny, self-absorbed asshole glorifying suicide,” I say this:. Hannah Baker was simply telling her story, something most never get to do.

This show also sheds light on the fact that a person committing suicide leaves collateral damage. A person who commits suicide might never have realized how many people would be impacted. Studies show that for every suicide, usually about 6 people are intimately impacted. The suicide of a close friend also raises the chances of suicide for yourself, which is demonstrated in Alex’s case. 

 

 

11. Trauma

Hannah experienced quite a lot of trauma in her few years at her high school, and that was the focus of her story. The trauma is what led to her death. This show explores what trauma looks like for a person in any given moment. She seemed to experience PTSD to an extent. When boys were actually nice and respectful to her, in Zach’s and Clay’s cases, Hannah freaked out because her mind kept roaming back to her moments of assault. Trauma has many manifestations. When someone is put in a threatening position, the body’s natural response is either to flight, flee, or freeze. In Hannah’s case she absolutely froze any time she got really scared, as in the case of both her and Jessica’s rapes. Accumulated trauma can lead to freezing in a threatening situation because victims of trauma might experience dissociation as a way to cope. Like Hannah, they become blank and lose a sense of self.

This can happen for someone who is raped, which is why it was hard for Hannah to say exactly what happened to her and clearly label it rape. She froze. She didn’t tell Bryce explicitly to stop or tell him no. She froze. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped, but when the rest of the world gives such a black-and-white definition to rape, it could be really difficult to come forward about something like that if it doesn’t exactly match your definition of what rape really looks like.

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12. Consent

13 Reasons Why shows what consent looks like. REAL consent. It shows what consent is NOT, as in Bryce’s situations and even Marcus. And it shows what consent really looks like, as in Clay’s case. Pausing a moment to ask if everything is okay IS SEXY. It makes a girl feel safe and taken care of. Because when you just assume things, you makes an ass out of you - and… no, just you.

 

13. It changes perspective on how to treat people

The most important overarching theme of this show is probably that you really never know what a person is going through. Every single thing you say or do MATTERS. So be pissed at everything else in the show, sure. If you take nothing else from this show, then please, please, at least take this important lesson with you.

The point is, and this is probably the most important message that the series is trying to get across, especially since the characters say it multiple times throughout, is that you never know what's going on in someone's life. So be good to each other. Be there for each other. Look out for each other.

As Clay so eloquently put it in episode 13, “It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”