13 Reasons Why, a new Netflix original series that is sweeping the internet by storm. Based on the book by Jay Asher, depicts the world of Hannah Baker played by Katherine Langford, a highschooler who ultimately takes her own life. At first, I didn’t want to watch the series, as a senior in college I thought I was over watching teen drama shows, but it turns out I am very wrong! With producers like Selena Gomez, this show hits at hot-button issues millennials and their parents face today. The series brings attention to issues that most of the world would rather look away from and not talk about. The reasons why Hannah takes her life, we discover as we watch the series, but it can be summed up by the profound lack of attention and actions taken by teachers to help students who show signs of depression due to the actions of their peers.
**Attention spoilers ahead**
1. The writing of the show
The screenplay for this series is very well done. Each episode takes us through a new story that contributes to Hannah’s death. Each episode the audience gets clues as to how Hannah’s peers failed her.
2. The acting
As tough and uncomfortable as it is to watch specific scenes depicting violence and rape, the series does this intentionally, so audiences don’t just get the “assumed version” of what happens next. What we see can’t be avoided.
3. Depiction of high school cliques
Cliques are alive and well in high school. They may not be the typical cliques such as jocks and cheerleaders, nerds, outcasts, etc. but their exclusivity still exists and still defines the high school social hierarchy.
4. Parents talking (or not talking) to their children
As we see with the parents of Hannah or Clay (Dylan Minnette), both attentive parents who care about the wellbeing of their children, Hannah’s parents still miss the signs of her depression. As we see with other characters such as Justin (Brandon Flynn), who doesn’t have a stable home life, there is a wide range of parents represented on the show. We never even see Bryce Walker’s (Justin Prentice) parents. It seems they let him live alone while they are on vacation. The audience sees how each character is shaped by their relationships with their parents and how that affects their daily lives.
5. LGBTQ+ issues
We see characters like Ryan (Tommy Dorfman) or Tony (Christian Navarro) who are gay and while they are accepted by their peers regardless of their sexual orientation, the stigma they face still exists within the halls of their high school. Courtney (Michele Selene Ang), a character who is finding out for the first time that she may be a lesbian, struggles to accept herself because she has gay dads. She thinks the world will assume her dads “made” her gay. Obviously a ridiculous notion to most of the sane and accepting world, but I can see where she’s coming from and that’s also an issue we don’t really hear about. It’s refreshing.
6. Cyber Bullying
We see in the series a photo go viral of Hannah in the beginning of the series which sets off the chain of events to come. Consequently, Hannah is labeled “easy”, a “slut”, and many other offensive terms. This new form of bullying is beyond just being “teased” it’s harassment, and legal action can be taken if needed.
Jessica (Alisha Boe) struggles throughout the show with alcoholism. While it isn’t explicitly said that she is an alcoholic, the audience sees the signs of her drinking and what caused it to escalate. Jessica’s alcoholism eventually ends in the last episode when she decides to tell her father what happened to her. The alcohol depicted in this show is often at high school parties, some beer in a solo cup or shots of hard alcohol from their parents liquor cabinets. However, we see the lasting effects it can have, whether it’s someone getting too drunk and becoming vulnerable to sexual predators, or in Sheri’s (Ajiona Alexus) case, where she was drunk driving herself and Hannah home she hit the stop sign. This eventually lead to the death of another student, Jeff.
8. Depiction of rape survivors
Alisha Boe, who plays Jessica on the show is one of the two characters who survives being raped. Boe has said that it was extremely important that she depict the life of a rape survivor as accurately as possible and she spoke to many survivors in order to do the role justice. Jessica’s behavior after being raped at her own house party began with her drinking more, even during the day. She became distant, and uninterested in school or responsibilities, essentially falling into a depression of her own. The audience is left once again to see the truth behind someone’s story, a story Jessica refused to believe until it was her only truth.
9. Hannah’s struggle to find real friends
Hannah was the new kid at school and making friends was difficult for her since she wasn’t the outgoing type. After falling into a crowd, meeting Justin and eventually having that end in a less than stellar way, she meets Jessica and Alex (Miles Heizer). The three of them became close, but as time went on they each split off from the group leaving Hannah alone. The audience can see through the different episodes this overlapping theme of friends coming and going. Each time it’s either a falling out or a fight. This is obviously common, but in high school this can become extremely isolating. In college and in the real world, there are plenty of clubs, groups, classes, etc. we can join to meet new people. In high school, it can be very limiting, once you’re out of your friend group, it can be really hard to find another one.
10. It starts a much larger conversation
Every day as we attend school we see people we know, pass by others in the hall or street without thinking twice that they could be going through something so debilitating. They may not be able to find the words to express their pain. We see throughout the 13 episode series how Hannah is lead to her death. We see her friends start to evaporate from her life, her parents becoming preoccupied with their small business, and the school administration glazing over the issues they hear in the hallways. We see and maybe even scream at our devices for any of these characters to help her. Inevitably, no one sees her behavior or actions as worrisome because they are caught up in their own lives.
What do you think about 13 Reasons Why?