The opinions in this article reflect the opinions of the author and are not affiliated with Her Campus or Her Campus at UC Davis.
TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions topics such as rape, bullying, and suicide
Also, SPOILERS AHEAD.
I just recently finished the entire season of ‘13 Reasons Why’ a Netflix show based on the book written by Jay Asher with the same title. The story is about Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide because of 13 people which are the 13 reasons. Before she dies, she tells the story of what each person did and then send the tapes to the first person on the list and then orders them to continue passing the tapes in chronological order until all 13 people have listened. Let me just say, the show gets you hooked. If you want to watch the show then read this review, go ahead, you’ll enjoy it. If you finished it as well, keep reading, maybe we have the same opinions on the show.
First off, I assume you already figured out how I feel. I liked it. I think the show handled difficult topics such as bullying and suicide and presented them well. We’ve all been through high school, so we can all relate to the problems which Hannah faces. The show also does a fantastic point in making us see how one thing a person does may not seem like a big deal, but could be seriously affecting someone’s life. The list which Alex makes is a great representation of this. When the list was first presented, I didn’t think about it in a bad way. Like yeah, it sucks, it’s demeaning, but I certainly wouldn’t assume that it could ruin someone’s life. But we got to see how that affected Hannah; it made her a target for physical and emotional abuse, all because she was forced to be a part of a boy’s plan to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. This all lead to her rape. When I watched that scene, I felt sad, I felt scared, and I felt angry. While the show portrayed Hannah’s rape differently, it was still obvious that it was rape. What I’m getting at is, Hannah did not scream. She did not say ‘I don’t want to have sex’. She did not say no. But we never heard a yes, tried to get out of the hot tub, she continuously pushed him away. By presenting the assault in this way, they show women and men that just because a victim doesn’t say no, it doesn’t mean they gave consent; it still counts as rape. The producers also presented Jessica’s rape in a different way. Jessica was unconscious, so clearly she could not consent. However, after that night, Jessica continues to hang out with her rapist; in his home, at school, she drinks with him, etc. Regardless, it does not invalidate her rape. For one thing, Justin tells Hannah is lying. But as we get further on to the series, we begin noticing that Jessica speculates if Hannah really is lying, but she is still friends with Bryce. I thought that was extremely important because in real life, there are rape victims who continue to talk or associate with their rapist as a defense mechanism, pretending the rape did not happened. Jessica’s story reflects that -- instead of admitting to herself that she’s been raped by someone who she considered a friend, she tries to move on and pretend it didn’t happen. I thought that was a good representation of the different ways which people who have been assaulted process this and teaches the audience that just because a rapist is friends with someone doesn’t mean they can not rape and just because the friendship continues, it doesn’t mean the rape never happened; as seen with Jessica’s story.
What really got to me about 13 Reasons Why is the bullies. The bullies are everyday people. The bullies can be me, you or anyone. For example, Bryce was helping Justin by letting him stay at his place and was friendly to Clay, Jessica and others, but he was still a rapist.
Take Marcus, he is student body president, popular, and presumably, smart since he applied to Columbia. However, while someone might see him as good student and incapable of doing anything wrong, it was he who tried to sexually assault Hannah at the diner, because he assumed it was easy.
It was Alex, a friend of Hannah, who spread around the list in hopes to be popular and to have sex with Jessica. And Courtney, who seemed to be so nice, who spread around more rumors about Hannah in order to save herself and even in the end, when everyone is realizing the truth about them, that she tries to block out what she did wrong.
And Zach, who genuinely liked Hannah, is still to blame, because he couldn’t take no for as answer when Hannah told him to leave her alone, despite his good intentions.
Even Clay, yes, Clay, the protagonist, who seems so perfect and who most probably think doesn’t belong on the tapes, but he does. When Hannah tries to sit with him when the rumors about her are sparking up, Clay gets jealous and tells her “maybe she should just wait” aka assuming that she did have sex with Justin, and believes the rumors about her. And Clay cut her off when she needed to talk to him about Jeff’s death, believing she wanted to start drama, aka believing the rumors about her again. Even though Clay liked Hannah and cared for her, he still contributed to her thinking she was alone and contributed to her death.
The suicide scene is incredibly hard to watch, because of how real it is. While some argue that the scene shouldn’t be included or it’s too graphic, the book’s author commented to Buzzfeed that, “It’s like they’re saying it’s never appropriate to show it. And then if you’re saying it’s never appropriate to show it, then you’re saying it’s something to be hidden.” And I agree, this isn’t just being recreated in a Netflix show. It was all of these events which caused Hannah to take her own life; something that is happening to millions of high school aged children all over the world. Bullying is real and suicide is real, and that’s what the scene is depicting; it’s depicting something so horrible and sad, yet that seems like the only escape to bullying victims; it’s showing that bullying is a serious issue that needs to be talked about and victims need to be supported. However, for people who may be recovering, dealing with suicidal thoughts, or cannot handle scenes such as these, the show does include a trigger warning for this scene as well as for the episodes which include the rape scenes.
Overall, the show does a great job in presenting an accurate story of the problems which high schoolers and other people face. Also, it does a great job in not romanticizing suicide by showing how painful and horrible it is, the act and what leads up to the act. And while some of the 13 reasons are kind hearted people, such as Clay, we see that they are still able to make mistakes and end up hurting others, even if they did not mean to.