by Trizy Garcia
The new Netflix’s series “13 Reasons Why” is taking the world by storm, and for a good reason. The series addresses various topics that are all too common for the reality of teenagers, yet never properly represented on screen.
The series is based on Jay Asher’s novel that tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teenager in school who leaves behind seven tapes explaining who influenced her suicide. The tapes are dedicated to each person in her life that has wronged or treated her poorly, revealing 13 reasons why she took her life.
In the series, the tapes make their way to Clay Jensen, who was a close friend of Hannah’s. Clay is terrified and confused as to why he would be on the tapes, as he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
Clay must listen to each tape to find out what he did, and through this, he finds out dark and disturbing secrets from his other classmates mentioned in Hannah’s tapes. The problem is, the people mentioned in the tapes want to protect themselves and keep their secrets from getting out, which means making sure that Clay keeps his mouth shut.
“13 Reasons Why” is more than just listening to see why Hannah Baker killed herself, it’s an unsettling truth about what teenagers are forced to deal with during the years where they’re trying to find themselves and figure out who they are.
“The whole issue of suicide is an uncomfortable topic, but it happens and we have to talk about it. It’s dangerous not to talk about it, because there’s room for hope,” mentioned Jay Asher, the author of the novel, in the documentary “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons.”
Bullying, mental illness, rape, ‘slut’ shaming, and suicide are among the uncomfortable topics depicted throughout the series. Hannah’s life, which was turned upside down by a single photo taken out of context, is the reality of the impact technology and social media have on the lives of teenagers.
That photo meant more than just the bullying of a teenage girl. It became the beginning of what many teenage girls face; being over sexualized and objectified regarding their bodies and their selves.
The producers of the series weren’t shy about portraying difficult and graphic scenes in order for an honest depiction of what teenage girls experience. This made for some unsettling and uncomfortable scenes, but each one necessary to authentically and truthfully showcase what happened. There is, however, trigger warnings just in case it may be too much for a viewer.
In the “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” documentary, Justin Prentice, who played Bryce Walker in the series, stated that, “As a society, we tend to shy away from these hard topics sometimes. In cinema, we do that too, and I think this is great because this says ‘no, this is a problem and it needs to be addressed.”
Although some of the scenes may be difficult to watch, it’s something everyone needs to see to understand what drove Hannah over the edge, why she felt so alone and isolated from everyone around her.
Hannah is no different from millions of young teens in high school. The thing is, everyone has met someone in high school or middle school, who was self-harming, or depressed – or was that person. Its too common for teenage to be harassed and objectified.
“There’s nothing about this story that’s polite. You can really tell a story that’s going to start a conversation,” said Brandon Flynn in the documentary. Flynn played Justin Foley, or in Hannah’s words, “the beginning to my end”.
An important takeaway from “13 Reasons Why,” is that what people say to one another really has an impact on how someone perceives themselves. A negative remark towards someone, although unintentional, could drive that person to the edge. While, a positive compliment could make that person stop and think for a second before they decide to do something drastic.
Bullying, mental illness, rape, ‘slut’ shaming and suicide are things that “13 Reasons Why” took seriously in developing to make it an eye-opening experience. There’s a reason why the series is trending all over social media quickly within the short week it’s been on Netflix.
Clay Jensen seemed to sum it all up perfectly. In his own words, “It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other, it has to get better somehow”.