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“13 Reasons Why” Review

Elizabeth Bangura and Nancy Barrett

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TRIGGER WARNING: This show contains graphic depictions of rape, suicide, abuse and bullying.

This article contains spoilers.

A Netflix original series, Thirteen Reasons Why,  is a television show based off of the famous novel of the same name. The novel — published by Jay Asher in 2007 — tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school junior who sends tapes to the 13 people who led her to kill herself. The show starts with a set of tapes arriving on Clay Jensen’s door, and it turns out they’re from the recently-buried Hannah Baker: live and in stereo. There are 13 tapes, and each one of them explains how one of 13 people are at fault for her suicide. In telling this story, viewers are thrown between past and present to convey the 13 reasons behind Hannah Baker’s death. Like the book, the show effectively deals with difficult topics, such as depression, rape, and suicide. However, the show expands the story into the minds of every reason — unlike the book, which is told only from Clay and Hannah’s point of views. The show is also racially and sexually diverse in a way that the book doesn’t explore.

The most interesting thing about the series, in our eyes, is how everything is morally gray. There are faults behind each and every main character, and yet a majority of them are likable in the audience’s eyes. The story parallels the real world in a way most television shows don’t; it isn’t as simple as good or evil, black or white.

It is eye opening to see the way the topic of rape is unapologetically addressed in this series. Rape, or any sexual assault, is something we as a society shy away from. In this show, though, it is not ignored. Both Hannah and Jessica are victims, whose stories are told realistically and vividly. As explained by the producers of the show, these scenes are created with the purpose of being uncomfortable because rape is uncomfortable. They are doing everything in their power to document and bring attention to the very real stories of rape victims.

Bullying is linked to the story of Hannah Baker’s suicide as well. Many don’t see bullying as a serious topic. Thirteen Reasons Why expands upon the complexities behind bullying and how teens are deeply affected by it. Cyberbullying is a foreign concept to most adults, making it hard for them to relate to. It can be very intimate, broadcasting a person’s personal business to anyone and everyone. Unlike bullying, cyberbullying doesn’t end with the school bell; it follows you home, and therefore is very difficult to escape. This can lead teenagers like Hannah Baker to extreme measures like suicide.

When we heard they were turning the book into a television series, we were initially confused by the concept. But in the end, giving each tape its own episode was a fantastic way to develop not only Clay and Hannah’s stories, but simultaneously the stories behind the other 12 tapes. The series was able to expand on topics and characters the book hardly acknowledged, showing the true impact that suicide can have on everyone in the community.

When we got to the end of the series, the two of us were initially shocked and disappointed by Alex’s unexpected suicide attempt. But since then, we’ve come to understand the message it told: with suicide, you can’t always see the signs. It was the exact thing that Hannah had warned us of, over and over again.

For those of you who haven’t watched the show: we highly recommend it.

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“13 Reasons Why” Review