I recently binge watched Netflix’s new original show 13 Reasons Why, a drama filled, heart-tugging show that truly encompasses the realities that teenagers go through on a daily basis. The series, which originated from a novel of the same name written by Jay Asher, pulls on heavy issues like sexual exploitation, the dangers of technology, drunken driving, sexual assault and of course, teenage suicide.
When I was growing up, bullying was always a huge topic at my school. The words ‘bullying will not be tolerated’ were always uttered at the beginning of school year and even school term. It seems that as time moved on, I quickly realised that bullying is so much easier to do now with the internet in full swing. It happens every single day all over the world, and hey, if I’m being honest, I’ve been the victim of it and I, myself have been the bully.
In Australia alone, there was a noted average of over 3,000 suicides in 2015 – this may not all be due to bullying, but the stats are still staggering. Before watching 13 Reasons Why, suicide as a result of bullying was never really relevant in my personal life, however after watching it, I really started to fear for my 14-year-old cousin. Being 14 in 2017 can be a scary thing, from keeping up with your friends through all the social media platforms, posting up the perfect selfie, trying to fit in and keeping up with school work can really tip a teenager over.
Warning – there WILL be spoilers here so please refrain from reading until you’ve completed the show (don’t know what you’re waiting for really).
So diving into the actual series itself – 13 Reasons Why starts off with the known fact that Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a 17-year-old high school junior has committed suicide. As human beings, the immediate questions flow into our brains – why did she do it and how did she do it?
The setting of the series is your typical high school environment with a line up of lockers, jocks in their athletic bomber jackets and cheerleaders hanging off their shoulder – immediate cliques are formed as soon as you see the type of students walking about. The narration starts and of course, it’s our protagonist character’s voice, Hannah Baker. Before she committed suicide, she recorded 13 tapes that reveal why and what lead to her death. Each person involved is required to listen to the tapes and pass them along. This whole concept was almost sickening to me – having to listen to your own involvement in a girl killing herself. From a picture text that was leaked to the entire school, slut shaming, being the centre of attention for the wrong reason, friend betrayal over a guy, and eventually, the most horrifying of them all, a guy who turns out to be a rapist. The worst part about the last guy is that he doesn’t even consider what he did raping – realistically, these people exist.
When the tapes reach Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), he makes it his mission to find out what really happened, how he drove Hannah Baker to commit suicide and how to get justice back. Before her death, Clay and Hannah were friends, Clay also nursed a crush on her and they even shared a kiss together at a party. Both Clay and Hannah’s stories cross paths as he remembers his version whilst she tells her version – pinpointing the exact moments Hannah felt she had to end these rumours and embarrassment and eventually end her life.
All the characters in 13 Reasons Why were so thoroughly dissected for the audience that by the end of the series, I felt like I knew someone just like that when I was in school. And what’s scarier is that there could have been a girl or guy who could have ended up like Hannah Baker. 13 people lead to 13 reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide.
So now what?
Now that you know more than the gist of the series, I want to talk about the importance of this show for anyone who feels like there is only one way out. By no means am I a professional/expert/doctor – this is just me putting in my 2 cents as someone who would never want this to happen to anybody – especially people I know and love.
The concept of teenage suicide and rape is still a difficult topic of conversation in today’s society. No one wants to think about their daughters or sons ending their lives. Rape and sexual assault are still happening today and there are people out there who are unaware that it’s your right to say no or to refuse. You should also be aware of the fine line drawn between consent and rape. When I watched this show, I felt so uncomfortable and shocked that the directors have placed such a confronting scene in the show – but then I realised that they didn’t just decide to do it for shock value. It’s to get the audience talking and boy, are they talking.
So besides talking about it, what else can we do?
Don’t be a bully. Don’t succumb to the pressures of the cool kids and torment someone. There’s never a reason to do it – and to this day, I regret cracking under peer pressure and wanting to fit in by saying nasty remarks.
Secondly, know that there are always people you can talk to. If you can’t turn to your family and friends, there’s beyondblue, Suicide Prevention Australia, Lifeline Australia etc. Otherwise, you can turn to me – I’m always open to listening, as I said before, I’m definitely no expert but I’m a great listener 🙂 you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve ever been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, never ever be afraid to report it. I think this point can be debatable, there are so many reasons as to why one may choose to keep it hidden, and those reasons I don’t understand. However, as someone who believes in justice, empowerment of any gender and honesty, I really think there’s never a reason to feel ashamed if you’ve been harassed or assaulted.
And finally, as human beings, we put ourselves first and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, start to take notice of others. Your friends, siblings, parents, anyone around you that may be acting strangely. Ask them if they’re okay.
This blog post was a little difficult for me to write, I didn’t want to make it controversial but I feel the topic does that itself. If I have offended you in any way, I sincerely apologise – these are my true feelings about this and I stand by what I say.
Check out the trailer for 13 Reasons Why below.