One of the biggest topics on the internet at the moment, is the release of the Netflix teen series, 13 Reasons Why. This series follows Clay as he listens to 13 tapes recorded by a young girl named Hannah, who left the tapes behind as a form of suicide note. I’m a little late on watching this series… and truth be told, I didn’t think I would be able to. I had already read the book a few years ago, so I knew all the topics that were going to show up in the series.
Please, if the discussion of depression, rape and suicide is a form of trigger for you, you may want to stop reading now.
I have mentioned before that I have suffered with mental illness for 10 years now. The first time I read 13 Reasons Why was in 2010, when I was 15… and had already made an attempt to take my own life.
So I guess you could say that this book somehow spoke to me, though mine and Hannah’s experiences were completely different. But I remember thinking, this book told the characters that what they do to others, even as a joke, can hurt deeper than they know… but it always felt like Hannah had no other choice.
With the arrival of the tv series, I decided I should reread the book before watching it. Once again, I felt it demonstrated how your actions towards others, can effect them in ways you wouldn’t release. The book also occurs over one night, rather than weeks like the tv series. Hannah’s tapes torment Clay, but you don’t really hear how they affect the other people that listen to them, except Tony. There is mention of Clay remembering Alex being shoved into him, and the previous listeners paying Tyler’s house a visit, but other than that, the characters only really exist on the tapes, or Clay’s memories from months past.
You don’t even really learn how Hannah’s death effected other people either, just that her parents left town pretty quickly, and didn’t have a funeral for her.
I don’t think the book really glorifies teen suicide, but it certainly gives Hannah some infamy for it. This would be because of they way Clay already thought of her, so that’s why it never really came across as the author treating suicide the same way.
Also, another thing that I found interesting was the lack of detail, though this was not a downfall to the book. The characters are not described, the only real detail about any of the characters was the mention of Hannah having a small scar on her face, and that her hair was long, then she cut it short.
Overall, I still enjoyed the book.
So, I finally got around to watching the tv series, and like all adaptations, they changed quite a bit to the book.
It was no longer set over one night, but rather a few weeks. And you saw, in detail, how each character was effected by Hannah’s tapes, so much so, that Hannah becomes a bully of sorts.
One of the things I remember from high school was that we were told “The bullied often become the bullies”, and for the tv show of Thirteen Reasons Why, I believe Hannah, and even Clay, became just that. Each of the listeners did something wrong, some worse than others, but how Clay acts upon finding out what Tyler did, he becomes a bully.
Hannah’s tapes torment the characters, the way that each listener has to listen to what all the others did, with the imposing threat of the second set of tapes, becomes a form of harassment. If Hannah’s purpose of the tapes was in fact to draw attention of the true impact of their actions, then it was a bit ironic, that she didn’t worry about how the tapes would impact the listeners. She wanted them to change their ways, but in a way that would possibly torment and hurt the listeners for the rest of their lives.
Alex seems to be one of the only characters to try and address the bullying that has not only been occurring before Hannah’s death, but also the bullying that resulted from the tapes. He defends Tyler, and also gets beaten up as a result of standing up to the bullying.
The tv series also demonstrates society’s blaming the victim. Any of Hannah’s “attempts” of getting help which potentially could have changed her mind about killing herself, she is called out for “seeking attention” and “being selfish”, no one really recognises it as a serious issue. Which yes, when the book was originally published, could be a possibility, but unfortunately is an all to real, and more common issue when the tv series was made. The school counsellor, Mr Porter, is also portrayed as one of the biggest victim blaming characters. Alex is suspended for getting into a fight, when defending himself, and actually calls Porter out on this blaming the victim. Later it is revealed that Hannah went to see Porter, who is also the subject of her 13th tape, about being raped, he basically tells her that she is at fault because she didn’t say “no”. He doesn’t offer her any help, and just tells her to move on.
Unfortunately, rape is a widely debated topic. Whether it is the victims fault for “asking for it”, or the way rapist is never taught the difference between right and wrong. Not only does the tv series show Mr Porter blaming Hannah, but also shows how Bryce, the rapist, does not truly comprehend the reality of his actions.
“If that’s rape, then every girl at the school wants to be raped” Bryce Walker
The series is interesting in the way that it actually portrays the act itself, and how others react to it, BUT it relies too much on the watcher deciding that the act is morally wrong, rather than saying it. We are shown Hannah being blamed for being a victim, and we aren’t shown Bryce facing any consequences. In some ways I think this shows just how society treats rape, and how wrong it is, but it doesn’t discuss the alternative, and as such, doesn’t really do much to change this.
Thirteen Reasons Why is not the first series with a younger audience that has addressed teen suicide, however it is the first to do so in such a controversial way.
I actually had my sister messaging me, saying not to watch Thirteen Reasons, or at least not the final episode, and because she was so worried about it being a trigger for me, she wanted me to message her that I was okay after it.
I want to start off by saying I am not against the show addressing the issue of teen suicide, or how it impacts the people around the person, such as Hannah’s parents.
However, the way that this show addresses the topic, is wrong. Hannah is never shown as having any kind of help or support system. The school puts up posters raising awareness after her death, but it is never shown to have any impact. The teachers and school counsellor are shown to blame the person seeking help, and the events of the series lead up to another character, Alex, making an attempt on his life. Hannah never tries to talk to her parents about the way she is feeling, but many teens feel the same way. By never showing Hannah as having someone that may actually be able to help her, how many other teens are going to watch this series, and believe the same thing applies for them? How many other people are going to watch this and think they are completely alone, and that there is no one to help them?
Then there is the subject of the suicide scene. I read that the motivation behind showing the scene was that the goal was to show that Hannah didn’t just “slip away”, but that’s EXACTLY what the show did. Any other show that has addressed teen suicide has either shown a less graphic attempt – yes, attempt, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a suicide shown – or it wasn’t shown at all. Not only did Thirteen Reasons show one of the most graphic, and triggering suicides for a series, BUT they showed it as being so easy.
Apparently, the producers were warned not to put this scene in, due to the audience being a high risk, and it being filmed in an area, that has had a high rate of teen suicide (PLEASE NOTE; I do not know how true this is, I am just stating that I read it somewhere). Hannah does in fact, hyperventilate for like 30 seconds, but then just slips away and bleeds out. What in the hell were the creators thinking?! They wanted to show her not just slipping away, yet that’s what they did.
Recently, I have had a few down points (which is why this has taken me 23 days to write) since watching the tv series, and had that scene pop up in my head making me think “the pain wouldn’t last that long, it would be really easy to do”, and though I still struggle with depression, and still have some thoughts like that, I think I’m at a point, and have made enough progress in recovery, that I would actually never make an attempt on my life – however, if I had of watched this series at 16, I think the outcome would have been totally different.
Thirteen Reasons Why not only shows the main character as not having a viable support system available, but also shows her death as being easy and something that could easily be done. If the producers were, in fact, warned about not showing this, then I honestly would like to punch them. I seriously worry about what impact this show will have on many teens. They glorify suicide and make it seem so easy, and it the era of the internet, even if this show was taken down (which oh no, they aren’t even thinking about, in fact they’re making SEASON 2), the damage is done, there are many other ways to watch it.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, or are thinking you have no way out, please know you are not alone! I know you are probably sick of this, I am someone who struggles with talking about what I am going through, especially to a counsellor. But please, please, please, know that there are support systems available to you.
List of worldwide hotlines > here
Please also know, that if anyone is indeed feeling that they cannot talk to someone, my email address is listed, and I will listen to anyone that needs it x
I do not believe that Thirteen Reasons Why, should ever have been adapted, at least not in that fashion. The producers made a serious error when they thought teen suicide in such a fashion was a good idea. And if you do not believe it necessarily glories teen suicide, then look at how glorified the tv series has become. Teens have created many instagram, we heart it, and tumblr pages, all in the name of worshipping this series, the same way teen wolf or pretty little liars is. I don’t think many of them realise just how serious the issue of worshipping such a show is, and what damage this show could reap onto teens struggling with mental health could have.
If you’re still here, thank you for reading my opinion, and please stay safe.
You are loved, and never alone x