– What is it about? –
Seventeen year old student Hannah Baker leaves recorded cassette tapes outlining 13 reasons why she ended her life. The series is a dual narrative of Hannah’s past self and Clay Jensen at present, a friend and crush of Hannah’s who struggles with knowing he is one of the tapes. The series (based on the novel by Jay Asher in 2007) is an exploration of teen-suicide, cyber bullying and sexual assault.
– My thoughts –
The series does a brilliant job at captivating and engaging the viewer. You feel what the characters do. The dialogue is effective and interesting, allowing the opportunity to become familiar with each student on the tapes. As the series moves through each reason, it gets darker. The mental state of Hannah weakens, showing obvious signs that she is not coping with the bullying and harassment toward her.
It raises issues of the high school complex: friendships coming together and falling apart, pressure to appear sexual at a young age for others and online bullying. The assault and violence happening within her high school is horrific. The concept of consent seems to be out the window and upsetting to watch. I think it is important to show the viewer assault is not pleasant, nor should it be brushed aside. It happens between family, friends, co workers, neighbors, the list goes on.
Tape 12 allows access to the mind frame of Hannah days before she decides to end her own life. She is withdrawn, troubled, upset and finding it hard to feel positive. This episode captures her emotions indicating the worst is yet to come. She reaches out one last time for help and confides in someone to no avail. In that moment, her decision becomes final. The minutes that follow are difficult to watch and very graphic. Whilst it is confronting, the special episode ‘More Reasons Why’ provides answers for the purpose of making this show.
When I finished the show two words came to mind: perspective and appreciation. Everyone will take something different away from it, one of the main objectives for the show. For me, I felt deep sadness for Hannah Baker as she ended her life: it was a tragic and gruesome way to go. The final episode gave me perspective: no matter how dark things may seem, there is always reason for hope. I gained appreciation to celebrate life and all that it gives. Life is precious, we cannot take it for granted.
– The broader view –
The show highlights the high school dynamic between students, and how that impacts their home life. The viewer sees the exploration of the relationships between parents and their children, how that affects their daily life personally and around others at school. Not a lot of detail of discussion is given toward mental health or suicide. The teachers are represented as passive, silently trying to understand why Hannah did it, without drawing too much attention to the students’ ears. From this, the students themselves aren’t taking Hannah’s death very seriously, wanting to simply “move on” from it all. The people on the 13 tapes are afraid of being exposed, reflecting their guilt very obviously to the viewer.
Shown clearly is how bullying and harassment effects a person. Explored often is how the parents cope with grief, their misbehaving teenage children, and their obliviousness to the negative impact society has on one another. Most of the paternal characters displayed in the series are either irrelevant, oblivious, frustrated or deeply upset. This says a lot about the context of the series.
The series captures the severity of assault: reflecting the intensity, confusion, panic and stress of witnessing and experiencing assault. The episodes are confronting, however I think they are important with educating and highlighting what happens. Consent, awareness and crossing the line are important elements needing to be taught, to educate people from a young age that no means no, that if someone is unconscious it is a no, that violating a person in any way is still a no.
The series provide a platform to be used as educating material in schools. It is a real shame they are banned in certain places. Some back lash has been that the series encourages teen suicide and self abuse, however I think this stems from lack of education and awareness of surroundings that creates bullying, assault, and more. The parents and teachers and students are all responsible for what happens to someone experiencing these things. It is our actions and how we deal with consequences that reflect the change we wish to see in our world.
The second last episode is brutal, impacting and confronting. It is necessary for it to be this way, to highlight the disgraceful behaviour of those on the tapes. As we reach the end of the series, Hannah’s emotional well-being is unstable. Her thoughts are consumed by sadness and self-hatred. We see the reasons why she ended her own life with one final tape piecing it together.
Have you watched the series and/or read the novel? What are your views? Feel free to leave comments below.