13 Reasons: Why
By Anna Howard
April 21, 2017
13 Reasons Why is an important show that reflects the dangers that high school students face with an emphasis on gender-specific dilemmas. While it has faced criticism from opposing viewers such as Brooke Flatford, it is an impactful series that proves empowering for girls and crucial in understanding the inner working of high school drama.
Its watchers follow leading character Clay Jensen through a set of tapes left behind by friend Hannah Baker, who committed suicide a few weeks earlier. Each tape is specific to a person that contributed to the 13 reasons why she killed herself. She provides two rules: listen, and pass it on. The tapes circulate through the 13 people in the order that they are mentioned.
The series is 13 episodes and symbolically forces its watchers to go through each episode as Clay would go through the tapes. We watch in horror as her life unravels and we begin to understand her decision to end her life. Hannah’s own emotions build up in us as we feel the weight she carried grow heavier.
13 Reasons Why should be recognized for its rawness and ability to address uncomfortable issues with a sense of unbearable candor. It provides a crude example of typical human nature. We witness rape, bad relationships, stalking, and the quick style in which a high school girl is labeled inherently sexual without having done anything.
When the series starts, we see Clay fall short of understanding Hannah’s problems time and time again. He misses the mark and appears ignorant. As the season progresses, we join him in realizing how the “little things” impacted her so much and are, figuratively, put to our knees in a season of reflection upon our own lives. Have I ever said that to someone? Was that joke too far? Was that rumor I shared really true?
What else have I dismissed, and what can I do?
13 Reasons’ actors have used their new platform to help answer these questions. Most of them frequently post ways for people to access help if they are being bullied, are survivors of sexual assault, or are feeling like there is no way out. It has brought attention to important issues and then followed up by providing resources for those whom the show resonated with.
While the trending complaint is that it does not relay an understanding of mental illness, that is not the show’s primary focus. Its intent is to awaken people to how they may be contributing to a person feeling the way Hannah did and to represent those people, and it does so successfully.