There is no sensible way of talking about assault, victimization and suicide – there is only the matter of fact way to address these problems and the new Netflix show does just that.
Based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why the series, is elegantly shot and performed. It is focused on a group of teenage students dealing with the suicide of one of their own, the show travels easily through past and present scenarios. As a viewer you’re engaged with each emotion Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) are feeling and you’re left wanting a friend like the wise Tony (Christian Navarro) who will protect your secrets and honor your memory.
It is no secret that Hannah Baker commits suicide. What is yet to be determined is why. As depicted in the preview, Hanna Baker is dead – you can hear her voice hauntingly telling you that she is. You can see her face and Clay’s reaction when she says that the tape he’s listening to is the first of 13 tapes that list the reasons why she’s dead – true to the tone set on the preview, the show opens with Hanna Baker’s voice and the introduction to the tapes that reveal the reasons why she committed suicide. Placing the blame on each student that are mentioned in each one of them. But why does she blame them? What happens next is a slew of unimaginable happenings in teenagers’ lives that not only opens the door to traumas, but addresses the behavioral signs every parent or educator should pay attention to, and most importantly, it showcases the grief and love every parent of a child who dies or commits suicide goes through. It’s raw, emotional and educational all at once.
While slow paced (which I sometimes found infuriating) it is with purpose: there is a reason why there’s no rushing into the reality of things. In real life these issues don’t happen as quickly as one may think. It’s a buildup of everything and anything. As Hannah goes on to tell us, there is a start to her thoughts of suicide and she continues to narrate, she points out that every little thing counts – be it towards life or against it.
Along with mortality, the show also addresses rape, consent and the murky waters a teenager has to navigate to understand what it really means to be in a healthy relationship with another person. It addresses survivor’s guilt. Another thing that it addresses is the ongoing issue with teenagers today, especially since so many parents still don’t know how to speak to their children about sex, relationships and most importantly: consent. I did find the show lacking to address the issue properly since consent is a responsibility for both males and females; they both have to consent to have sex with one another – it’s not just the guy who has to make sure the girl wants to have sex.
The issue of sexual identity is also addressed here. There are plenty of characters who are gay, some are presented as ‘matter of fact’ others are presented as still struggling with their identity and do whatever it takes to protect their ‘secrets’. The issues teenagers face: sexuality, depression, anxiety, bullying, drunk driving, societal and peer pressures, self identity and academic responsibilities are a huge part of this show as it is in our daily lives. These issues drive the characters actions, choices and it affects them all in different ways. Like I mentioned before, the show is elegantly performed, directed and shot. Each episode is riddled with emotion that will cause you to feel everything its characters are feeling. It does a great job at not shying away from the uncomfortable topics and it addresses the complexities of victimization and predator like behavior with an equal complex view of it all – it is never black and white when it comes to these things.
But it’s not all heavy, within the heavy topics dealt with in the show; there is a tender awkward teenage love story. Similar to the awkward one we’ve all experienced in our youth – with misunderstood intentions and unsaid words that lead to further confusion and decisions made under duress and ignorance.
I highly recommend people to watch this show because it tells more than just one story. It tells a complex story about parents, teenagers, educators and life itself – and since I don’t want to give much of plot line away, so go stream it now.
I further recommend, as a survivor of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, as well as survivor of a suicide attempt – that if you have these feelings, to speak to someone about it – to be clear about your emotions, however hard they may be. There is no shame in being a victim, there is no shame in being depressed, and there is no shame in having dark emotions – but please, speak to someone because suicide is not the answer. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel you’re passing through at the moment.
For help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time 1-800-273-8255 (US) or if you’re outside of the States check this list of suicide prevention websites in your country: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.