“13 Reasons Why” shows honest depictions of suicide, rape, bullying, depression

Jay Asher’s young adult book “13 Reasons Why” generates buzz as it’s turned into a Netflix original series. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

By Kimmie Semiday

A&E Editor

On March 31, “13 Reasons Why” premiered on Netflix. The series is based off the 2007 young adult novel of the same name written by Jay Asher.

“13 Reasons Why” tells the story Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, and her encounters during high school that ultimately lead to her suicide. The show begins with members of her classmates huddled around Hannah’s locker, which has been made into a memorial.

Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, heads home to find a box with 13 tapes inside, each of which explains the snowball of events that solidified Hannah’s fate. Jensen, unlike the other students who have listened to the tapes, takes weeks to get through the reasons, but as he does, the tapes reveal the truth about his classmates actions.

While this show is unique in its delivery, it does stray from the original book. In the show, Clay takes weeks to listen to the tapes, while in the book he listens to all of them in one night causing the plot to move faster. Another major difference is the lawsuit Hannah’s parents are involved in because of their daughter’s suicide. In the book, the Baker’s do not sue the school and are only mentioned rather than being main characters. In fact, aside from Clay and Hannah, there is only reference to the other characters in the tapes, while the show gives the viewer a back-story for each person.

These differences however, don’t take away from the honest and uncomfortable depiction of bullying, depression and rape that both Asher and executive produced Selena Gomez aimed to capture in the show.

Media outlets today have specific narratives when it comes to romanticizing suicide, victim blaming when someone is raped and downplaying the serious consequences bullying can have on an individual, “13 Reasons Why” goes against all of those common narratives.

Episode 13, is the last in the series, where Hannah has finally reached her breaking point, but attempts to give life “one last try.” She reaches out for help from her school counselor after being raped by a star athlete at Liberty High, but instead of getting help, she is told to move on.

The events that follow are graphic and fully show Hannah slitting her wrist in her bathtub. After Hannah has bled out, her mother and father find her, both of which are unprepared to deal with what they are seeing. Hannah’s mother persistently tells Hannah she is okay while her husband calls 911.

Typically in shows, when suicide is depicted it is done in a way that sugarcoats the tragic event. Once again, “13 Reasons Why” does the exact opposite.

Brain Yorkey, another executive producer, explained that Hannah’s suicide was meant to make people want to look away. The goal was for viewers to see the damage and horrifying nature of suicide rather than showing it in a way that could be construed as glamorous.

Overall, “13 Reasons Why,” is an honest television series that pushes boundaries of comfortability and honesty. While many may argue that the deviations from Asher’s book take away from the show, it should be noted that the Netflix series can be appreciated in its own artistic right.

The most important aspect of “13 Reasons Why” is that this series has generated a conversation. Hard topics such as rape, depression and suicide are so often ignored because it is difficult to talk about. However, everyone who created “13 Reasons Why” took on that challenge and forced people to acknowledge that these things are happening, even if it’s easier to pretend that they are not.

Suicide is 100% preventable. If you or anyone you know may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone. You can find resources at 13reasonswhy.info or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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