Let’s Talk About 13 Reasons Why

**Trigger warning: This post contains content relating to suicide, rape, and mental illness. Please stop reading if any of this makes you uncomfortable at any time**

There’s been a lot of talk about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why and with good reason. It’s a pretty good show that deals with a lot of serious issues. Based on the 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher, this show is about high school student Hannah Baker who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of cassette tapes explaining why she did it. As someone who struggles with mental health issues, I thought this show was well done for the most part. I started out binging the series (I think I watched the first four episodes in one go) but as the series went on it got harder to binge because it just got darker and heavier. This show was well done in a lot of ways but it also had its problems.

The Good

  • The trigger warnings at the beginning of the episodes – Because this show dealt with heavy, sensitive subjects (like rape and suicide) and some of that was shown in a fairly graphic way, I appreciate the fact that the creators of the show did put those specific trigger warnings at the beginning of some of the episodes.
  • It deals with real problems – I’m not just talking about suicide and rape and mental health disorders that this show deals with. I’m also talking about people’s (problematic) behaviour. From the guidance counsellor being remarkably unhelpful to the teacher ignoring a serious cry for help to people denying that they were ever part of the problem in the first place. Unfortunately, this is what so many high schools are like. People, students and staff alike  see or know of someone who is struggling but they don’t reach out and don’t do enough to help. Sometimes all it takes is someone to tell you that you’re not alone and to point you in the direction of resources that can help you if they can’t help you themselves.
  • The characters were excellent – Pretty much none of the characters were exactly as they seem in the beginning. In the beginning we see the best of them but as we go through the tapes we come to the realization that most of the characters are damaged an have their burdens and secrets and we start to empathize with them a little bit. It makes you realize that just like in real life, people often wear masks and only let people know the best of them.
  • It makes people realize that what you say and do matters – You don’t know what’s going on in someone’s head or what they’ve been through. Being popular in school is not an excuse to be a jerk to someone. Words can hurt or words can heal. In this show, people argued (both on the show and in real life) that Hannah was just being a drama queen. I disagree. After some of the things that were said and done to her, I would be pretty hurt and upset too. What makes it worse is that it was the people who were closest to her that hurt her, so she had no one to turn and talk to, which is hard. So just treat each other with kindness and respect and the world will be a better place.

The Bad

  • It’s a little bit graphic – I couldn’t decide whether this should be on the good list or the bad list so it’s on the top of the bad list. While I think it’s important to understand that this stuff happens like this in real life, I don’t know that that’s necessarily something I wanted to see on my TV screen for an extended period of time.
  • This show somewhat glorifies suicide – By Hannah leaving tapes for the thirteen people to find, this show makes it seems like she committed suicide for attention. This bugged me a bit because it should never be said that someone committed suicide for attention.
  • I don’t love that this show makes it seems like love is the answer – By the time we get to Clay’s tape a lot of people on the show have hurt Hannah in countless ways. But what bugged me a bit about Clay’s episode was that it seemed like if only Clay had loved her and told her how he felt about her, that could have saved her. While there are obviously many other reasons that Hannah committed suicide, I feel like there was too much emphasis on how Clay could have saved her.
  • The mental health issues were glossed over – Clearly, all the characters were dealing with some sort of mental health issue whether it was before, during, or after listening to Hannah’s tapes and Hannah was obviously struggling with her own mental health as well. But these issues were not discussed very much other than Hannah going to see the guidance counsellor but there were clearly others struggling like Clay and Jessica.
  • The memes and jokes that have come out of this show make me so angry – This show was dramatic, there’s no question about that. But the Internet has taken it too far with the “Welcome to your tape” jokes. This show is trying to make a serious point about suicide and abuse and it took about a week for the Internet to turn it into a joke and the issues addressed in this show are just not joking matters.

Overall I’d give it a 7.5/10. I think the moral of this story is that if someone leaves behind tapes explaining why they committed suicide, take them to the police!

I’m interested to hear your opinions on 13 Reasons Why if you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments what your thoughts are.


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