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13 Reasons Why Season 1 Review: An Uncomfortable Honest Drama

BY Louie Anne Matthews

Published 5 years ago

13 Reasons Why Season 1 Review: An Uncomfortable Honest Drama

Netflix’s latest series “13 Reasons Why” is an engrossing and provocative series about the circumstances behind a young woman’s decision to commit suicide. The story begins when Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) receives cassette tapes containing information about Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) suicide.  Through these cassette tapes, Hannah gives 13 reasons why she took her own life. This consumes Clay’s moral compass.

The series is more than just another high school melodrama about jocks, cliques nor finding who you truly are at seventeen. It doesn’t romanticize suicide or sell on teenagers engaging in casual sex. It tackles complex issues that are real to the high school life. The diverse cast of “13 Reasons Why” realistically portrayed what led the teenage girl to end her own life.

13 Reasons Why: On Twisting One’s Truth

Hannah was a victim of the rumor mill — how one side of a story can turn into a million stories of pure fiction. Bullying isn’t only classified into physical assault or shoving someone in a locker as most high school dramas present. Most of the bullying that happens in high school is verbal, whispers and stares. Imagine being Hannah Baker, a beautiful girl who moved into a new town and enrolled in a new school hoping for the best only to get the worst.

 In the book, we do not get to read the perspectives of each character and see how they have been affected as well. The series was able to show their side of the truth. In episode 1, we see Hannah and Justin Foley’s (Brandon Flynn) courtship turn sour in a matter of minutes. Hannah mentions in the tape that he was her first kiss, but the whole school got a different story. What was supposed to be sweet and innocent became raunchy gossip in the hallways.

Imagine being Hannah Baker, walking down the hallway seeing people gawk at you and whisper as you pass by. You know for sure that it is you they are all talking about. Hannah says it best during the third episode in her message to her friend Alex Standall (Miles Heizer). “You don’t know what it’s like to be a teenage girl,” she says in the tape as she recalls how a hot and not list continued the spiral of rumors surrounding her. Continuing the stares, the whispers, and facts, they won’t bother asking her for confirmation.

13 Reasons Why: On Casual Cruelty and Hormonal Hazing

 “13 Reasons Why” tackles the subject of bullying head first showing not only how students treated Hannah Baker but presenting it as casual cruelty. In the final episode of the series when it was Tyler Down’s (Devin Druid) turn to testify he admits to being a victim of bullying, he describes how he has been pushed around, shoved and locked in bathrooms. We also see how teens would easily make harassment a viral story to share in the hallways.

You would think teachers in their school would find a way to end this sort of bullying, however, they continue to blame social media or even the students themselves. “13 Reasons Why” not only showed us Hannah’s tortured life in high school but the people around her as well. In one episode Clay decided to take revenge for Hannah on his own. Tape 4 ‘s subject is Tyler, Hannah’s stalker who took pictures of her. One particular picture involved Courtney Crimsen (Michele Selene Ang) and Hannah kissing.

As revenge, Clay took a picture of Tyler undressing and sent it to the whole school.  Tyler reported the incident and the instances of harassment from his fellow peers to the school’s guidance counselor Mr. Porter (Derek Luke). Tyler thought he would get help but instead, Mr. Porter told him that he needed to learn how to protect himself. Tyler then accused him of victim shaming which was a big theme in “13 Reasons Why”

“13 Reasons Why” is a progressive show that pushes boundaries and makes the viewer question if we should normalize casual cruelty.

Depiction of Suicide, Rape and Removing Stigma

Media tends to romanticize the idea of suicide, their depiction ends up crossing the line between representation and perpetuation. But “13 Reasons Why” presented the subject matter of suicide as real as it is supposed to be. How it is more than a pretty girl slitting their wrists.

Jay Asher’s YA novel of the same name tackles issues of suicide and rape in such a realistic manner that it is almost uncomfortable to read. This, though, is was he wanted.

In episode 9 we learn that Hannah witnessed Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) rape her former best friend Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) on her bed.  The series presented a graphic representation of rape. Jessica drunk and passed out as Bryce starts slipping off her underwear and forcing himself inside of her. The scene left viewers with an uncomfortable taste in their mouths.  

 In episode 12, Hannah recollects what happened the night before she killed herself. She found herself at a party at Bryce’s house then finds herself alone in a hot tub with him. Viewers witnessed Hannah as she physically and verbally resisted Bryce’s intentions. He pins her down on the edge of the hot tub, pulls down her underwear, and pushes her head against the patio. We see her struggle until she completely turns limp and her eyes glaze over to the sky as Bryce continues to rape her.

Asher told Buzzfeed News that he believes that it was for the best that the show portrayed sexual assault as authentically as possible. It was portrayed the way it was because according to Asher it wasn’t something to be glossed over or to look away from.

 “13 Reasons Why” focuses on the truth that really matters in the story.  Hannah’s truth and what was supposed to be done with it.

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