Current Events in Education

’13 Reasons Why’ Needs to Lead to an Open and Honest Conversation

On March 31, Netflix released all 13 episodes of 13 Reasons Why, a series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It chronicles the story of Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, as she narrates the 13 reasons why she decided to commit suicide. Those 13 reasons are based on 13 people that lead her to it through bullying, sexual abuse, and deception.
The show also centers around Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, whose tape was the 11th. Hannah explained how Clay’s inability to love her the way she needed led to him ignoring all the signs of help she was trying to give.  Ironically, and not far from reality, the show takes place in a high school between a bunch of upperclassmen. The series covers many topics that high schools normally do not cover honestly and openly, which is that of suicide, depression, and sexual assault.
The show, which has caused many people to commit 13 hours of the day to binge, has opened a box of much-needed topics that need to be discussed.
Hannah was new to the school when she first meets Justin, who she slowly falls for. However, Justin ends up taking a revealing picture of Hannah and begins to digitally spread that through the school. This brings up the topic of sexting, which is an issue with current high school students and even the generation before. Some may blame Hannah for putting herself in that situation, while others will look at Justin as a disgusting human being. But in the show, and in reality, Justin, the guy, was praised for his actions, while Hannah was shamed.
Tape two and three discussed the triangle between Jessica, Alex, and Hannah. Although it wasn’t a love triangle, it was very much a friendship triangle. The three were best friends. When two romantically paired off (Jessica and Alex), it left Hannah as the sole and lonely person. Jessica falsely accused Hannah of being the cause of her breakup with Alex, because Alex listed Hannah on a derogatory list that was being spread around campus. Both are disgusting examples of bullying that, unfortunately, actually happen in the high school setting.
Throughout the series, the show flashes back between Clay’s relationship development with Hannah and him trying to vindicate Hannah’s death by making sure those mentioned on the tapes knew their faults. Courtney, a closeted lesbian, threw Hannah under the bus to avoid being discovered as one of the people on a lesbian kiss picture, while Marcus publicly humiliated Hannah during the dollar valentine’s date dance.
On the sixth tape, one of the basketball jocks, Zach, genuinely seeks to get to know Hannah. However, because of being scared and jaded in the past by the athletes, Zach is very publicly rejected by Hannah. He ends up “getting her back,” stealing the positive notes left by other classmates during her communications class project, which is the one thing that was getting Hannah through.
Skipping past Ryan’s tape, tape 10 (Tape 5, Side B) is where the series takes a very serious turn, even though the series itself has already been tense up to this tape. The next couple of episodes centered around a party that was thrown in which Justin allowed his friend Bryce to sexual assault Jessica and Sheri abandoned Hannah after crashing her car into a stop sign, which leads to the death of Jeff, a friend of Clay. Eventually, Bryce sexually assaults Hannah.
And it was all seemingly ignored by Mr. Porter, Hannah’s counselor, who ends up being the last person on the tape.  In the final episode, the producers decided to show the suicide of Hannah, a devastating and harsh reality to the consequences of the topics brought up in the show.
The topics of suicide, sexual assault, depression, bullying, and deceit have all been brought up, all issues that high school students deal with every day and issues that many people think the producers of the show, which include singer Selena Gomez, exploited to make into entertainment.  However, the show was a gripping look at adolescent struggles with American children, struggles that cannot be ignored and realities that educators, parents, and counselors need to address openly and honestly with teenagers. Sadly, many young people may get to a point in which their temporary feelings lead to permanent consequences like suicide.
Although no film or TV show can replace the book, the Netflix series followed the realistic journey of a hurt child who made a permanent decision, a decision that many of our own friends and family make. If anything, the series lead to opening a much-needed dialogue.

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