13 Reasons Why: Can a show save a life?
By now you've probably heard of the series streaming on Netflix by the name of 13 Reasons Why. But did you know it was actually based on a bestselling book released in 2007? I did because I have read the book a few years ago and it was a truly touching and life changing piece of literature. Going in, you know there's no happy ending. But as is common with books being adapted into movies or TV show, some changes were made. Nothing too altering because the premise remains the same. So what makes this show so moving and popular? Let's explore.
13 Reasons Why explores many important teenage topics such as bullying, rape, and most profoundly suicide. None of these topics are new to us because we hear and see it happen everyday in high schools across the country. We might have even been victims of bullying or rape, or maybe the violators ourselves. What makes this show different is it's from the victim's point of view and she's already dead. That's one of the main quotes of the promotion for the show: "if you're listening, you're too late." The show's main character and the girl who takes her own life is Hannah Baker. At first sight, she is a typical teenager full of angst yet has a gentle spirit that the world just doesn't understand. She always tries to do the right thing, but every time it gets her in trouble and pushes her even closer to the edge. Before her suicide, she creates thirteen audio cassette tapes, one each for every person who pushed her to take her own life. These people are the "reasons" why she did it and she leaves behind a plan to make sure the tapes are passed from one person to the next so they all come to know the role they played in the ending of her life.
The show has thirteen episodes, one each for every person who somehow, whether intentionally or not, hurt Hannah and made her think that suicide was the only way out of the mess she was in. When the tapes make their way to Clay Jensen, who is the other main character in the show, we listen to them and watch the events of the tapes unfold through his eyes. He was a friend to Hannah and also a coworker. Clay has the most regret about Hannah because he secretly loved her but did nothing to make his feelings for her known. If anyone could've saved her, it would've been him, but as we know from the beginning, that would not be the case.
As we begin to see in detail the life of every person on each tape, a narrative forms into the mystery that killed Hannah Baker. In fact, it's no mystery at all. It's what happened because thirteen people cared more about themselves and their lives to pay attention to how their actions affected other people. Such is typical for a self absorbed teenager who thinks they are the center of the universe. Everyone else is just an extra in the movie of their life, while they are the main attraction. But that quickly changes when one of their own is lost and all their lives quickly start to unravel in front of their very eyes.
The last three episodes are probably the most disturbing and heartbreaking of the whole show. They are also the most important because they lead us to the conclusion of this difficult, yet essential piece of entertainment. This show doesn't shy away from anything because we see everything in great detail including the rape scenes and the actual suicide scene where Hannah slits her wrists in her bathtub. We come to find that all these characters are interconnected to each other in more ways than one. Because of one event, another unfolds, and the lives of many people are affected by something that could have very well been prevented. Hannah Baker is not the only person who loses her life. A few others do as well, while everyone on the tapes is transformed and changed in one way or another from which there is no going back. It becomes clear that one person's life is not meaningless or worthless like many people believe theirs to be, rather that one life can change so many lives without even trying to.
13 Reasons Why-Trailer
While this is not a happy show filled with comedy and laughter, I feel it is a valuable show that can change a person's perspective and bring awareness about the many important issues that teenagers face everyday in high school. Bullying is so commonplace nowadays that sometimes its consequences can be minimized. It's important to remember that bullying is the main reason why suicide usually occurs. I can think of two recent suicides reported about in the media about young people taking their lives because of bullying. One was a young cancer survivor who was bullied because she had a facial deformity which caused her to take her own life. Another was a young boy who took his own life because his girlfriend played a mean prank on him and jokingly broke up with him. These don't seem like reasons to take one's life but it's important to note that to teenagers, every event can seem like the end of the world because their brains haven't fully developed yet. What we as adults can differentiate as important and not important, a teenager's brain cannot. I know because I used to be one of those people who thought an argument with a friend meant the end of the world and a bully's torment meant avoiding school and in turn escaping the abuse. It's all about your perspective, and a teenager's perspective is not always accurately formed which is why suicide can seem like the only way out when there are so many other options to be considered.
All in all, I would recommend this show to everyone, teenagers and adults alike. But watch it with an open mind that later leads to a discussion with the young people in your life. It's been said that this show "glamorizes" suicide and plants the idea for troubled people to create a copycat suicide of their own. I don't believe a show can motivate a person to commit suicide if the idea wasn't already in their minds to begin with. I think a show like this can help a lot of people if it's taken in the context that it's meant to: to open an honest conversation about bullying, suicide, and rape. There's nothing glamorous about a person who takes their own life because the people closest to them have failed to be there and help them. Neither is there anything to desire about a situation in which a person has been bullied to the point where they feel there is no way out but suicide. I think the point of this show is to give people hope. Hope about becoming a more caring society where we take the time to listen and help people in any way we can, even if that means just saying a kind word to a hurting soul. Hope that we can teach our children to never become the bullies that ruin other lives. And lastly, hope that maybe we could be that one bright light in a person's life that makes them realize is worth living for because even though suicide is an epidemic, it is one that is 100% preventable.
According to the American Psychological Association, the third leading cause of death among people 15 to 24 is suicide.
90% of teenagers who commit suicide have some sort of mental health problem such as depression or anxiety.
Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 teens attempt suicide each year. Of these, 30,000 die.
Spring is the season that has the highest rate of suicide.
Every suicide closely affects at least six other people.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24/7 or visit their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
The Night We Met by Lord Huron-13 Reasons Why Soundtrack
Hold On by Good Charlotte
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