Why a Show Like “13 Reasons Why” is Important

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Beth Dubber/Netflix

Yamilex Arias, Editor

Netflix released what was a much anticipated series based on the novel “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. The book, which was Asher’s debut, was published in 2007, but it has become a popular best-seller in recent years.

Reading the book and watching the show was like any other experience of watching an on-screen adaption of a written work; it left something to be desired at some parts, but captured certain pivotal moments perfectly.

This show, despite being released so early in the year, will probably remain one of the biggest successes for the streaming service for the remainder of 2017. Looking past its popularity within the first weekend, the real importance of the show comes from the issues it touches on.

The major theme of the show is about suicide and the events that lead to Hannah Baker, the main character, ending her own life. The exploration of each individual’s role in her plan is in-depth and the show captured the actors in a way that made it seem like it was an actual portrayal of a girl’s life, not just a mediocre retelling.

Suicide isn’t a very popular topic, even if it is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. This being discussed on a large platform brings up the discussion, especially among adults, about the disconnect between their children and themselves. Hannah’s parents, Olivia and Andy Baker, didn’t understand why she chose to kill herself initially and embarked on a journey of comprehending the complex reasons that led to that decision.

Another topic touched upon by the show is sexual assault. Bryce Walker sexually assaulted two different girls, one of them being Hannah. The show depicted the separate sexual assault scenes by accentuating the difference between knowing what consent is and what it isn’t. In the first sexual assault, Jessica Davis’s boyfriend, Justin Foley, understands that Jessica cannot give consent because she is drunk and unconscious, but later, Bryce Walker rapes her even despite her waking up and telling him “no”.

In Hannah’s assault, Bryce and her are in a pool and stops struggling against him when the realization hits her that he will overpower her.

The situations are different but the message being put out by both is rape is rape, it doesn’t matter how it happens. “13 Reasons Why” is among a few shows I have personally seen that have shown sexual assault and tried to address it in some way, even if it it through Hannah Baker and not directly.

There’s other things like bullying and stalking that are addressed in the show and they’re all significant. It’s a way for teenagers to learn and to reflect on past behaviors to understand how their actions may look to someone else. For adults, watching this might give them a larger understanding of how teenagers act and feel today and offers a way for them to start a conversation about popular issues.

Hannah Baker is a dynamic character but her struggles are real and resonate within many people. If you feel, in any way, like Hannah, contact your counselor, speak to a trusted adult, or contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.