13 Reasons Why You Should Watch Thirteen Reasons Why

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Netflix show, Thirteen Reasons Why. This post discusses suicide, rape, and other sensitive material. If you, or someone you know, is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

On March 31st, Netflix released Thirteen Reasons Why, a series based off of the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher. It follows Clay Jenson, a junior in high school who finds a box of cassette tapes on his doorstep one day. The seven double-sided tapes tell the story of why his friend, classmate, and crush, Hannah Baker, took her own life two weeks prior. She narrates each tape and dedicates each side to one person, detailing how and why each person is one of the thirteen reasons why she made her decision.

Suicide has always been, and will always be, a very difficult and delicate subject. The impact of that kind of decision always ripples out further than we could ever imagine. I think Thirteen Reasons Why is important because it shows those ripples. It shows the classmates, the teachers, the coworkers, the families, the friends, and the strangers that affected, and were affected by, Hannah’s decision. More importantly, it shows the internal ripples inside a person contemplating that decision. It shows that ripples can become waves, and waves can become a tsunami; what may not seem like anything to you is a big deal to someone else.

And even if you are, or if you’ve ever known someone considering, affected by, or related to someone who has made or considered this kind of decision, you’ve been changed forever by the fact that a decision like this even exists. The fact that suicide has been presented as an option, a solution to a problem, a way out… affects everyone that comes into contact with it. And when you hear about it, even if it’s just on the news, it serves as a reminder. A reminder to hug your loved ones a little tighter, to say things you didn’t have the courage to say, and to live a little more than you did before; because in the wake of darkness, you want to create light.

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why reminds us that our words can be weapons, regardless of our intention. We don’t have control over whether someone recognizes that weapon as a toy. That those words can say more than you mean, leave a bigger impact than you meant to, stay with someone for longer than you realize.
  2. It reminds us that sometimes, there is no “next time.” Something that we should have done, or will do tomorrow, always has the potential to turn into something we can never do.
  3. It reminds us that all actions have consequences. Everything you do, everything you say, will affect someone else. Your world isn’t made up of just you, it’s made up of every interaction you will ever have. That’s why they call it the butterfly effect, because even the smallest, most insignificant thing can have an impact.
  4. It reminds us to be quiet. To listen to the whispers that are meant as screams, because you never know how much courage it took to say anything at all.
  5. It reminds us to be loud. To ask for help, over and over again, because someone will hear you. It’s okay to need help fighting your battles. You are not alone.
  6. It reminds us to take responsibility. For our words, for our actions, for ourselves and the impact we can have on others. Those impacts that are not only in the future, but the ones we are making right now.
  7. It reminds us to love, in every way, because love is louder than anything else. As Clay mentions in the series, you can’t love someone back to life. But you can try. Sometimes the tiniest light in a dark room can make all the difference. Life isn’t about the should haves, it’s about the did’s.
  8. It shows that cruelty is a cycle, that someone’s internal struggles can manifest in their other relationships, or in their behavior. That it’s important not to judge people based on their behavior or decisions, because you don’t know what demons they’re fighting.
  9. It shows that sometimes the sickest people can live the most normal lives. We see this over and over again in murder trials and rape cases, where the aggressor is depicted as a kind, smart, generous, and promising young individual from a good family in an upscale community. Someone who has never exhibited aggressive behavior previously… But sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones that hide in your own backyard, and it’s easy to be fooled by the games they play.
  10. It shows the aftermath of sexual assault, and the results of victim blaming. As a society, we are still conditioned to question the victim, to insinuate that they “asked for it,” to treat them as guilty until proven innocent; when in reality we should be questioning the accused. We should not be educating young women on how not to be raped, we should be educating young men not to rape.
  11. It shows the impact of schoolyard bullying, and how quickly it can escalate without intervention.
  12. It creates awareness of behaviors that lead to suicide, addiction, and school shootings. It reminds us that we need to take action against those behaviors and take measures to prevent them.
  13. It shows the best, and most accurate, depiction of today’s teens on television. The diversity of the cast, the crude language they use, the drugs, alcohol, sex, and mean girl culture; all accurate to what teens deal with every day. It’s important for parents and teachers to realize what their kids are dealing with, to remain present and involved, and to pay attention to changes in their behavior.

    Just as it is the responsibility of books and shows like Thirteen Reasons Why to depict a subject like this honestly, it’s our responsibility to receive it respectfully. Watch. Listen. Let the ripples hit you, if only so you can know what they feel like. And one day you may be better equipped to help someone who feels like they’re drowning.


That being said, please do not watch this show if you are considering suicide, or have considered it in the past. This show contains very graphic depictions of suicide, rape, and abuse that may trigger those thoughts and behaviors. Please do not push yourself if you know you cannot handle those scenes, your mental health is more important. Click here for a complete list of triggers and which episodes/scenes to avoid if you choose to watch this series.

 

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