Getting Real About “13 Reasons Why”
Written by Brian Yorkey and directed by Tom McCarthy, “13 Reasons Why” follows the tragic events which lead to the death of high school student. Hannah Baker is a new girl in town and in her junior year begins to experience problems in school related to depression, anxiety and bullying that leads to her taking her own life.
Although it isn’t until weeks after Hannah’s untimely death that an explanation for her passing is uncovered, when classmate and central character Clay Jenson discovers a box is left outside his home by an anonymous source. Inside, the box contains 13 tapes depicting the trauma she was subjected to by her own peers throughout high school.
The dynamic of “13 Reasons Why” sets the tone for addressing many serious issues related to the challenges many children face every day at the hands of a bully. The film easily depicts many cultural themes such as betrayal, gossip and reputation, parental obliviousness, subjugation of the female body, revenge and exposing the truth. As well as the harsh reality that many victims can sometimes face when dealing with adult figures.
The tapes focus on 13 individuals, each of whom has a tape explaining how that individual contributed to Hannah taking her own life: Justin, Jessica, Alex, Tyler, Courtney, Marcus, Zach, Ryan, Sheri, Clay, Justin (part 2), Bryce and Mr. Porter. Each person is important to the telling of Hannah’s story because each of these people equally play a monumental role in the way their actions play out in Hannah’s life, all leading up to her final hours.
The first tape begins with Justin, who was Hannah’s first boyfriend. He was also the very first one to deceive her. While on a date Hannah experiences her first kiss which she places a huge importance on. Also in this time Justin makes a point of taking inappropriate photographs of Hannah which he later uses to show around school, ruining Hannah’s reputation and helping to encourage the bullying. Although Justin believed this event was harmless, he unknowingly helps to set the tone for many other unspeakable acts due to take place at the hands of those closest to Hannah.
As the school year goes on, the lies spread about Hannah grow larger and begin to impact not only the way in which others see her, but, more importantly, the way in which Hannah begins to see herself. This dangerous series of events unfortunately continues taking things from bad to worse, damaging what little confidence, love and peace Hannah has to hold onto.
“13 Reasons Why” does a magnificent job of depicting the harsh reality of what can happen when voices are not heard and problems aren’t promptly addressed. According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide and for every suicide there are 25 attempts. For more information please visit afsp.org or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).