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Thirteen Reasons Why

Hailey Wilt | hwilt@radford.edu

Thirteen Reasons Why is the newest hit Netflix series, Co-Produced by Selena Gomez. Released on March 31, 2017, the show is based on the best-selling novels by Jay Asher of the same title. The thirteen episodes of the first season shadows behind Clay Jensen as he stumbles across a box of cassette tapes that explore into the reasons why his crush, Hannah Baker, committed suicide just weeks prior. (Warning, there will be spoilers ahead.)

Hannah lends her voice to the tapes, going into extreme detail about the thirteen reasons why she had killed herself. The series goes back and forth between both Clay’s present day narrative and Hannah’s past tense, to retell the moments in which her life fell apart. Clay begins to travel, directed by a map to the specific destinations that Hannah had listed out. Following each tape whole-heartedly, Clay becomes more erratic as he desperately tries to follow her last steps and discover why she had left him behind.

Each episode of the series is titled “Tape_, Side_” which assists the viewer in feeling as if they are beside Hannah and Clay throughout each moment. Tape One, Side A goes over Clay finding the box of cassette tapes dropped off on his front porch. Borrowing his father’s boom-box, Clay begins to realize that it is the voice of Hannah that he is hearing. The first side went into detail about her first kiss, with the popular Justin Foley, which in turn was the moment that sparked her life’s downward spiral.

Tape One, Side B follows Hannah as she speaks of her first real friends since having moved to the town. Jessica and Alex are both fellow new kids who find themselves attached at the hip for their quirky attitudes. Shortly after Jessica and Alex begin dated, they start to cut Hannah out of their friend group, leaving her alone. Upon Alex breaking up with Jessica, she blames Hannah for her misfortune. In present time Clay is hearing all of this and witnessing Alex and Jessica in the halls as Hannah’s mom discovers her first clue that Hannah was being bullied at school.

Tape Two, Side A goes into a moment that girls in high school know all too well, the ‘best/worst’ list. Made by Alex several girls in the school are placed on the list with a ‘best’ or ‘worst’ category next to them. Hannah was listed on the note as ‘best ass’ which in turn began the rumor that Hannah was a slut, which sparked several events in which we would hear of in the other tapes. Tape Two, Side B starts with a mystery when Hannah notices that she has a stalker. Turning to her new friend Courtney, they decide to devise a plan to find out who they are. Driven by alcohol and a playful game of truth or dare, the girls are soon drunkenly making out in which we find out that Tyler is the stalker. Tyler snaps the picture of the two girls and shares it with the school. Courtney who is a closeted lesbian then leaves Hannah alone in school not wanting her fathers to find out. In the present day, Clay ignores Hannah’s tape asking him to throw a rock through his window, instead of taking a naked picture of Tyler through his window and getting revenge for Hannah.

In Tape Three, Side A Courtney continues to spread various rumors about Hannah to hide her secrets. Being a closeted lesbian, Courtney shares rumors that it was another girl in the photo as well as continues the rumor of Justin and Hannah, continuing the thought that Hannah was the school slut. Clay hears all of this and decides to take Courtney to visit Hannah’s grave site to make her see why she was on the tapes and how her trying to keep her secrets led to a girl ending her life. In the next tape, Tape Three, Side B evolves around Valentine’s Day. One of the students, Marcus, asks Hannah out in the hopes that he would get lucky. Following the rumor that she was a slut, he takes her out in the hopes that he would get lucky. Sexually assaulting her, he continues to call her ‘easy’ and storm off.

After the third tape, we see Clay start to become physically and mentally drained by the content of the cassettes. More irritable, he tries to become a vigilante in the hopes of finding justice for Hannah. Both sides of Tape Four, both A and B follow two other boys who screw Hannah over. A classmate named Zach emotionally attacks her after she refused to go out with him, while Ryan Shaver uses one of Hannah’s poem and shares it with the entirety of the school. The poem had listed her personal issues that had been occurring, thus pushing her even more into her shell. The content of both sides of Tape Five is filled with dark topics, resulting in the first trigger warning of the entire series. The first rape scene of the series, but not the last occurs during a summer party when Jessica is drunk and passed out. Bryce Walker rapes her, while Justin lets him. In present day Clay confronts Justin, in which the jock says that it would be best if Jessica never found out what happened.

On the flip side of Tape Five, Hannah gets into the car with another student who winds up running into a stop sign. Refusing to tell the cops of the accident, they flee the scene only to discover the death of one of the students, Jeff Atkins, resulted from the accident. Clay relives the moment when Hannah had tried to explain everything to him, but he brushed her off and refused to listen to her, making him regretful in the present time. He had lost both of his dear friends in just a matter of years. At this point in the tapes Tony, a close friend of Clay, reveals that he assisted Hannah in recording her tapes. Having lent her the recorder and making copies of the cassettes to pass along to the people mentioned in the 13 moments that ruined her life.

Clay up to this point in the series is full of guilt with hearing Hannah speak of her daily struggles; it doesn’t help that Tape Six, Side A is all about him. The tape goes over Hannah’s affections for the young man, and how she regretted pushing him away. She speaks of how he doesn’t deserve to be on the tapes, but she felt he needed to be to give him a reason to listen to her. Tape Six, Side B is the moment in her life that was the hardest for viewers to watch, because it showed the breaking of her strength. After losing the deposit from her parent’s store, Hannah goes on a walk and ends up at Bryce’s party. All the people at the party shared a few drinks and started to head inside leaving Hannah alone with Bryce. She tries to escape the hot tub, but Bryce does not let her go. The night ends in horror as we watch Bryce rape Hannah. The screen focuses on her hands and her face as we then see the soul leave her eyes as she walked barefoot and soaked back to her house. It Is that night that she makes the list of those who ultimately assisted in her suicide.

Tape Seven, Side A begins with Clay giving Tony the confessional that he had received from Bryce after confronting the jock in his home in the previous episode. Allowing Bryce to beat Clay to a bloody pulp, he then got Bryce’s words on a hidden cassette that said he raped Hannah Baker. Getting back to the tapes, the audience listens to the last reason and discovers the last person who Hannah blamed for her untimely demise. Mr. Porter, the school guidance counselor. Coming as a shock to fans, Mr. Porter gives the worst advice to Hannah in her fragile state. Hannah reached out to Mr. Porter about her rape, and he insists that no one would take it seriously, so it would be in her best interest to try to move on. She records the entire conversation in secret, and when Mr. Porter does not help Hannah in the way she needs, she leaves the school for the last time.

The one scene in the entire series that made even the strongest of viewers turn away was watching Hannah commit suicide. After her conversation with Mr. Porter, Hannah used razor blades she took from her parent’s store, put on old comfortable clothes and sat in her bathtub. The water was still running as viewers see the pain in her eyes as she cuts a deep, vertical line from her wrist to her inner elbow. Fans watch as the life leaves her eyes as her chest and body fight for air. Her mother and father come home finding her shortly after and find Hannah in the tub, dead.

The season ends with those on the tapes coming forward to speak to law enforcements about their ties to Hannah. Most students decide to tell the truth, except for Alex, who then attempts suicide by shooting himself. Tony gives Hannah’s parents a flash drive of Hannah’s tapes, knowing that she would want them to know. The last scene has Tony, his boyfriend, Clay and an old friend, Skye, driving off out of view as Clay genuinely smiles since the season began.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a breathtaking example of what rape, suicide, victim blaming, and the aftershock of suicide is like. The show offers a trigger warning on the episodes in which rape and gore are contained for those viewers have experienced their incidences. They also express that those who have thoughts of suicide, or have been a victim of sexual assault or rape to come forward and find an outlet that fits their needs. Suicide prevention lifelines and other numbers to call are there to be available to contact, to provide 24/7 confidential support for those who are in a crisis or the family members of those who know someone in a crisis.

According to TeenDepression.org, in a survey driven by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, found that one in every five teens have considered suicide, one in every six have made plans for suicide, and one in every 12 teens has attempted to commit suicide within the last year. The online website goes into detail about how 80 percent of teens who commit suicide reached out to doctors or professionals before their attempt. They also explain that while teenage girls are more likely to attempt suicide, teenage boys are four to five times more frequently follow through with their attempts.

If you know anyone who is suicidal, it is important that you call 911 or take immediate action. If you are the individual with thoughts of suicide, if you think you have no other option then I encourage you to call a Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-784-2433. If you know anyone who has been a victim/survivor of sexual assault or rape, please call 911 or take immediate action as well. If you have been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to get the resources needed. The victim is never at fault, and if you are experiencing thoughts of self-hate or depression do not be afraid to reach out to others.

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