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Review: ‘13 Reasons Why’ brings to light dark parts of life

Fails to properly execute portrayal of mental health struggles

*Contains spoilers about ‘13 Reasons Why’

Netflix’s original show ‘13 Reasons Why,’ based off the book by Jay Asher, draws awareness to uncomfortable aspects of life as a teenager, with no healthy discussion involved. ‘13 Reasons Why’ follows a high schooler named Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, as he tries to make sense of his classmate, co-worker and friend Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) suicide.

In the wake of her death, Clay receives tapes made by Hannah detailing 13 reasons people had wronged her and how it contributed to her suicide. Hannah Baker dealt with a lot of different stressful encounters as a high schooler, from friend drama to slut shaming. However, the show takes a turn to the dark side as it begins to discuss LGBTQ+ issues, stalking and rape.

The aftermath of the rape of Jessica Davis, played by Alisha Boe, is when the show falls apart. When producers decide to vividly and violently portray sexual assault, there should be more follow up in the form of discussion. The writers should know they cannot just portray a rape and then move on. It leaves the audience — mainly teenagers — with a lot of uneasy feelings they need to discuss. The only form of discussion came in the after show episode, called ‘Beyond the Reasons’ and it was not enough for the heaviness of the show.

The show continues the graphic depiction of life’s ugliest moments when Hannah Baker is raped by the same serial rapist who assaulted Jessica Davis. Here, I give the producers credit. While the rape is again, incredibly vulgar, it is also incredibly real. The cast and director consulted with therapists to properly show the ugliness of sexual assault, as well as to provide counseling to the cast while portraying such graphic topics.

According to ‘Beyond the Reasons,’  the script said to “stay on Hannah’s face longer than is comfortable” while she was being assaulted. This created a very strong cinematic scene, where I had tears streaming down my face the entire time. Viewers see her pain, feel her pain and it was extremely effective in bringing attention to how ugly, painful and horrifying rape is.

This scene again lacked follow up. It was a painful, horrible assault and there should have been a healthy discussion with adults and the adolescents about how to properly handle sexual assault. There should have been a discussion similar to ‘Beyond the Reasons’ after every episode with heavy content.

The show ends with an old friend of Hannah’s being rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound, Clay reaching out to someone he sees who needs a friend and of course Hannah’s graphic suicide. It is ugly, it is brutal. You need to look away, but you cannot. In no way does it make suicide look like the easy, fun choice. But that was also the point, to show the “dirty” or “ugly” parts of life, in which it was very effective.

‘13 Reasons Why’ presents a cast of relatively unknown actors, all of whom were superb. It isn’t easy to show topics like suicide, depression or sexual assault. I applaud and thank the cast for bringing awareness and light to dark topics.

‘13 Reasons Why’ is not a fun show. It is not an entertaining show. It is painful, it is ugly and it should not be taken lightly. ‘13 Reasons Why’ should be watched and used as a gateway to a discussion about sexual assault, depression and suicide. ‘13 Reasons Why’ must be used as a learning tool to open up a discussion between adults and adolescents about mental health, not as casual entertainment.

⅘ stars

If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or feelings please call the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#

If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit https://centers.rainn.org/

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Review: ‘13 Reasons Why’ brings to light dark parts of life