13 Reasons Why (Contains Spoilers)…Bullying, Suicide and High School
Hey. It’s Michael. Michael Hotard. Don’t leave this page or turn off whatever device you’re reading this from. It’s me, and my thoughts. No turning back. No rules. And unfiltered. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I am about to tell you the emotional roller coaster I felt watching 13 Reasons Why. More specifically, the serious issues this show touches on and how it depicts real life.
Most of you have probably heard of the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why. The show is centered around Liberty High School and the bullying that takes place inside and outside the walls. Hannah Baker is the focal point of the story. After killing herself by slitting her wrists in a bathtub, she leaves behind a series of tapes that give 13 reasons why she killed herself. If you have not seen the show and do not want any spoilers, you have been warned. If you get mad at me for this, well sorry. That is a you problem.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people 12-19 according to the CDC. One of the things I hate most is people who say that suicide is “selfish.” That word was dropped a few times during the course of this series. The other term you could hear was “attention.”
If anyone feels this way about anyone who may have taken their life, I urge you to reconsider. You have no idea what is going on in that person’s head. You don’t know how dark of a place they entered. I can’t relate much either because I have never experienced that side of the fence. But I know people who have been in that dark place. Sometimes it is beyond that person’s control.
It is not selfish. In fact, in their mind, it is the most selfless thing they can do because they feel like they are leaving behind people they somehow burden. It is our job as peers and friends to reach out and help those people. Smile. Compliment them. Do your best to make sure they know you are there for them always and that their lives matter. And sometimes, that isn’t good enough. Do your best to get them the help they need. With all the information out there, we should be aware of the warning signs and stay on our toes.
I just laugh at the idea of suicide being an attention seeker. Why? Because she left behind tapes…you must have forgotten the part where people tend to leave notes.
People complained about the suicide scene because it could lead to people using that same method and convincing them to do so. Right, because we don’t have the internet for that. I would argue it could lead to the exact opposite. When people talk about ways and means of killing themselves and as depicted in most shows and movies, it comes across as a peaceful way to go. I got news for you. That scene in the bathtub was the furthest thing from peaceful. That was gut wrenching.
Although the show is centered around a girl who committed suicide, that wasn’t the main point of this show. The broader picture of why Hannah Baker killed herself in 13 Reasons Why is bullying.
I find it hard to believe anyone who says they have never experienced bullying, no matter which end of the spectrum they were on. While the numbers are all over the place and you can see that at stopbullying.gov , I can’t get past the fact that there are children out there have not experienced bullying at all. Whether they were bullied, being the bully, watching someone get bullied or stood up to a bully, they must have fallen on one side at some point. My guess is some people aren’t speaking up.
Growing up, I was on all sides of the fence.
I watched people get picked on and didn’t stand up for them. When I was a freshman in high school, there was a guy in health class who was always fucked with. He was fat, gothic and also gay. That didn’t sit well with a lot of people so of course he was made fun of. I didn’t do anything about it. People would harass him in the bathroom and he would change by himself in the shower. I hope that guy turned out to be ok.
I picked on people. There was a kid who I went to school with when I was younger who was repulsive. You know the kind, he picked his nose. May have tasted the occasional booger or two. Typically acted strange. And for the most part, minded his business. I never physically bullied him, but I did verbally. I used to crack jokes in class about him. It was only when my friends were around though. I talked to him on more than one occasion one on one and he was always super nice. He certainly didn’t deserve to be treated the way he was. He seems to do ok though.
There was another kid in fourth grade who I used to make fun of until one day he pushed me against the wall when we were getting dressed for PE. I wound up getting a huge knot on my head (totally deserved it). Naturally, I responded by punching him in the mouth and we were sent to the office. I told the principal it was my fault and I was the aggressor. Neither of us actually got into trouble, just a warning. We shook hands and that kid and I were cool for the rest of the year.
I was also picked on. Throughout most of my life, I had a fair share of friends at every school. However, I was never the most popular person. That means I was a target for getting made fun of some days by certain people. I do remember one guy in middle school who hated me and tried to fight me on multiple occasions, but I never took the bait. Because bitch, we fight on my terms. WWE style mother fucker. He would stare me down at lunch when he passed me. I actually prank called him one night and he didn’t like that too much. He pushed me over a bench at school on Monday as I laughed maniacally on the ground and called him a pussy. He then claimed I cried when he did that.
I befriended someone in elementary school who was picked on to some degree. He was mentally and physically handicapped (sorry for not knowing what the PC is on that). He wasn’t hazed a ton, but sometimes people were mean to him. I actually slept at his house multiple times and he was a good friend of mine.
Most of these stories came from the ages 9-12. As I said, I have been on all sides of the fence.
The Good Old Teenage Years
14-18 is such a tough age. Looking back now, I always say if I could go back with what I know now, I totally would. Once you reach your adult years, you realize that was a much simpler time. But at the time, you are so unsure of who you are and where you stand. You are still trying to figure life out while trying to break into adulthood and freedom. The last thing you want to deal with are assholes.
Someone was telling me a story about when they were picked on giving a speech in class because they had a lisp. When I was told who it was that made fun of them, it was no surprise. I despised this particular person. I actually played baseball with him at one point growing up. He was a total dick. He would make fun of people constantly and had a horrible attitude. One day, he missed a fly ball and I made fun of him for being short, chubby and slow. Probably not the best move on my part, but I tend to be a dick to people who are dicks. It is a character flaw that I have learned to manager.
There were people at my high school who were picked on for no fucking reason at all, other than being the “weird” kid.
Others were picked on because they themselves were total assholes. To some degree, those kids didn’t help their case. Was it wrong? Sure. Do I sympathize? Of course. Multiple people vs one is never a fair fight. Unless you are Chuck Norris. Then it doesn’t matter.
Being an asshole is only cool when you are the popular kid though. We all know that.
If I had to compare my high school self to anyone in the show, it is Alex. He had a great group of friends with Hannah and Jessica at first, but that fizzled out. He just didn’t know his place, but wanted to fit in. I had the same thing freshman year. I was at a new school. I didn’t know a ton of people so I just wanted to be liked, the same as most 14-year-olds.
Alex started drinking with the guys to branch out and get more friends. I started having parties sophomore year and the second alcohol became part of the equation, people showed up. But, there was a reason I had a new clique of friends every year. Most of them weren’t real friends. Oh well, on to the next group. Ironically in the end, the person’s house I spent everyday at after school is now one of my best friends and has been since we were maybe 12-13ish.
I love that this series showed the complexity and the layers of being a young developing person. Most of these characters depict people I could easily compare to from my high school.
Synopsis on the Characters
When you are done watching this show, you can spin a lot of these characters in so many different directions. I will break down each character and tell you why I sympathize or don’t sympathize with them (excluding parents).
Tape 1: Sent a provocative picture and spread a sexual rumor about Hannah
Tape 9: Didn’t Stop Bryce from raping Jessica
The complexity of Justin is one of my favorite dynamics in the show. Justin fit the mold of your stereotypical jock. Underneath the tough male bravado, he was one of the most insecure people in the series. Early on, I hated him more than anyone. He was a total dick. However, as the show progresses, he doesn’t seem so bad. I started to feel sorry for him. His mom is a bitch who doesn’t give a fuck about him and is dating some douche canoe. That sucks. He doesn’t have a stable home, which plays a lot into why he is the way he is. He bottled in the rape of his girlfriend Jessica because he knew it would ruin her (he was right about it ruining her). He dealt with a lot throughout the show. I think he grew as a person the most of anyone. He was one of the few characters my attitude changed toward. I don’t necessarily like him, but I don’t dislike him. He’s just a kid who needs to get his shit together. In the end, I think he was trying to do that by cutting out Bryce, his mother and leaving town. Good for him.
Tape 2: Thought Hannah was the reason behind Alex and her’s breakup
It is amazing what popularity can do to someone as is always the case. I feel indifferent about her as well. I also feel awful for her. The scene in which Bryce raped her while she was passed out is just uncomfortable to watch because it happens far too often. It would be too easy to say she should not have hidden it and talked about it. Much like suicidal thoughts, that is a very dark path and no one knows how they will respond unless it were to happen to them. I didn’t think she was a bad person. But when your friend was wronged by the guy you’re dating, use your head a little bit. Perks of being young and naive.
Tape 3: Listed Hannah’s ass as best in school to gain popularity
I already alluded to the fact I related to him the most in terms of wanting to fit in. I just felt awful for him most of the show. He wasn’t a bad guy. He wanted to do the right thing, but that isn’t always easy. When popularity comes in to play, you will do just about anything to keep that reputation. He put Hannah for best ass on the list…typical high school shit. He further made her a sex symbol for the school. What he did is probably one of the most common types of bullying you will see across high school campuses. I like that he told Montgomery to fuck off and got his ass beat for it and took it like a champ. When he did get on his moral high horse, I love that he didn’t care what happened to him. Overall, I liked Alex. It was a shame he shot himself. The last we heard about him was critical condition so maybe he survives.
Tape 4: Stalking Hannah and spreading a photo of her and Courtney kissing
He is a creep and he is one of those kids I talked about earlier who brought some of it on himself. What the fuck are you doing going around taking pictures of people at home? Do you not realize you can be prosecuted for that? And holy shit, why the fuck did you have pipe bombs in your room? Nevermind, I know why. Tyler was a twinkle douche. There were times I did feel bad for him, but he brought a lot of the backlash on himself. I wouldn’t take too kindly to being stalked.
Tape 5: Throwing Hannah under the bus to save her own ass
This girl is a fucking moron. Look, I get it. She fit the mold of a lot of people who struggle with sexuality. It doesn’t help that her parents are gay men. The easy thing would be to say, it’s 2017. Let’s move forward. Since I won’t take that route, I will take this one…You threw an already damaged girl under the bus to protect yourself…weak. That shows absolutely no integrity. I couldn’t stand her the entire show because she was too self-serving. You are in student council, shouldn’t you the be the one who sets the good example? Typical though.
Tape 6: Made a move on Hannah and treated her like a piece of meat
For as bad as Courtney was, I hated this douche almost as much as Bryce. He paints the picture of a student you can see evolving into a scumbag politician. He had a high place on the totem pole at school and refused to admit any wrong doing. “Oh no, I won’t be able to get into the college I want.” You should have thought of that before planting drugs on someone or advancing yourself on to someone who says no and then humiliating them in public. What a class act right. If there is one part of the show I would change, I wish someone would have given this bitch a swift kick in the dick. If there is something I hate, it is fake people. He epitomizes that. He will be a friend to your face and then stab you in the back. Again, typical politician. He will do great in DC. He is a fuck boy.
Tape 7: Stealing compliment notes because Hannah rejected him
I sympathized with Zach more than any of the other popular people. We all knew the athlete like him I am sure. He wasn’t like the crew he kept. He actually had a good heart. He just was mixed up with the wrong people so he was guilty of being a dick by association. Insecurities wouldn’t allow him to leave the group though. He went back for Hannah after Marcus humiliated her. I could see why he stole the notes to get back at Hannah after she humiliated him. He remained static throughout the show for me. I always liked him.
Tape 8: Stealing a private poem from Hannah and publishing it
We didn’t see too much of Ryan in the show so my opinion on him isn’t as strong as most on this list. What he did was pretty bad. Hannah told him not to publish the poem for the school to see and he did it anyway. You took her vulnerability and used it for personal gain. Dick move, Ryan. But, not the worst.
Tape 10: abandoned Hannah after crashing into a stop sign, which caused the death of Jeff
Much like Zach, I thought she was sweet throughout the show. She seemed to be genuine and sweet aside from the pairing of Marcus on Hannah on the Valentine. I don’t remember if there was a motive behind to insult Hannah (don’t think there was). She made an awful mistake by not calling in the fact she hit a stop sign. I know plenty of teens who have pulled hit and runs. They get scared and that is what happened to her. In her case, a real good person died as a result. It is a mistake she obviously wants to forget.
Tape 11: Leaving Hannah (trying to do what she wanted) when they were about to have sex because she was emotionally wrecked.
He was the only one on the tapes who wanted real justice for Hannah. He was willing to get his ass beat by Bryce to take down all parties involved. He was the only true friend that Hannah had so listening to those tapes was obviously a nightmare for him. When his tape played, I just felt so bad when she said he didn’t deserve to be on it because he was sweet to her. She just wishes he would have tried harder to come after her on multiple occasions. Tough pill to swallow. Clay was awesome though. Good dude. I really was mad for him when he had drugs planted in his back pack by that wet rag Marcus.
Tape 12: Being a total fucking dick and you know breaking the law by being a serial rapist
Considering he committed rape twice, yeah I pretty much hate him as I am sure most of you do. He forcefully raped Hannah in a hot tub and took advantage of Jessica when she was passed out. I was actually hoping he was the one who was shot. People like him deserve whatever they get. He is a typical rich kid (not saying every rich kid is like this) who can buy his way out of most wrongdoings. Money talks in this world. I hope he goes to prison becomes someone’s bitch.
Tape 13: Not giving Hannah proper guidance or help
I feel bad for him because I feel like there is only so much you can do as an adult when it comes to teens. Teens tend to rebel because they feel like adults don’t understand them. For a lot of adults, they look at problems teens have as insignificant. I know he let her walk out of his office and didn’t chase her. But when you’re pleading your case to someone and they run off, it is hard to keep reasoning with someone. During that scene, Hannah didn’t tell him what actually happened so he is asking questions trying to figure it out.
No Tape: Played an integral part in getting Hannah’s story out
Tony was great. He wanted to get Hannah’s story out there and did what she asked. He was always there for Clay to prevent him from getting destroyed. He was mature beyond his years. He talked Clay off a cliff literally. Good dude and everyone could use a Tony in high school.
No Tape: Principal of the school
The principal of Liberty pissed me off the entire show. He was concerned about one thing and one thing only, not having the publicity. Dude, a girl killed herself and you want to sweep bullying under the rug? Nice try scumbag. How about addressing the issue head on and doing your job to gain control of your school…no that would be too hard I am sure. Idiot.
No Tape: Tried to help Clay with being more social
Although Jeff had a minor role in the show, his death was tough to see. He was a great guy who always looked out for Clay. Clay helped him with school so he wanted to return the favor and help Clay with his social life. He was one of the few jocks who wasn’t a total buttplug and didn’t seem to care. We need more Jeffs in this world.
Obviously made the tapes
Oh dear old Hannah. Let me just start off by saying, her suicide was one of the most intense scenes I have ever seen. That was brutal. Obviously anytime someone takes their own life, you feel sympathy for that person. I love that the show made it a point that she did in fact have people there for her even though she couldn’t see it. That is depression and suicide to a T. Some of the situations she brought on herself, but we as people tend to do that sometimes. Things can sometimes be our fault. Other times, they are no fault of our own. Overall, I liked Hannah. Being a teenager is confusing enough. When you are looked at a sex symbol, that can be detrimental to a high school girl’s self esteem. Obviously the tapes are a bit over the top and people who commit suicide don’t do that, but I think it was done magnificently to tell the story from all sides and show what could lead to someone taking their life. Hannah was painted as a slut and attention whore even though she was neither of those things.
Suicide and Bullying are two awful subjects to even think about, but the reality is it happens every single day.
If you have not watched this show, I suggest you do. I finished in less than 24 hours because I was hooked from the first episode. I haven’t binged this hard since Breaking Bad. The show is very well done.
It is one of the most realistic depictions of teenage life you could imagine. The show describes the effects of bullying and emotional distress it can put on a teenager. Ultimately, this isn’t something you can just sweep under the rug.
Rolling Stone posted a column that says this show glamorized teen suicide which is bullshit. There was nothing glamorous about the suicide scene. The person who wrote the column talked about why the show should have focused on avenues of help and the preventative measures of suicide. Oh, you mean the same crap we got in health class? You mean the same thing we can see on every other show on television? This show punches you in the gut almost every episode. It had two very graphic rape scenes. It showed how intense suicide is when Hannah slit her wrists and bled out. It didn’t glamorize anything. It shed a very bright light on what happens across high schools every day.
If you have or plan to have children, I would advise you to have them watch this when they are the appropriate age. I would say 12 would be a solid age. They are just entering junior high probably. That means kissing, sex, and all of those fun topics are likely beginning to surface.
The show is extremely graphic, but so is real life and that is what these kids are about to experience when they step into the hell (for some) that is high school. The show may be cliche, but high school is the epitome of cliche. Cliques rule all.
This show is exactly the gut punch teenagers and even adults need to understand that bullying has severe consequences when you push the buttons of the wrong person.