13 Reasons Why – Decoded

Posted by Ishank Chhibber in Culture-Vulture, Specials
July 19, 2018


This article talks about drug use, sexual violence, physical abuse. Some readers may find it disturbing, please reach out to your support group in case this article triggers some unpleasant memories or experiences and contains spoilers for those who have not seen the series.

With two extremely successful seasons and a riveting storyline that captured the audiences, it was no wonder that 13 Reason Why was an immense hit. The first season premiered on March 31, 2017, and is a Netflix Original. Netflix has over a period of time come up with various hits and not-so-hit series and movies. This particular series is no doubt one of a kind.

The series starts with a young man who receives a mysterious set of tapes, and these tapes are the last testimonial of the recently deceased Hannah Baker. A girl who went through an extremely rough patch and this is putting it across in a very mild manner.

Hannah Baker decided to end her life after the school counsellor did not believe that she was sexually assaulted, she was slut-shamed and betrayed by her friends. Now, why would she decide to end her life? After all, haven’t we normalised bullying and take it as a part of growing up? Boys are told to ‘tough it out’, and girls are asked to ‘deal with it’, as this is the reality of life.

Hannah was trying to fight depression and the fact that she kept all this from her parents can be construed as a mistake, but then when we grow up, we realise that our parents may not as perfect as they seem, and the subtle reality of life starts making sense.

At an age where our bodies are changing, we’re dealing with hormonal changes and newfound desires add on to the fact that our reality, financial or otherwise starts making sense, and we tend to hide things. Not because we don’t trust others around us but of the fact that most of us don’t want to add on to the pressure that our family is going through. As kids, we feel the least we can do to help our parents is to ensure that we are ideal kids and try to deal with our problems, after all, we all trying to be ready for the real world.

Hannah is going through the same turmoil, from finding out about her fathers’ affair to realising that her parents’ business is not doing well and overhearing their arguments about financial woes this girl was trying to make the best of the situation and the reality that she was living in. She had her flaws and lived with the guilt of being a witness to her friend Jessica being raped by Bryce, who later on, we find out is a highly manipulative and abusive person who has raped quite a few women in a drunken state or otherwise.

We all feel that in difficult situations, we will intervene as heroes and some of us are able to step in but some of us freeze with fear. Both these reactions are normal in their own way, the fact that Jessica’s boyfriend was aware of the ordeal she was going through does not help Hannah.

Irrespective of how she was, one of the primary reasons why this show became a hit was the fact that it talks about issues that we don’t want to admit happens, from rapists being allowed to walk free to boys who are dealing with the guilt of their actions.

This show amazingly shows the journey of its characters and how they deal with the aftermath of everything that happened. Season 1 focuses Hannah’s take on things, and in season 2 we find out that Hannah was not as perfect, she had her flaws but was trying to make things right and not give up hope until the point she did.

As a viewer who only recently binged watched the two seasons, I can say that there are too many triggers. I was pleasantly surprised as the show explored the various aspects of growing up in a time where social media is used to bullying, the bullies find out new ways of blackmailing their victims, the jock culture and peer pressure that is reaching new levels. To say that kids can use their intellect to say ‘no’ and be smart is easy, but being a kid is not easy. Each generation that walks faces new threats and new issues that may not have been dealt with by their predecessors.

Apart from addressing the rape and the jock culture, the show addresses the issue of how triggers work for survivors and how it can be unimaginably painful (for those who are not aware, a trigger is an incident that can cause flashbacks of the trauma or create emotional distress in a person).

Jessia resorts to drinking and drugs to deal with her trauma. She’s trying to deal with her life as her peers refused to believe what her deceased said about her being raped and how her boyfriend knew about the ordeal. The protagonist Clay loved Hannah and becomes something of an unsung hero for everyone in the series.

The most pivotal point in the series for me came in season 2. I am talking about the rape of Tyler, he was sodomised by the bullies (makes me wonder what kind of a school this was), from a production and cinematography point of view, the entire sequence has been shown brilliantly and Devin Druid who plays the role of Tyler has acted very well in that scene. Druid has portrayed a character who has a love-hate relationship with the audiences and done it amazingly well.

So, be it the strong cast or the taboos that this show addresses, it’s one show that has triggers but is worth watching (apart from the season 2 finale, find that part a little hard to digest).

As I conclude this, I think I will watch season 2 again and get ready to cry some, when Clay says goodbye to Hannah.


Image source: 13 Reasons Why/Facebook
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