13 Reasons Why Portrays Suicidal Thoughts

By Jessie Liu ’18

The novel 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher depicts a tragic story in which a teenager in high school commits suicide. The Netflix series produced by actress, singer, and executive producer, Selena Gomez, captures the aspects of the novel and puts a spin on the content that led to many controversies.

Hannah Baker, the main character, develops 13 reasons for her suicide, recorded on audiotapes, and released to 13 special people shortly after her death. She blames them for her death. The reasons to commit suicide include rape, bullying, and betrayal.

Amy Leong ‘18 said, “I was excited for the 13 Reasons Why TV show because I wanted to see how Netflix brought the book to life.

Throughout the story, Clay Jensen was a prominent character as viewers saw his perspective and emotions after each tape. The tapes influenced Jensen in many ways from anger to distress because he had emotional feelings for Baker.

“I didn’t watch the show because I want to obtain a more diverse view on the topic of suicide,” said Alice Lin ‘17. “Because it’s a new show and its popularity gains conformity, I don’t want my view on suicide to be skewed.”

There were many inconsistencies between the novel and the Netflix series. According to Vulture.com, the main difference between the two was that in the novel, Jensen listened to all 13 tapes in one night whereas in the Netflix series, it took him a lot longer.

“My favorite part of the show was when Jensen broke down and started screaming in the halls when the exchange students came because it exposed the school of how little they did,” said Peony Yee ‘18. “Even though the school made efforts, they waited for something big to happen, like Hannah’s suicide, before they took a stand.”

The order of the tapes are different from the novel. In the novel, Jensen is the eleventh person to receive the tapes whereas in the series he is ninth on the list.

In the novel, Jensen doesn’t confront Bryce, the rapist of Hannah, whereas the series, Jensen bikes to his house asking to buy drugs off him and goes home with a face full of blood.

“Clay was mentally unstable after he confronted Bryce because he wasn’t ready to accept the truth that Hannah was gone,” said Leong. “Her death resonated and took an emotional toll on him when Bryce admitted the truth because he wanted to get justice for Hannah.”

There was no lawsuit against the school in the novel. Baker’s parents in the novel didn’t want to sue the school for the death of their daughter.

In the series, technology and social media was a crucial factor in determining Baker’s death. Social media in the series leaked Baker’s pictures and made her seem as a “slut” which contributed to her bullying.

“Unfortunately, habitual bullying has become highly common in today’s society especially amongst teenagers,” said Lauren Heng ‘18. “Bullying is a hard topic to discuss and I feel like the victim in the situation has control over how it should go or end. If the victim gives off a certain attitude or vibe, it can encourage the bully to continue. I also feel like the show also delineates bullying in a much more dramatic way.”

The form of suicide was different. In the novel, Baker dies from an overdose of pills instead of cutting herself in a bathtub full of water.

The Bakers didn’t own a shoe store in the series, they owned a pharmacy which is how Baker got the razor blades in order to end her life.

Jensen’s reputation in school was also conflicted. In the novel, he is a normal guy that everyone adores compared to the series, which he doesn’t fit in at school.

“From watching 13 Reasons Why, I learned how little things add up,” said Yee. “Even though it seemed like not a big deal at the time, little things have lasting effects. Many of the characters in the show didn’t know the consequences of their actions.”

The SPARK or the “Seeking Prevention Achievement and Reinforcing Knowledge” program welcomes all students to share in-group activities that discuss drug abuse, relationships, physical or verbal abuse, and any other topic. The information discussed in the program is confidential and is a safe judgment-free zone. Ms. Tatiana Rodriguez, the SPARK adviser in room B52A, helps to educate students on such topics. Guidance counselors, the school therapist, or teachers can also help students to get the needed counseling and seek help.

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