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If you've spent your Easter holiday the way I have, then I suspect that you've been glued to your laptop, binge-watching the latest Netflix phenomenon: Thirteen Reasons Why. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Jay Asher, the show details on the life of Hannah Baker—or, to quote her specifically, how her life ended. The series has received highly acclaimed reviews and has emerged as Netflix's most popular original series to date.
I suppose the term "binging" isn't exactly the one I'd use to describe my own viewing experience. Though addicting (as most Netflix originals are), attempting to stomach each episode was no easy task. Watching Hannah navigate through high school—with rumors, scandals and people to combat—was an emotionally exhausting rollercoaster ride, where recovery between tapes was essential in keeping me from a straight up mental breakdown.
Watching Hannah navigate through high school—with rumors, scandals and people to combat—was an emotionally exhausting rollercoaster ride, where recovery between tapes was essential in keeping me from a straight up mental breakdown.
With suicide being the main issue tackled among many other teenage struggles, it came as no surprise that much discourse arose following its release. There are endless points of discussion and debate that tend to polarise conversations: Do you love or hate Hannah Baker? The juxtaposition of death between Hannah, one who made the conscious decision to end her life versus one who had it taken away from him (Jeff Atkins). The multi-dimensions of characters like villains Justin Foley, a conflicted individual in a very bad personal place and Bryce Walker, a rapist who took care of his friends in need. The list goes on.
Regardless of your own point of view, there are empirical truths and universal lessons to be learned. Here are some meaningful takeaways from this compelling story:
- Bullying is real—and it is wrong.
No, it is not limited to verbal and physical torment—whispering, dirty looks, and nasty text messages are all classified as forms of bullying.
- The "cool" kids are just as messed up as everyone else—perception may not be everything.
Jessica, Zach, Justin, Courtney, Alex, all card-carrying members of the cool squad who each had their own demons.
- It's hard being the new kid in town.
A new school year often brings about new faces and personalities, and while some certainly find it easier to "fit in," it's never really all that simple.
- Your truth isn't always the only truth.
No matter how hard we try, we will never have access to the minds of others. What we see, feel, and how we react to things differ from one another and our perspective isn't always the only one.
- Rumors aren't always true. Most often in fact they're not?
If you've watched the show, think back to the first episode: According to Justin, Hannah did a bit more than just kiss him that night at the park. Despite being untrue, the word spread like wildfire, and it was almost impossible to convince people otherwise. A lot hangs on the words of others but ask yourself, is that even reasonable?
- Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words really do hurt.
Forget the old saying—never underestimate the power of your words. You'll never know the kind of impact they'll have on other people.
- No means no.
It's not that difficult to comprehend. And when they are unable to respond, assume it's a no as well.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating scenes was at Jessica's party, when Hannah demands Clay to "leave her alone" despite her intense longing for him to stay. Or when she hoped that Mr. Porter would chase after her once she left his office, even though she insisted that she no longer needed his help. People are not mind readers—if you want something from them, communicate. The reality is, people are waiting for you to reach out.
- Don't put yourself in risky situations.
Act smarter than you are. Life is a series of decisions; one wrong move, and things can change within the split of a second.
- Objectification and slut shaming are never okay.
While it may seem harmless, it's not. "Boys will be boys" and "girls will be girls" just doesn't cut it in a civilised society.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are not Hannah but at the end of they day, we all are.
At some point in our lives, we've all experienced loneliness and belittlement. You are not, and do not have to go through it alone.
If you or someone you know is going through an emotional crisis or showing signs of contemplating suicide, call or text any of these numbers from the Hopeline: (02) 804-HOPE (4673), 0917 558 HOPE (4673) and 2919 (toll-free number for all Globe and TM subscribers).