13 lessons we learn from 13 Reasons Why

After reading the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher last summer, I was so excited when I heard that the poignant storyline would be coming to Netflix in the form of a 13-episode series. The story revolves around student Hannah Baker who kills herself, and each chapter, or episode, reveals another reason why she did it. As the plot thickens, there are so many lessons we can learn from this heart-breaking tale.

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Photo: Rita Crayon Huang/ Flickr.

*WARNING: contains spoilers of the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’*

1. Being a teenager sucks
Even if Hannah hadn’t have been pushed right to her limits, the everyday torture that charges off the graffiti-stained walls of a high school corridor really is quite sickening. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to re-live that part of their life – I know I certainly wouldn’t!

2. Trying to find ‘love’ at that age sucks even more
At an age where you haven’t the knowledge, the experience, the confidence or the money to navigate your way around any form of romantic gesture, it’s almost impossible to find something real and wonderful. And, if I only had the boys (yes, boys) at Liberty High to choose from, I think being single sounds like a way better deal. Except for Clay of course – we can’t help but want to give Clay a big cuddle!

3. When it comes to bullying, ‘words’ hurt just as much as ‘sticks and stones’ do
You can never know or understand exactly what impact your words have on someone else. It might just be a ‘joke’ to you, but to someone else, like Hannah, those words could literally be the difference between life and death. Do you really want to be the one who has to hold that responsibility?

To read about my experience with bullying, see my post ‘Words will never hurt me? Of course they did‘.

4. You should always treat others with love and respect
If everyone had followed this golden rule from the outset, things could have been so different for every single character in this series and, in fact, for every single person in the real world.

5. Actions have consequences
From knocked down ‘stop’ signs, to punches thrown, every single action in this series fits into a much bigger chain of events that can, as we have seen, total huge consequences in the end. On this point, it’s also important to remember that actions can affect more than just the person they’re aimed at – the bullying that Hannah fell victim too made her take her own life, and her parents now have to live with that forever.

6. People are selfish
Even though so many characters are on the tapes and are, therefore, all in it together, all any of them ever do is look out for number one. We knew it would only be a matter of time before one of them cracked and left the rest of them to pick up the pieces.

7. You shouldn’t believe everything you hear
There’s a famous quote that says: “Don’t spread with your mouth what you didn’t see with your eyes,” but anyone who’s made it through high school knows it’s never quite that simple. Still, it’s always safer to ignore a rumour than to continue spreading it.

8. Communication is key
If you want to know something – ask. If you have something to say – say it. If you’re totally in love with a girl who’s struggling to make it through every wretched day because she feels like no one cares about her even though you know you do – for goodness sake, get it off your chest!

9. Family is so important
Justin doesn’t have one, and we see the effect that has on him. Alex’s put a lot of pressure on him, and we see the effect that has on him. Clay and Hannah both have loving, caring families, but neither felt able to talk to them about what they were going through, and we see the effect that has on both of them. One of my favourite moments of the whole series was actually when Jessica plucked up the courage to tell her father about what happened to her at her party – total courage Jess, we salute you!

10. Everyone has their own issues
Although Hannah is at the centre of the storyline because it is her death that connects everyone else, it’s not just her life that’s bursting at the seams. Justin doesn’t really have a home to go to, Courtney is struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, Jessica has been told lie and after lie, and so on. Of course, their own struggles don’t excuse what they each did to Hannah, but it just goes to show that no one’s life is as perfect as it appears from the outside looking in.

11. Sex and rape are NOT two sides of the same coin
Not only is it horrific that anyone should be subjected to any form of sexual abuse in the first place, but to not be believed or to be blamed for it is completely unacceptable. This storyline highlights how embedded rape myths and rape acceptance are into our everyday lives; how many more people, like Jessica and Hannah, must be broken beyond repair before something changes? Rape is not merely forcible sex – it is a criminal and violent act, and people like Bryce Walker need to be brought to justice.

12. Sometimes all anyone really needs is someone to talk to
I don’t know about you, but I was over the moon when Clay approached Skye at the end of the last episode – both of them clearly need some sort of strength that they cannot find within themselves. If only someone had been bold enough to do this earlier…

13. This series is definitely worth watching
If you haven’t seen 13 Reasons Why yet (I hope you haven’t because I’ve almost certainly just ruined it for you), you really should add it to your to-do list. Although it’s emotional and sometimes quite challenging to digest, there really are so many important lessons in there that more people in the world need to learn.


Featured image: Rita Crayon Huang/ Flickr.

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