At the end of March, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why premiered based on the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The story follows high school junior Clay Jensen as he listens to tapes recorded by Hannah Baker as she explains the reasons why she decided to end her life. The series brings a perspective on high schoolers today and how they cope with the pressures of being a teenager in the twenty-first century.
13 Reasons Why seems to have awakened the internet to realize the overwhelming message of the show that the things we say and the way that we act can have a bigger impact than what we realize. According to Seventeen, 13 Reasons Why has become the number one talked about Netflix show on twitter ever, generating 3,585,110 tweets during its first week on Netflix, which towers over the second most-tweeted show, Chasing Cameron, with 1,326,010 Twitter mentions.
But shouldn’t we be asking why a TV show about these issues that people have been trying to shed light on for years just made us look at ourselves and how we treat those around us? Clearly, society needed this wake-up call.
In the series, the main character, Hannah Baker, talks about what she calls the butterfly effect, meaning that just the flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane. You may think feeding into rumors may seem harmless, but you’re helping create a reputation for someone that can affect how people treat that person, which can have bigger impacts on their lives that you don’t even realize. This concept may seem simple and easy enough to understand, but until watching this show, it had never clicked for some people.
One of the most important discussions that has come out of the show is the topic of rape and the shame placed on victims. Through the course of the series, we learn that two of the characters were victims of rape. Without going into too much detail of the plot, neither cases were handled well. When one of the victims asks for help, she was shamed and told to move on if she could not confront the man who raped her, which unfortunately happens too often. Many victims of rape are unsure of what to do, let alone what constitutes a rape. It’s important that through this show, more people feel as though they can speak up about what happens to them.
The show normalized discussions about mental health and the importance of treating others as equals; however, the most important question we should be asking is why it took a Netflix series to feel this comfortable talking about these topics?