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The Stories of Thirteen Reasons Why

Lanie Render, Contributor

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The Netflix series of Thirteen Reasons Why has generated an intense debate surrounding the controversial message of suicide. Individuals who have seen the series are familiar with the main character, Hannah Baker and her traumatizing hardships. This anguish has been credited to thirteen individuals who Hannah have encountered. The tapes tell the story of each persons encountered with Hannah however, viewers only see a small portion of that characters life. For only portions of the show do we see the struggles of the people on the tapes. Theses are the internal battles the other characters face whilst Hannah’s hardship is illustrated.

The character of Justin Foley has a rough home life. His mother cycles through boyfriends and she is fairly non existent in her sons life. We are able to see a small portion of Justin’s hardships as one of his mother’s boyfriends physically abuses him. Justin, for a large chunk of episodes, stays at his friend Bryce’s home.

As a new student, Alex Standall struggled to find a reliable group of friends. He begins a friendship with Jessica and Hannah, but after he created a “Hot or Not” list, their relationship is ruined. After that, Alex find some of the athletes interested in his relationship with the two girls. After Hannah’s death, viewers are able to see the inner turmoil Alex experiences as he deals with the weight of his friends passing. Out of the tapes, Alex consistently condemns the acts of his peers and urges them to turn themselves in. As the series progress, Alex becomes more distant and at one point, jumps into a swimming pool are remains for a dangerous amount of time. The final episode alludes to the fact that Alex took his own life, leading viewers to look back and examine the warning signs i.e. cleaning his room, reckless driving and distant attitude.

The third of Hannah’s Tapes features her former best friend, Jessica Davis. Jessica’s father was in the military therefore, Jessica was subject to moving many times. As viewers are aware, Jessica begins a relationship with Justin Foley and the state of her friendship with Hannah worsens. While dating Justin, Jessica attends a party in which she is under the influence. Justin leaves her in a room drunk, and Bryce takes advatage of Jessica. Hannah see the sexual assault and report it in one of her tapes, which Jessica then listens too. Jessica refuses to believe the tape but as the show progresses, viewers see her break down and hatred for Bryce and former boyfriend Justin, arise.

Tyler Down, a photographer for the school, is often subject of bullying throughout the series. Even before Hannah’s tapes are heard, Tyler remains an outcast of high school. His obsession with Hannah leads to him stalking her, while taking pictures of her where ever she goes. Hannah makes a tapes for Tyler, castigating his stalker tendencies and encourages listeners to listen to the tape outside of Tyler’s window to make him feel like she did: as though someone was watching him. This suggestion leads to listeners throwing rocks at Tyler’s window and an excessive amount of bullying from other people who had a tape. As character exclude Tyler, he become more frustrated and in the final scene, he holds an arsenal of weapons in his room. The final episode alludes to the fact that Tyler may take his frustration out by taking others students lives or his own.

Courtney Crimson is the picture perfect student. She holds a respectable position in student leadership and is well liked by the school. When Hannah first encounters her, she befriends her and refrains from judging her based on rumors. While studying, Hannah and Courtney begin to kiss, and it is capture by Tyler’s camera. The photograph circulates and Courtney, to save her image, distances herself from Hannah entirely and claims it was Hannah in the picture but not her with her. Courtney struggles to accept her sexuality in fear that it will cause her homosexual fathers more trouble. Additionally, Courtney’s denial is a result of her concern of the student bodies’ opinion.

Like Courtney, Marcus Cooly exudes confidence and excellent. As student body president, Marcus is also consumed by the opinions of his peers and his image on college application. The “golden boy” encounters Hannah when the two are paired by a “Whose your Valentine” quiz and go on a date. Marcus arrive late, accompanied by a pose of athletes who sit at a both close to Marcus and Hannah’s. When Marcus tries to advance Hannah thinking she is “easy”, she pushes him away. Marcus is upset over his rejection and continues by verbally attacking Hannah. Marcus outburst illustrates his insecurity, stemming from his perfectionistic attitude.

Zach is introduced as a sympathetic character who comforts Hannah after her ordeal with Marcus. Zach has feelings for Hannah and asks her to the dance. Hannah however, declines his offer as she feels like his proposal was a joke. Zach struggles to deal with the rejection and acts out against Hannah, keeping compliment notes that her classmates wrote to her from Valentines Day. When Hannah confronts him, he ignores her and takes part in throwing vulgarities her way. Zach struggles to have confidence in himself and Hannah’s rejection results in his outburst.

Ryan is a journalist at their high school and befriends Hannah after she joins a poetry club. Hannah preforms a personal poem, illustrating her helplessness and depression. Ryan seems to understand and sympathize with Hannah’s struggle however he betrays her by publishing Hannah’s poem in his school magazine. The poem is published anonymously yet the betrayal contributes to Hannah’s suicidal thoughts. Ryan, struggle to truly sympathize with Hannah and sees like problem in publishing her personal poem. Ryan character struggles with controlling his selfishness and putting his friends feelings first.

Sherri, (named Jenny in the novel) is introduced at the climax of the series, Jessica’s party. At this house party, Hannah becomes extremely intoxicated and obviously distraught. Sherri notices Hannah stumbling and frazzled appearance and offers to give her a ride home. Hannah accepts the offer after Sherri proves she isn’t drunk, and begins to drive home. As she is driving, she attempts to grab her phone form her purse and runs into a stop sign. The sign falls and Hannah insist that they call the police to report it but Sherri refuses, afraid she will be in trouble. After arguing with Hannah, Sherri drives away, leaving her alone. Later in the night, student, Jeff Adkins, goes on an “alcohol run” to resupply the party. On his way back from the liquor store, Jeff crashes into another car at the intersection Sherri knocked the stop sign down at.

From the beginning, the audience sees Clay’s internal battle as he struggles to cope with Hannah’s suicide. Once he receives the tapes, he panics as he assumes he is the reason Hannah is gone. Once he listens to his own tape, his concern is lessened however, he still feels guilt for not recognizing Hannah’s anguish. Hannah reassures Clay that he is a good guy but this doesn’t provide him any comfort; a girl he loved is gone because he was afraid to tell her he loved her. Additionally, we are made aware that Clay has previously suffered from a sort of mental illness as his mother pleads for him to take his medicine once he begins acting up. The depression followed by Hannah’s suicide worsens Clay’s illness.

Bryce is a character that the entire audience struggles to empathize with. In previous tapes, we learn he sexually assaults Jessica and in his own tape, Bryce rapes Hannah Baker. It is difficult to look past the contempt we hold for Bryce but his actions stem from his own insecurities. It is evident his family is prestigious judging by his power and his lavish home. However often, these children worry they won’t meet the expectations of their families and put up a barrier to the world.

For the final tape, the school’s consoler, Mr. Porter make an appearance. Hannah visit him in a final effort to choose no to take her own life but his advice (or lack there of) fails to assuage her. Mr. Porter is unqualified to console teenagers despite his occupation and Hannah’s suicide highlights his faults. Throughout the series, we see scenes in which Mr. Porter’s guilt is evident however, once he listens to his own tape, he realizes that he had the power to help Hannah, but failed.

Thirteen reasons why teaches us to remember that every one has their own struggle. While Hannah’s struggle is illustrated vividly, the other characters are engaged in their own internal struggle that many are unaware of.

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