Before I get started I want to stress that everything written this post is based on my opinion and my own experiences. I’m not trying to speak for anyone else and their own experiences, I simply want to present my perspective.
13 Reasons Why has proved… controversial. It has definitely got me thinking. I’m not here to specifically talk about the show, but to instead discuss what I think is the show’s main message and amplify it, since it seems to have gotten lost amongst all the numerous complaints people have against the show.
I first of all want to say that I am aware of particular flaws, such as the presence, or rather lack of, of mental illness within the show’s narrative. I not only understand this issue but I totally agree with it, but this post is not going to focus on the flaws. I also want to add that I’ve tried to keep this post spoiler-free.
In fact, this piece isn’t even specifically about 13RW at all. In short, I really want to say: think about how you treat people. Try your best to be kinder. Think about how even a small, inactive gesture can lead to serious consequences. This all sounds like such a cliche, but unfortunately, in my experience at least, it’s something that a lot of people still need to be reminded about.
I guess one could argue, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it be argued many a time, that Hannah is using all these people as a scapegoat rather than working to get the adequate help she may need. I definitely think she would have benefitted greatly had she reached out beyond her guidance counsellor (perhaps to a doctor or another professional) but if you’ve been in a similar situation you might be able to understand the emotional anguish she suffered.
I can. The situations I’ve been in only vaguely resemble hers, and I felt nowhere near what I presume she was supposed to be feeling. It’s the principle more than anything else, though. ‘The principle’ being feeling like the world is against you, as demonstrated and reinforced the way your friends and your peers treat you.
It really causes your self esteem to dip, and this can take years for one to even begin to repair, something I’m all too familiar with. This is even worse when you’re a teenager and you’re more insecure and you crave the approval and validation of those around you. At this point in your life in particular, your self worth largely relies on your reputation, and how you’re perceived by your peers. And when they don’t accept you for whatever reason, your self worth crumbles.
I don’t want to discuss my own issues in detail, but I can only say that if the people around me had given me a bit of a chance rather than written me off as quiet and weird I wouldn’t have such an unhealthy relationship with myself (as well as anxiety issues in regards to dealing with other people). Does this sound a bit over-the-top? I mean, maybe. It’s perhaps a stretch to say it’s entirely their fault, and I probably would have suffered some anxiety issues regardless (and I don’t think anxiety really helped my situation at all haha).
To elaborate on my perspective, they assign you a label and figurative characteristics that, ultimately, are nothing like who you truly are. Then they fit you in a box and dismiss you for not fitting whatever standards they deem ‘worthy’ rather than taking time to actually get to know who you really are. In fact, in my experience, even when it seems like they could get to know you properly they choose to dismiss this in favour of maintaining the common perception. Maybe this doesn’t seem so bad to people who haven’t experienced this. But it can actually feel kind of dehumanising, especially to see the contrast in the way they treat each other (i.e. those who are considered ‘desirable company’ or whatever), and I don’t think people realise this. I also don’t think they realise how detrimental experiences like this can be on an individual’s mental health.
I feel like that was the message 13RW was trying to send. To me, it seemed that the collective mistreatment of Hannah by the majority of her friends that led to her experience such feelings. The easiest way to prevent this problem is for each individual to examine their own actions, and to be conscious of how they treat others around them. Not just because their actions can have consequences, but also because even a little bit of kindness can genuinely go a long way. We all know this to be true, right?
I don’t want this to become a ramble-y mess so I’m going to end it here. In short, there is a message in 13RW that I really wanted to project, simply because it shaped my experiences growing up and has left a lasting impact. For that reason, I would like to reiterate this: please be mindful of the way you treat others, especially those you don’t really know, even more so if they might have some sort of ‘negative’ reputation. As much as you are not responsible for their happiness and mental wellness our mental states are often at least somewhat dependent on the behaviour of those around us (unfortunately), so it can make a big difference to treat people kindly- especially when everyone else is not.
And to anyone who’s experienced anything similar no matter how bad you feel it is not your fault. It is not a reflection of your character, or your self worth. It may be hard to believe (I certainly would not have believed it) but remember- you’re not the one who set out to belittle another individual. I would encourage you to reach out to someone you trust if you’re able to, but I also understand that this can feel scary for some (i.e. me). In fact, I’d encourage you to fight to be heard and taken seriously if you feel able because it’s what you deserve. And need to talk I’m happy to support, just message my Twitter (or contact me through the blog).
I hope you are all well, make sure to take care of yourselves 💜