After reading and reviewing the book by Jay Asher, I thought the filmed for TV adaptation was going to be a tough act to perform. My doubt level was high and it had nothing to do with the fact that Selena Gomez was a producer; the story is about a teenager’s successful suicide attempt and her plan to secretely circulate her suicide note among those she deemed responsible for her downfall. In an incredible and surprising way, the storyboard and characters created by Paramount exceeded my expectations. My mind was blow. Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah Baker and Dylan Minette, who plays Clay Jensen are stellar, brilliantly matched to give you goose bumps and butterflies. I couldn’t pry myself away from the TV and my husband appreciated the poignancy of the message: Everything Affects Everything.
High school wasn’t a picnic for most people and with modern media, this series aims to describe cyber bullying, sexual harassment and assault in terms our modern society can understand. Jay Asher decided to use tapes as Hannah’s medium of communication to make the story timeless. Parents of modern teens will remember their own mix taped journey through puberty while learning how their kids face the same growing pains but with a twist: social media. These 24/7/365 attacks forces you to continuously be under the microscope, exploited by a’holes and bullies alike. There’s no respite. There’s only pain, angst and sorrow.
Ending the suffering is a choice, a serious epidemic affecting teens and adults alike because of cyber bullying, fat shaming and discrimination against the LGBTQIA community. This is a theme that requires attention, awareness and careful discussion because it affects everyone. (It is addressed very tastefully in the series companion Beyond 13 Reasons.) Why must we see Hannah end her life? Why should we care about the feelings her tapes evoke on us? Because people need to see and vicariously experience firsthand the horror of losing oneself to the indifference of others to better understand the impact of the message. Your decisions shape circumstances and affect their reality in ways that were and weren’t beyond control.
What I learned from watching the show is that as we relate to those around us, and they influence us, the nuance is balancing our truth with theirs. Our perceptions and bias can hurt others in ways that are irreparable. We can’t dismiss what others are going through just because we think we are correct or have a need to protect our own secrets and biases. If we were taught in school, by our peers and parents to be kinder and more compassionate towards each other the environment would change dramatically and for the best. In more than one way we could keep alive the spark and will to live in each other, lifting up those who feel helpless and dispaired. We must become active parts of our community and care about each others business, in a healthy manner. Everyone matters. It is time we settled our differences and worked to build and support each other. It could save a life!