Content warning: This post contains spoilers.
For the last two weeks, Netflix’s hit TV series about teen suicide has exploded all over our social media feeds, dinner table conversations and news websites.
While everyone is discussing the merits of creating a show that hovers between refreshingly open and toxically instructive, I can’t help but think we’re missing one of 13 Reasons Why‘s key messages.
And no – it’s not about death or depression.
LISTEN: The Binge discuss if 13 Reasons Why is helpful or dangerous. (Post continues…)
It’s about something almost every single one of us has experienced, and the all-encompassing way it can crush a human soul.
In so many ways, 13 Reasons Why is about the poisonous effect of sexual assault.
Of course that includes the rapes carried out by resident scum bag Bryce Walker to Jessica Davis and in the penultimate episode, Hannah Baker. But this theme stretches far and wide beyond those rapes. It extends to almost every episode, where the producers perfectly depict just how insidious casual sexual assault is.
Sexual violence is actually the hidden thread that connects every one of the 13 Reasons Why episodes together, but nobody seems to be talking about it.
Let me explain.
Episode One, all of Hannah’s troubles kicked off when Justin Foley took a photo of her going down the slide – when her legs were partly open – and proceeded to spread lies that the pair had done more than ‘just kiss’. He made her feel like a sexual object, and almost instantly Hannah – who was actually a virgin – gained the reputation of a “slut”.
Episode Two, where Hannah makes Alex Standall’s “Best and Worst” list. You know, the one where girls are ranked based on their physical appearance. She described the experience as having a “target” put on her back.
Episode Three, Bryce approached Hannah from behind in the milk bar so he could grope her ass, and she left in floods of tears. She described this very moment as the “butterfly effect” – the theory that a small change can lead to colossal consequences in the future.
Episode Four, the moment Hannah’s stalker Tyler Down captures a photo of her on her bed, in her underwear, and spreads it to the school.
Episode Five, Courtney created a rumour about Hannah at the school prom to a group of jocks and claimed she was easy and interested in lesbian threesomes.
Episode Six, the chair of the student council Marcus forced his hand up Hannah’s inner thigh on a Valentine’s date.
Episode Seven, when sports star Zach retaliates and isolates Hannah because she refuses to go out on a date with him.
Episode Eight, when Hannah's private and intimate thoughts in a poem - about her being in a 'black lacy bra' - are published in the school magazine.
Episode Nine, when Bryce raped Jessica, and her boyfriend Justin simply sits outside the door... allowing him to do it.
Episode 10, when Justin denied Jessica was ever raped, and made her question her own sanity, pushing her to develop an alcohol dependence.