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So upfront: I haven't watched this yet, though I may soon. I think it is important that our media cover sensitive and difficult topics such as bullying, sexual abuse, depression and other mental illnesses, suicide, as well as how our society responds to these things.

From the synopses I've read of the series or the book it is based on there is one question I haven't seen a clear answer to: does it portray the main character's suicide as a rational response?

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    @AJ given the many "expert opinions" on the subject, I'd deem it clearly opinion-based more than anything. How Hannah's suicide is portrayed depends mostly on how the viewer perceives it (and the series as a whole). So-called "experts" go as far as calling it "glorification of suicide" - and in my (non-expert) opinion it doesn't [portray suicide as a rational response], but that's just what it is: my opinion. YMMV. – Mathieu Guindon May 19 '17 at 23:02
  • @curiousdannii: I wrote a full answer but only realized after the fact that you haven't watched it yet. If we can't use any justification for our claim, are you simply hoping to hear a yes or a no? If you want, I can post my analysis but this of course spoils 90% of the show. – Flater May 22 '17 at 7:37
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    "So upfront: I haven't watched this yet" I sincerely hope you have watched since asking this question. It's the most impactful and realistic portrayal of suicide I've ever seen. I would say that it focuses on how other can help someone who may be having suicidal thoughts – Steven M. Vascellaro Jun 5 '17 at 4:28
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This turned out longer than expected. I'll add the TL;DR here:

Hannah's suicide was naive. The show isn't particularly trying to argue that her suicide was the right option.
However, what I do think is the case is that the show pulled focus on how others can lead someone to want to kill themselves. And in doing so, they tried to omit Hannah's naivete; because the plot requires her to be all-knowing since she is the narrator on the tapes.

I personally think that it would have made more sense if Tony was aware of Hannah's life (at the time, not after the fact) but sworn to secrecy; and when she kills herself, Tony decides to let everyone know how they contributed to it happening.
Having Hannah make the tapes means that she is all-knowing (compared to the 13), and that starkly contradicts the suggestion that she wasn't in a clear state of mind between the rape and the suicide. Tony having the clear state of mind because he is protecting Hannah makes so much more sense. Both from the characters' point of view and the premise of the show.

edit Thinking back on it now, it makes so much more sense that Tony figured it out. The scene where Hannah connects the dots (after the rape) that leads to her singling out the 13; makes even more sense if Tony was the one connecting the dots after Hannah's suicide. Why would Hannah connecting the dots lead to a revelation if it's about her own life and things she already knows?


It does not. Hannah's tapes sound clever and deep; and because they go in-depth, you'd think the suicide was well contemplated too. The show seemingly intentionally omits the naive parts of Hannah's decision.

  • She trusted Tony to handle the tape situation in her absence. Because she knew he'd always be there for her. But she didn't talk to him about anything that was on the tapes.
  • With the sole exception of getting chewed out because she lost around $700 her parents gave her, Hannah had a great relationship with both her parents. Getting told off because you actually did something wrong is not a reason to shut them out of your life and make them find your body after the suicide.
  • While she did talk to the counselor about the rape, and his suggestion to let it go was reckless and inconsiderate, Hannah never talked about her suicide.
  • Hannah specifically tells Clay that he didn't actually wrong her. Furthermore, she explains why that romantic moment didn't go the way it should have, both from her point of view and Clay's point of view. If she knows all that and truly loves him, why not seek him out when you need support (even if she never directly talks about the rape)?

Here's an alternate description of events that changes the general perception of Hannah's suicide, without changing the facts.

Hannah has been wronged in the past. The coffee shop friends drifted apart when they wanted other things. Reconciling only made things worse, it wasn't easily fixable. As it turns out, Hannah realized at some point that her old friends' allegiance was with their new friends rather than Hannah. Shitty thing, but you can't expect teenagers to be socially perfect. They're still figuring out who they are, and even adults mess up socially (look at the counselor).
Hannah had a crush on a guy. Both of them were socially inept. Clay has always been this way, Hannah has become shy because of her peers making fun of her in the past. Regardless, their romantic moment gets destroyed because Hannah tells Clay to leave. Even if her reaction is understandable, she can't blame Clay for doing what he is told (especially with today's focus on things happening consensually, which is a major part of the plot here). In her tape, she reveals that she knew Clay would have supported her; but the events prove that she chose to not talk to him about it before the suicide.
Hannah's parents, while they have their own personal problems (her mom is a bit unhinged, her dad means well but stays in the background), love Hannah and put her above anything else. When Hannah asks to help, then fails to help and loses the money that her parents desperately needed; she gets chewed out. That is the only real conflict between her and her parents. Yes, her parents should have forgiven her if they knew she forgot the wallet because of her Clay puppy love; but since she never talks about it, how can they know?

You can't fault Hannah for the rape. That is a damaging event in her life. I'm not going to argue against the importance of this in the grand scheme of things because that's just callous.
But I am going to say that Hannah was not all alone in the world, nor was she in any particularly inescapable situation (e.g. where the rape could have kept occuring). She could have reached out to anyone, she is seen reaching out to old friends several times in the show (and that's not even including Tony, Clay, the counselor, or her parents).
She was more than eager to punish Bryce for raping her friend; berated that friend for not wanting to go public; why did she not do the same for herself? I don't want to devolve this into an argument about the bbehavior of rape victims. Getting raped can change someone's personality rather quickly, and Hannah was already on the edge. However, the tapes are recorded after the rape, and they prove that Hannah was still thinking logically. Otherwise, she would not have made sense on the tapes and would have been a notably different person (either emotional or excessively not so)

The second she thought of killing herself, she never reconsidered. She got the tapes, and recorded them. What Hannah says on the tapes proves several things that the show has tried to draw focus away from:

  • Hannah knew that most of the 13 would apologize for what they did if only they had understood Hannah's point of view. Hannah, while aware of this fact, decides to kill herself before talking to anyone.
  • Alex and Clay are clear examples of this, they take Hannah's message to heart and better themselves because of it. Everyone else, however, has doubled down on their current (pre suicide) behavior because they would otherwise have to admit guilt (to themselves and the other 12); which they cannot bear to do (Jessica struggles a lot with it). Hannah's blunt way of pointing out their guilt is so harsh that most characters choose to not really deal with it other than knowing it happened. Hannah's suicide makes their realization of the part they played much too heavy. In the first few episodes, we see this happen to Clay, he can only listen to the tapes in incredibly small chunks because the subject matter is so heavy.
  • Hannah relied on Tony to always be there for her, yet he was more in the dark than anyone else up until she killed herself.
  • Hannah knew Clay and her were a good match and their romantic moment got killed by her (understandable, but still her action). Yet she never tries to make amends and even wants Clay to listen to her entire story (even though he's not guilty of anything), but only after the suicide.
  • Hannah made it so that everyone (of the 13) would know everyone's secrets. Why? She played everyone out against eachother, to what end? Why not record a single tape per person on which she explains what that person needed to know? Her way of doing it makes it more dangerous that people near the end never receive the tapes (leading up to Clay!)
  • The three biggest events leading up to her suicide (directly or indirectly): Jessica was raped, Hannah was raped, Clay should have forced himself on Hannah when she told him to stop (but he did not, which is the problem). Hannah's arguing two opposite points at the same time? This is incredibly contradictory to a point of bad storytelling. The story is basically saying that it's not really rape (or sexual assault) when you like the rapist and don't really mean it when you tell him to stop.

Hannah's suicide was petty and not as deep and well thought out as the tapes (and show) would have you believe. While she had her personal demons, she still had a family who loved her who she completely cut out of her life because she got told off once.

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    Please remove this sentence: The story is basically saying.... – nilon Jul 1 '17 at 21:16
  • i agree - please remove that line – Anu7 Aug 3 '18 at 10:49
  • @Anu7: The show explicitly pulls into focus that Hannah considers Clay as 1 of the 13 reasons why she ends up committing suicide. The only conflict between them occurred when he did not push himself on her. If this is a valid reason (out of the 13), an assertion which the show never challenges, then the show implicitly argues that Clay is at fault for not pushing himself on someone who was not consenting. I'm not in any way agreeing with this stance, I'm merely pointing out that the show has created this (in my opinion deeply flawed) reasoning about why Clay is one of the 13 reasons. – Flater Aug 3 '18 at 10:57
  • @Flater - i agree with you, but it sounds kind of wrong. From what I took from the clay-hannah scenario, consent and liking does matter - and Clay and Bryce are two absolute opposite ends, she just probably wishes Clay pursued her more. I also agree that its not your intention but what the show portrayed. – Anu7 Aug 7 '18 at 6:45
  • @Anu7: It is wrong, that's sort of my point. The show argues conflicting points in regards to men (Bryce, Clay) pushing themselves on a woman who in both cases tells them to stop what they're doing. – Flater Aug 7 '18 at 7:05
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Does 13 Reasons Why portray suicide as a rational response?

Well, lets go for pros and cons, to see if their is a rationality

Pros

  • Hannah has a number of reasons (13) to end it all. (But 13... is a jinxed non-casual number.)
  • Each reason is a specific case and has a detailed explanation
  • The tape making involves a methodical procedure

Cons

  • At the end of everything, and before the end, Hannah doesn't seem much in control.
  • Some decisions are not very rational, such as not contacting the ones that supported her the most, parents, Clay, ...Tony?
  • Why would she make all such an effort on an artistic-documentary big scale project such as her own biography connected to others, just for the sake of blaming? May that attention to detail in cassettes help to process and mourn over the occurrences? Apparently not. Which seems odd.

In Short

Suicide is not rational even if portrayed with a mechanic voice that narrates seemly objective events.

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