Even if you haven’t actually watched Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why yet, you’ve probably heard of it because the Internet LOVES this show. More specifically, people love posting about 13 Reasons Why on their social media. (We get it, guys. You binge-watched yet another Netflix show.)
Based on Jay Asher’s 2007 novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker’s life and death, or rather what events in her life led to her suicide. The series has inspired people to post messages about kindness across all forms of social media. The fact that this show is promoting a “be kind” message on social media is important, but it’s also important to note that Hannah Baker was not actually kind. In a way, it feels almost disrespectful to say anything bad about Hannah Baker’s character, as she was a teenage girl who killed herself. By design, she is a character for whom the audience immediately feels sympathy. We are told, from the very start, that she is going to kill herself, which makes it hard for the audience to form an objective opinion of her character. But, objectively speaking, sometimes Hannah was the actual worst.
To be clear, saying Hannah Baker was the worst does not make 13 Reasons Why a bad show. In fact, Hannah Baker’s shortcomings and flaws make this a better show. 13 Reasons Why didn’t shy away from complicated characters and instead of making Hannah into a martyred saint or an abused puppy, the show allowed her to be a real person. And, sometimes, real people are the actual worst, right? Below are 16 times when Hannah Baker was actually the worst. Sorry, but someone had to say it.
16. To Start, The Fact That She Left Behind Those Tapes
The premise of the show, in case you’re one of the four people who hasn’t watched it yet, is that a teenage girl kills herself and leaves behind thirteen tapes. These thirteen tapes are each addressed to one person, who she feels gave her a reason to kill herself. So, that’s pretty loaded with moral issues, like can you really blame your suicide on another person or another 13 people? The deep moral issues surrounding Hannah’s tapes have not gone unnoticed. In fact, the tapes have been quite controversial to viewers of the show, as some feel that Hannah is putting the blame on others instead of taking responsibility for herself.
During the course of the show, the characters on these tapes often remind each other that it was Hannah’s own decision to kill herself and that they cannot feel bad about it. These teenagers seem to have a refreshingly mature point of view when it comes to Hannah’s suicide, especially with tapes literally blaming each of them.
In Hannah’s defense, she was a teenage girl dealing with teenage feelings. Being a teenager is hard, and confusing, and hard (Did we say hard yet? Because it’s really hard.) But even with her teenage emotions taken into consideration, it’s difficult to get down with the purpose of these tapes. It felt like Hannah was pointing the finger at others, blaming them for her suicide.
15. But, There Was No Note For Her Parents
Hannah Baker went through a lot of trouble in making her tapes. Girlfriend even had a flow chart to track the order of how each person would receive the tapes. She painted the numbers on the tapes with blue nail polish and had to wait for the nail polish to dry! Do you know how much extra time that takes? The tapes were deliberate and purposeful. With the time and effort put into these tapes, it’s odd that Hannah didn’t even leave a note for her parents. Guys, she didn’t even leave a note for her parents. Like, not even a quickly jotted down, “It’s not your fault. I love you.”
The show seemed to go to great lengths to paint all the parents, and especially Hannah’s, in a positive, realistic light. Hannah’s parents were kind, protective, and quick to compliment her. These are the parents who bought her a brand new car just so she could look cool driving it to the school dance. Yes, they were busy with work, distracted, and short-tempered at times, but come on. They deserved a note, but instead, Hannah left her parents desperate for answers and deeply guilty.
14. Her Reaction To Tyler
The Tyler tape is an especially difficult tape to breakdown. Tyler made it onto Hannah’s tapes because he had been stalking her. Like, mega stalking. We’re talking taking pictures of her in her bedroom. This made Hannah feel violated, and rightfully so. (Not cool, Tyler.) This worked on two levels. Thematically, it played into the issues of rape culture and the objectification of women, both of which were explored at great length in this show. As a plot device, its goal seemed to be making Hannah feel unsafe in a home that was otherwise very safe. With loving, kind, and occasionally absent parents, there wasn’t an internal force to make Hannah feel unsafe in her home. Instead, an external force (Tyler) was used to make Hannah feel unsafe. That worked to some degree because of the invasiveness of Tyler, but it never fully succeeded in its goal of making Hannah’s home feel unsafe.
The difficulty with this tape is Hannah’s reaction to Tyler. The character who needed a friend the most, even more so than Hannah, seemed to be Tyler. Tyler was the ultimate loner in their school and lived his life through his camera lens. Hannah never asked Tyler why he was taking pictures of her, but his reason was that he was “in love” with Hannah. Of course, Tyler was not actually in love with Hannah. He didn’t even really know her, other than the fact that she was a beautiful girl who photographed well. It was because Tyler was so desperate for human connection that he thought he was “in love” with Hannah. Hannah, though, doesn’t care about his reasons for taking photos of her or that he’s lonely or that he had a whole arsenal of guns in his bedroom. Yes, Tyler’s taking photos of Hannah is intrusive and worrisome, but it’s really just a symptom of his deep loneliness and Hannah didn’t give a shit about Tyler’s deep loneliness.
13. She Basically Asks The Listeners To Taunt Tyler
One more for Tyler, mostly because he seems like he’s about to kill every single character on the show. On Tyler’s tape, Hannah leads the various listeners to sit outside of Tyler’s window. This certainly seems vengeful, right? Not only is she recounting Tyler’s wrongdoing, but she’s having her listener give it right back to Tyler. Oh, and the listeners don’t just spy on Tyler, they throw rocks through his window! Because of Hannah’s tapes, Tyler becomes the victim of some of the harshest bullying on the show.
On the tapes, Tyler is the one character who is on the outside. Zach, Jessica, Sheri, Justin, Alex, Marcus, Courtney – they’re all friends to some extent. Clay may be an outsider, but he’s not a target. Tyler, though, is a target and Hannah’s tape only made the target on his back even worse. No, Hannah didn’t flat-out tell anyone to throw a rock through Tyler’s window… but she might as well have.
12. She Outed Courtney
Courtney seems to be, behind Bryce, the least liked character on the show. She is without the softness of Clay, the wisdom of Tony, the charisma of Zach, or the wonderful one-liners of Ryan. She’s a perfected, hardened teenage girl, but she’s also struggling with a huge secret. She seems to be unable to admit to anyone, even herself, that she’s gay. And guess what? Hannah outs Courtney on her tapes! This has to be one of the shittiest things that Hannah does.
One could argue that Hannah only outed Courtney because Courtney spread a rumor that Hannah was gay. But, what’s worse? Courtney’s spreading that rumor about Hannah, who isn’t gay, or Hannah telling everyone Courtney is in the closet when she’s actually in the closet? From Hannah’s point of view, Courtney’s spreading a rumor about Hannah’s sexuality is villainous, but that doesn’t necessarily justify outing Courtney. Albeit only thirteen others would be hearing the tapes, but Hannah still outs Courtney when, in fact, Courtney’s sexuality wasn’t Hannah’s to tell at all.
11. She Told Jessica’s Rape Story
Speaking of things that Hannah shouldn’t have included on her tapes, Jessica’s rape was not Hannah’s story to tell either. To Hannah’s credit, she veils the fact that it’s Jessica, but only slightly. Anyone listening to those tapes, who was at that party, could tell that Jessica had been raped by Bryce and Justin let it happen. Hannah made it pretty obvious.
There are two arguments to be made about Hannah’s decision to include Jessica’s rape story on the tapes. One arguments is that this was Hannah’s way of telling Jessica and making sure Jessica knew the truth. Okay, but Hannah also could have left Jessica a note specifically for her. This way, Hannah would have told Jessica what happened, y’know without also telling Jessica’s rape story to twelve other people. The other argument that can be made for Hannah including Jessica’s rape story is that it proves Bryce is a serial rapist. Bryce is basically a monster and people needed to know that, but Hannah could have included her experience of hiding in the closet but without hinting very heavily towards Jessica’s identity, right?
10. She Wasn’t A Good Friend To Jessica
Let’s also talk about Hannah and Jessica’s friendship. Hannah was not a good friend to Jessica, especially not the night Jessica was raped. No one can fault Hannah for hiding in the closet, as Bryce’s sheer strength terrified her. One can only assume Hannah was afraid of being raped too, which was a legitimate fear. After Bryce left the room, Hannah goes straight to Shitty Friend City. Hannah simply tucks Jessica into her bed AND LEAVES! Hannah left the party, but she had so many other options. Hannah could have locked the bedroom door and stayed in Jessica’s room with her until morning, making sure she didn’t drunkenly vomit in her sleep and wasn’t raped again. Had Hannah been there in the morning and told Jessica what had happened, things could have been different. Hannah also could have called the cops. But, Hannah left. She left Jessica there, vulnerable, exposed, and in a house with a rapist. Smooth move, Hannah.
Hannah was not a friend for Jessica in her time of need. This, perhaps, wouldn’t be such a glaring issue if it wasn’t for Hannah droning on and on about needing a friend. Uh, maybe try not being a shitty friend first, Hannah.
9. Actually, She Wasn’t A Good Friend To Anyone
We hear, again and again, how Hannah really needed a friend. Yeah, you and everyone else, girl. No, but really, every single other character on this show needed a friend and Hannah didn’t give a shit about that.
There was the way Hannah treated Tyler, who, yes, was creepy but clearly had no friends. There was the way Hannah tried to force Courtney to confront her sexuality and the way Hannah left Jessica after she was raped. Yes, Hannah felt that these people had wronged her in some way, but what about Clay? Clay didn’t have too many friends, and was previously in therapy and on medication. Clay was her coworker, with whom she seemed close, but she never tried to include him. She never once invited Clay to FML Club. It’s also not like Hannah ever reached out to Skye.
8. She Was So Very Privileged
13 Reasons Why was refreshingly progressive in terms of minority characters. Finally, a teen show where everyone isn’t just white. Even better was the fact that these characters are minorities and that never seems to be something that is brought up. It just is. Thank you for that, 13 Reasons Why.
That being said, 13 Reasons Why didn’t seem too interested with exploring white privilege. Bryce may be the epitome of white male privilege in an extreme way, but he’s not the only wealthy, privileged character. Zach, Marcus, Courtney and Sheri are all minorities who seem to be wealthy, popular, and privileged. And, of course, Hannah Baker is also privileged. She lives a comfortable life with her happily married parents. There are no signs of abuse, violence, poverty, or anything else one may secretly struggle with at home. Also, remember when her parents just buy her a new car so she can look cool at a school dance?
In comparison to some of the other characters, specifically Justin, Hannah’s life at home looks pretty cozy. If her life outside of her home was so awful, at least she could find solace at home, right? Other characters, like Justin, didn’t have this kind of comfort to look forward to. Hannah should have just stayed home and played Monopoly with her parents, and everything would have been pretty chill.
7. Nice Guys Finish Last
Honestly, what even was that tape for Clay? It seems like Hannah included Clay on the tapes simply so that someone she really, really liked would hear what had happened to her. Hannah knew that if no one else felt bad about it, Clay would. Even considering that could be Hannah’s reason for including Clay, the Clay tape was weird. Then again, Hannah’s feelings for Clay were weird.
Hannah seemed like she maybe liked Clay, but then she was more interested in Justin and then she was more interested in Marcus. In this way, Hannah is every teenage girls ever. She was interested in the bad boys, the jocks, the popular kids. She didn’t want the nice boy who would have treated her right. Had she just been interested in Clay all along, one could make the argument that none of this would have happened. But, Hannah wanted Justin.
6. Did Anyone Else Feel Bad For Zach?
For being a jock, Zach was incredibly likable and that’s probably because he seemed like one of the genuinely nice guys on the show. After Marcus tried to finger bang Hannah in public, Zach went and sat with her. Zach went and sat with her for, like, a really long time while Hannah literally didn’t speak to him. (Hannah, you’re the worst.)
After this, Zach approached Hannah again in the cafeteria, during which he tells her he’s not interested in her “best ass” but rather her personality. At this point, Hannah publicly embarrasses Zach in the cafeteria. Zach had a very delicate ego, like most teenage boys, if we’re being honest. So, Zach retaliates by taking compliments from Hannah’s compliment bag. That’s a shitty move on Zach’s part, but wasn’t Hannah just a flat-out bitch to him again and again? We’re not saying that Zach should have taken Hannah’s compliments, but Hannah didn’t make it easy to be nice to her.
Here’s the biggest thing on the Zach tape. Hannah remarks on the tape that she thinks Zach is lonely too. She wonders if Zach, like her, feels that no one really sees the real him. The fact that Hannah went and wondered this deep and probably correct character assessment of Zach makes his tape all the more confusing. He needed a friend too, Hannah seemed to realize this, and yet, Hannah was not his friend.
5. She Judged Everyone And Anyone
Hannah Baker was desperate to be more than the girl in that photo Justin took, more than the “best ass” in the sophomore class. She wanted someone to see past all of the rumors about her and know the real her. That’s a totally understandable desire, but it just makes it all the more funny that she never bothered to see past everyone else’s stereotypes and rumors. Hannah sees Justin as a jock who lied about how far he got with her, but Justin is more than just that. Hannah assumes that Jessica and Sheri are just vapid, popular, pretty cheerleaders, but both struggle immensely with things that have happened to them.
4. She’s An Unreliable Narrator
One major question the show doesn’t seem to fully address is just how accurate Hannah’s tapes are. The show doesn’t seem too interested in weighing in on how much Hannah remembers correctly, but there are two red flags that do pop up. First, Hannah says Jessica and Alex stopped going to the coffee shop, but Jessica claims Hannah was actually the first of the three to stop going to the coffee shop. It’s hard to know who to actually believe in that instance. Though, the second red flag comes with proof. Hannah claimed that Zach threw out the letter she wrote him, but Zach still has the letter. Like I said, it’s hard not to like Zach.
If Hannah remembers Zach tossing the letter but Zach didn’t actually toss the letter, this means that Hannah is most likely an unreliable narrator. All the stories on her tapes are being told through her own lens. With this in mind, it’s likely that her tapes my be distorted. The other students may seem meaner in the tapes, like Zach throwing out the letter or Jessica not coming to the coffee shop. The scarier thought is that, perhaps, Hannah is remembering herself as less shitty. So, this could mean that Hannah’s tapes paint her in a more favorable light, which is interesting because the tapes don’t even make her all that favorable. In real life, she was probably even worse.
3. The Whole Ryan Tape
Ryan’s tape was Hannah at, perhaps, her most unlikable.
At a college fair, Hannah is feeling very hopeless. She doesn’t have the grades or the money to go to college, she reasons. But, she meets a hip looking librarian and decides to join his poetry circle. (Did it kind of seem like Hannah was about to join a cult?) It is at this poetry group that Hannah bumps into Ryan from her high school. She’s – hm, how should I put this? – a real bitch to Ryan. Her reason for being so rude is because Ryan, the editor of the school paper, ran Alex’s famed list that dubbed Hannah the best ass in the sophomore class. Ryan reasons that it was news, which it totally was. (Like, calm down, Hannah.)
In the course of this tape, Hannah writes a poem that is actually pretty decent so Ryan runs it in his paper. Because Hannah never gave Ryan permission to run her poem, he credits the author as anonymous. Still, Hannah is, like, really upset. We get it, her privacy is always being taken away. She feels invaded. Blah, blah, blah. But, it was also during this tape that Hannah was considering being a writer. Did Hannah not realize that in order to be a writer, your writing has to be… read?
2. The Ripple Effect Of The Tapes
In a show that seems more interested in exploring the effects of misogynistic culture on teenage girls rather than actual suicide, Bryce is the clear villain. He is the embodiment of violent misogyny, whether it be when he is grabbing Hannah’s butt, making Clay chug a beer, or raping not one, but two girls. However, one could argue that Hannah Baker becomes an antagonist as well.
Hannah’s tapes take on a life of their own. They have a ripple effect that sends almost every listener on a downward spiral. Hannah’s tapes result in Clay, who she says was not at fault, having hallucinations. Because of these tapes, Clay’s mom was five minutes away from putting him in a mental institution, though she seems like she’s probably always five minutes away from putting Clay in an institution. Tyler seems to be planning something monstrous as he has an arsenal of guns, though he may have been hoarding guns before the tapes. (And again, that makes us think that Hannah sucked for being such a bitch to Tyler.) Justin runs away from home. Alex ends up shot. Would all of these events taken place without the tapes? Perhaps, but the tapes seem to have had a negative effect on almost all of the teenagers who listened to them, which may have been what Hannah wanted.
The show doesn’t really go into Hannah’s mindset when she makes the tapes. We know that she made them after Bryce raped her, but we don’t know her true intentions. Did she really want to just point her finger at those who she felt wronged her, or did she want more? Did Hannah hope that the people on the tapes would react in these ways? If so, if she hoped for the dark realities these tapes brought about, does that make her the villain of the show?
1. Hannah Could Have Easily Been On Someone Else’s Tapes
Hannah’s shortcomings are what make her an actual human being. Had Hannah just been an angel throughout the series, it wouldn’t have been a good show. It would be like watching a puppy dog be kicked around for thirteen episodes and then die. Hannah was no puppy dog. She didn’t spend her weekends volunteering at an animal shelter or braiding an orphan’s hair. She was a fully fleshed out teenage girl, who was unable to objectively see the world. She’s complicated and far from perfect, but that makes her character all the more human.
In her humanness, Hannah made mistakes too – ignoring people, embarrassing people, alienating people. She was just a teenager, so it is hard to blame Hannah for her mistakes on the show. Couldn’t that be the same argument used for many of these other characters? Zach, Justin, and Alex were all just trying to fit in. Courtney had her own secrets. With the exception of Bryce, who was an actual monster of a human being, Hannah was just as flawed as many of the people on her tapes and, in some cases, even more flawed.
In a different narrative, Hannah could have easily wound up on Tyler’s, Jessica’s, Courtney’s, Clay’s, Zach’s, Skye’s, or even Alex’s tapes. It is that fact that makes this show even more interesting. None of the characters on the show were kind, not even Hannah Baker.