There’s no doubt that Hannah Baker’s story in 13 Reasons Why has struck a chord. The Netflix series is so popular that a second season has already been confirmed, even though the main character is dead and a sequel to the book it’s based on has never been written. One of the reasons for the show’s popularity is the controversial nature of Hannah and her storyline.
While at face value, Hannah is the victim of a series of bullies and people who are too busy with their own lives to notice that Hannah is struggling, another theory is that she is a sociopath who uses her suicide to cause suffering in a large number of people, specifically the subject of her tapes. Here are the facts that support this theory:
1. We never see Hannah explicitly struggling with mental illness. On it’s own, this isn’t a big red flag, mental illnesses come in many shapes and sizes. However, the fact that it’s never shown on a series fundamentally about her suicide — and the rest of this list — makes this shady.
2. The mere existence of the tapes. If Hannah wanted to make people aware that they should pay attention the the suffering of others and be nicer to people in general (the supposed reason she made the tapes), she would have focused on this message. Instead, Hannah’s tapes go to painstaking detail in ensuring the subject feels immense guilt over their (usually otherwise banal) supposed transgressions against her.
3. The tapes are intended to be passed around. This makes her outing her former friend Jessica as a rape victim in tape #9 extremely troublesome. Why would Hannah put her friend on blast? Why would she force Jessica to live her trauma out in front of everyone in school instead of coming to terms with it on her own timeline? This seems deeply disturbing and cold-hearted on Hannah’s part.
4. The series makes it clear that everyone in Hannah’s tapes have their own issues. Justin’s home life is horrific to say the very least, Bryce’s parents seem completely absent, Alex’s dad isn’t open to talking to his son, Jessica struggles with addiction issues (and maybe has PTSD) — meanwhile Hannah herself has a loving, supportive home life, better than anyone else she knows. These two things create some dissonance. Sure, someone else being hurt doesn’t excuse their hurting of Hannah — but this logic also applies to Hannah herself. In creating the tapes, Hannah perpetuates the very kind of pain she is claiming to beg other people to stop.
5. Sociopaths are smart people with good social skills. Although Hannah claims to be an outsider, we are bombarded by evidence to the contrary. We see her being likeable and well-liked. When Hannah walks into a party where she wasn’t invited, people welcome her and seem excited to see her. Everyone else who has been to high school knows this is definitely not the case for most people.
6. She plans for Bryce to get the tapes near the end. If her intention was to show people the hurt they caused her, he should be first. Instead, she wants to make the maximum impact and hurt people who are easier to hurt (and who have done less to deserve it).
7. Clay receives the tapes after doing basically nothing but being a good friend to Hannah and honoring her request to leave when she asked him to. The fact that he’s on the tapes with a rapist and a stalker/child pornographer can only serve to hurt one of the only people who was truly there for Hannah.
Hannah is not interested in preventing future suicides (especially those by her former friends who are receiving tapes). Her actions show she is interested in hurting as many people as possible. I really hope season 2 addresses this.