It’s obvious why the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why broke the internet. Partially produced by Selena Gomez and based on the book by Jay Asher, this hit series tells the emotional story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who commits suicide and leaves behind a box of tapes that confess the 13 reasons why she decided to take her own life.
Each tape recorded by Hannah essentially blames a specific person who hurt her, and there are therefore 13 people who played a part in her untimely demise. Although some viewers accused the show of being too graphic, most of us agree that those graphic scenes were not only paramount to the success of the series, but also paramount to our own emotional responses and self-reflection which for many of us, was a much needed wake-up call.
The show follows Clay Jensen, the protagonist who listens to each tape while reminiscing on his time with Hannah Baker while she was alive. Clay is the one person on the tapes who Hannah admits should not be on the list. She says “Clay, you’re not like every other guy. You’re different. You’re good and kind and decent” and explains that he has to be on the tapes because he’s an important part of her story.
We quickly learn that Clay and Hannah were in love with each other, yet neither acted on their feelings. Clay, full of regret that he didn’t profess his love for Hannah when he had the chance, tells the school counselor “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.” Intrinsically, Clay was one of the reasons Hannah took her own life because she felt as though he was too good for her, and that a love with him was out of reach.
So, what can we learn from good-guy Clay, who was afraid to go after what he wanted in life? Here are 5 important lessons everyone can learn from Clay Jensen’s character in 13 Reasons Why:
1. Live life without fear
Clay was often too afraid to speak his mind, follow his heart and most importantly, he was too afraid to love Hannah. Even though he did love her, he never made that known to Hannah and was left feeling as though things could have turned out differently for her had taken that chance on love. Clay fantasized about telling Hannah “I love you” and many of us can relate to Clay in the sense that we often fantasize about saying something but never actually say it. There was too much left unsaid when it came to Clay and Hannah. Sure, being the first one to profess those feelings requires getting out of your comfort zone, and it’s scary, but the best opportunities come to those who live life without fear.
2. Your biggest fault might be inaction and incessant passivity
The day Hannah died, she stopped by the movie theater where she worked with Clay and dropped off her uniform. She left it on the counter, turned around, and walked away. Clay watched her walk away and once again didn’t go after her, didn’t ask, didn’t really do anything. Just like he lacked bravery and didn’t tell Hannah how he felt about her, and just like he didn’t stay and try when she pushed him away at Jessica’s party. Clay’s biggest fault is not anything he did, but all the things he didn’t do. Clay’s biggest fault is inaction. Clay’s biggest fault is passivity.
3. Remember that everyone has a story, and everyone has their ‘reasons’
The one time Clay and Hannah started to hook up (at Jessica’s party) it was cut short due to Hannah freaking out as soon as Clay began to touch her. This is a symptom of PTSD and Hannah was being triggered and reminded of that fuckboy Marcus, who touched her in an unsolicited manner without Hannah’s consent. She was also suddenly reminded of every other guy who grabbed her ass and sexually assaulted her. Even though Clay asked permission before touching her and was told by the smiling Hannah that it was “more than okay” – her reaction is still normal. She was okay with Clay touching her, but she was still triggered when he did. The lesson here is that everyone has a story or a ‘reason’ for just about everything. If someone suddenly seems off in bed, or suddenly pushes you away, ask them what’s wrong. Tell them that you genuinely care.
4. Stand up for what you believe in
Remember when Clay expressed concern that Jeff was about to get in a car and drive even though he had been drinking? Jeff claimed he wasn’t drunk, and Clay let it go even though he was still concerned. It doesn’t matter if the person is drunk or not – if they’ve had a few drinks they still shouldn’t drive. However, Clay didn’t do anything bold to actually stop Jeff from driving. And we’re not saying it was Clay’s fault Jeff died in that car crash, but the lesson here is to always stand up for what you believe in.
5. Give yourself more credit
It’s possible that Clay didn’t go after what he truly wanted (ie. Hannah Baker) because he lacked self-confidence. However, a guy like Clay who is inherently good and kind and decent (as Hannah herself says) should be giving himself a little more credit. You can find confidence in knowing that you’re different than everyone else, because that is a great thing. The lesson here would be to give yourself a little more credit and know that you bring a lot to the table, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone to take a seat with you.
What did you learn from Clay’s character?
Erica Gordon is the author of the popular new dating advice book Aren’t You Glad You Read This? available for only $4.99 on Amazon and on iBooks here.