|Thirteen Reasons Why character|
"Cassette 1: Side A" (2007)
"Tape 1, Side A" (2017)
"Cassette 7: Side B" (2007)
"Bye" (2018, as Main Character)
"Graduation" (2020, cameo via archive footage)
|Created by||Jay Asher|
|Portrayed by||Katherine Langford|
|Family||Andy Baker (father)|
Olivia Baker (mother)
|Birthday||August 28, 1990 (Novel)|
August 28, 2000 (TV series)
Hannah Baker is a fictional character created by American author Jay Asher. She is the subject of his 2007 young adult fiction mystery novel Thirteen Reasons Why, which was adapted by the media company Netflix as 13 Reasons Why. Hannah is introduced as a sophomore at the fictional Liberty High School, where she struggles to adjust to living in an unsympathetic school environment.
Though the first season of 13 Reasons Why received highly positive reviews, the show's later seasons reception became increasingly divisive among critics and audiences. While critics were split on several aspects of the show, in particular how it handled mental health and its depictions of rape and suicide, Langford's performance was highly praised. Langford later received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance.
Storyline (television series)
At the beginning of the series, we learn that 17-year-old schoolgirl Hannah Baker has completed suicide by cutting her wrists. Her school locker becomes a memorial adorned with students' letters and her pictures. On his doorstep, Hannah's friend Tony Padilla finds a box containing seven audio cassette tapes, each containing a recording of Hannah narrating 13 reasons for her suicide.
Clay listens to the first tape, side A where Hannah talks about moving to town and becoming friends with her neighbor Kat, who is moving away before the start of sophomore year. Kat throws a going-away party at Hannah’s house so that Hannah can meet some new friends. Clay also attends the party, having been invited by Hannah at work. Clay recalls that Bryce Walker initially started to flirt with Hannah in which Hannah was receptive and flirted back until Kat realizing what is going on, breaks up the conversation by sending Bryce towards the beer. Both Kat and Clay warn her about Bryce. Kat then introduces her to Justin Foley, Kat’s boyfriend along with his friend Zach Dempsey. Kat intends for Hannah to be interested in Zach, but Hannah instead finds herself smitten with Justin. Hannah later asks Kat for permission to pursue Justin, to which Kat consents. Hannah prints out Justin’s class schedule to “bump” into him between classes and goes to his basketball game. Justin becomes interested and asks for her phone number. They begin a relationship, but it is ended by a bad first kiss between the two. Justin does nothing to stop the spread of a rumor about the encounter. Justin later shows Bryce a revealing photograph of Hannah, and Bryce circulates the photograph to everyone at school from Justin’s phone, embarrassing Hannah. Clay recalls Hannah being hurt by his comment about the photograph. Each subsequent tape reveals Hannah’s thirteen reasons she killed herself. Hannah warns listeners to follow certain rules; everyone mentioned on the tapes must listen to the complete set then pass it along to the next person addressed. If they fail to do so, the second set of tapes, held by a personal friend and classmate Tony, who is not on the tapes, will be released. Clay, who was in love with Hannah, reminisces about the time he spent with her. He finds listening to Hannah's story difficult, but his friend Tony finds him and reveals he plays a part in enforcing Hannah's will by making sure the tapes are heard; he knows Clay is mentioned on them. He warns Clay things will go wrong if he does not obey the tapes.
On the B-side of the first tape, Hannah talks about her friendship with Jessica Davis and Alex Standall, who later start dating and stop hanging out with Hannah. When Alex breaks up with Jessica, she blames Hannah for the breakup and while arguing, slaps her in public. Alex is the subject of the A-side of the second tape. In the present, Hannah's mother, Olivia Baker, finds the "hot or not" list, on which Hannah was voted as the "best ass" at her house, leading her to believe her daughter was being bullied. She seeks the school principal's help. Instead of continuing through the tapes, Clay turns to Alex for answers and discovers that Alex wrote Hannah's name on the list to get back at Jessica, who refused to have sex with him. The list would result in Hannah being sexually harassed by her classmates, and later raped by Bryce.
As Clay progresses through the tapes, he encounters the others mentioned on Hannah's recordings, stopping to question each one. He discovers that Hannah felt that everyone on the tapes either took advantage of her or abandoned her. Tyler Down, the school photographer, stalks Hannah and distributes a photograph of her and Courtney Crimsen kissing. Afraid of her classmates discovering that she is a lesbian, Courtney spreads a rumor that the girls in the leaked photos are Hannah and Laura, another lesbian classmate, and adds to the rumor about Hannah and Justin. Marcus Cole humiliates Hannah in public, and Zach Dempsey steals her class notes as revenge for her rejecting him.
Hannah later joins a poetry club where she meets Ryan Shaver, who publishes her personal poem anonymously, against her wishes in his school magazine "Lost 'n Found". In the present day, Tony confides in Clay about the night of Hannah's death. On the tapes, Hannah attends a party at Jessica's house and while hiding in Jessica's room, Hannah watches Bryce rape a drunk, unconscious Jessica, with Justin unable to stop him after Bryce kicks him out of the room. Hannah is afraid to tell anyone and decides to leave. Sheri Holland, the subject of the next tape, offers a drunk Hannah a ride home but abandons her after crashing her car into a stop sign and refusing to report it, which later leads to the death of Jeff Atkins.
Clay struggles to continue listening to Hannah's recordings, thinking he has let her down. He decides to return the tapes to Tony, who tells him he is the subject of the next tape. Clay hesitates to listen to "his" tape, but decides to continue.
Hannah continues to talk about the night of Jessica's party. Hoping for a fresh start to the school year, she wants to admit to her feelings for Clay. The two spend most of the time together at the party and began to make out in Jessica's room. Hannah is overwhelmed by the memories of her previous negative encounters with boys at school and begins to scream at Clay telling him to leave. Thinking he has provoked Hannah's breakdown, Clay leaves her alone in the room. Hannah hid when Justin and Jessica enter and begin to make out however Justin realizes how drunk Jessica is and leaves her in her bed to sleep it off. As he is leaving the room, Bryce enters after overpowering Justin in the hall, and Hannah silently witnesses Bryce raping Jessica. Hannah says though Clay does not deserve to be on the tapes, she could not have told her story without talking about him.
On the B-side of tape 6, Hannah talks of "the most difficult day" of her life. In the present day, Olivia finds a list with all the names of the people on the tapes but does not know the meaning behind them. The Bakers decide to file a lawsuit against the school and almost everyone on the list is subpoenaed. It is revealed that the Bakers are having financial problems with the store. After accidentally losing her parent's business deposits, which were supposed to go to the bank, Hannah's parents angrily confront her. Later that night, after feeling extremely depressed and a burden to everyone around her, she goes to a party at Bryce's house, after joining in the hot tub, in bra and panties like other girls in the hot tub, Hannah finds herself alone with Bryce, who proceeds to rape her. After returning home Hannah starts recalling how her life came to this point, and after writing down a list of the people who hurt her, she decides that "no one will hurt her again".
On the final tape, Hannah recalls the day of her suicide. After recording the tapes, Hannah felt "something shift", and decides to get help and give life one more try. She visits the school counselor Mr. Porter and asks for his help. While secretly recording the conversation, Hannah does not explicitly tell him that she was raped but through questioning Hannah, Mr. Porter comes to understand that she was. Hannah refuses to disclose her rapist's identity if Mr. Porter cannot promise her that the rapist will go to jail. Mr. Porter could not promise her this but does vow to protect and support her through it. After failing to extract the boy's name and being told by Hannah that she does not want her parents or the police notified, Mr. Porter, tells her that her only other option would be to "move on". Hannah agrees and leaves his office, although he insists on her staying. She leaves the office and briefly waits for Mr. Porter to chase after her but leaves once he does not do so. Hannah drops off her uniform on the counter at the Crestmont before delivering the tapes to Tony. Hannah returns home, fills up her bathtub, and slits her wrists with a razor blade, dying from blood loss. She is found by her parents who called 911 but are too late.
Asher's book was criticized for the poor characterization of Hannah Baker, which many critics said the television series improved upon. In her book review for The Guardian, Katherine Hughes wrote that Hannah "comes across not so much as a young soul in distress as a vengeful harpy". The character was inspired by one of Asher’s relatives, who had attempted suicide.
At the beginning to the series, Hannah is a 16-year-old high school junior, "from a white picket fence town with an almost perfect family". Noting the realism and relatability of the character with real-life people, Quinn Keaney of Popsugar wrote that Hannah, "is just like you ... like someone you know; she's smart, she has a bright future ahead of herself, she has loving parents, she just wants to be liked". Variety's Maureen Ryan offered a similar observation on the realistic portrayal of teenagers, writing that the "darkness" in Hannah's life is "constantly interwoven with the natural resilience and questioning optimism of adolescence". Writing for TVLine, Andy Swift described her as "a fresh-faced teen with a bright future", while Sarah Hughes of The Daily Telegraph called her "smart, funny, beautiful, and sometimes awkward in that way that teenagers are".
For most of the story, Hannah is characterized by her struggle adjusting to an unsympathetic school environment and her "desire to fit in" which "trumps everything". Her mental health deteriorates as she is subjected to bullying, slut-shaming, and physical assaults. Towards the end of the narrative, Hannah's meeting with Mr. Porter marks her complete descent into depression. While some critics lauded the honest treatment, Lauren Hoffman of Cosmopolitan said the series is so "enamored with this idea of Hannah as someone who does things to others that it neglects to tell us who she is herself". She said it was a failure of "telling a story" and a missed opportunity to "undo stigma around mental illness".
Although Hannah's story is mostly told by the use of voice-overs and flashbacks following her suicide, her character is also viewed from the perspective of Clay Jensen. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Asher said, "Clay is also the eyes and ears for the reader. That’s the person you’re connecting with." Elaborating on the use of the first-person narrative style, Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair wrote, "Clay 's romantic treatment of Hannah as an unattainable dream girl", and that the idea undergoes some "smart and nuanced scrutiny"; so much so that it leads to a need for an assessment of his complicity in Hannah's death. Vox's Constance Grady, who described Hannah as "attractively damaged but secretly pure, sarcastic but unthreatening [sic]", also acknowledged the connection between Clay and Hannah and wrote that the series heavily depended upon "a secret connection" between the two.  She said Langford's performance preserves the character's "wide-eyed vulnerability".
Casting and filming
Hannah Baker was played by Katherine Langford on the television series; her first major acting credit. The show's director Tom McCarthy, script-writer Brian Yorkey, and the executive producer Selena Gomez selected Langford following a Skype audition. Yorkey called the casting process especially hard because of the extra effort needed to match the actor with the visions of the novel's readers. Speaking with James Gill of the Radio Times, he expressed his satisfaction on the casting of Langford and Dylan Minnette as the leading duo, and said, "It was well worth it, because it was about finding two people who could not only portray Hannah and Clay but really understand at a deep level what their journey is".
Universal Studios purchased film rights to Asher's novel on February 8, 2011, and Gomez began the process of casting the role of Hannah Baker. On October 29, 2015, it was announced that Netflix would be making a television adaptation of the book, with Gomez as an executive producer. Tom McCarthy was hired to direct the first two episodes. The series is produced by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television with Gomez, McCarthy, Joy Gorman, Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Mandy Teefey, and Kristel Laiblin serving as executive producers. Filming for the show took place in the Northern Californian towns of Vallejo, Benicia, San Rafael, Crockett and Sebastopol during the summer of 2016. The first season and the special were released on Netflix on March 31, 2017.
Critical response and analysis
The character of Hannah Baker received polarized responses from television critics and mental health analysts, but was well received by the readers and audiences. Katherine Langford garnered acclaim for her performance in the television series and was variously called "a revelation", "believable and raw" and "magnetic". In order to analyze the symptoms and mental health issues that Hannah Baker presents in the series, psychological tests have been evaluated through the perspective of the character to assess her emotional and mental state. Jesse Schedeen of IGN praised her performance stating, "Langford shines in the lead role [and] embodies that optimism and that profound sadness [of Hannah's] as well". Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter praised Langford's "dynamic" performance and wrote, "Langford's heartbreaking openness makes you root for a fate you know isn't possible". Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe praised the chemistry of Langford and Minnette, saying, "watching these two young actors together is pure pleasure". Schedeen of IGN agreed, saying the lead actors are "often at their best together, channeling just the right sort of warm but awkward chemistry you'd expect from two teens who can't quite admit to their feelings for one another".
Mental Health Professionals' Response
The show has contained sensitive subject matter surrounding the hardships that Hannah Baker endures and lack of support from her school and school counselor before the polarizing bathtub scene where she takes her own life. Mental health professionals like clinical psychologists, therapists, and academics have expressed major concerns about the series like romanticizing suicide, Netflix not providing adequate resources at the conclusion of each episode, targeting a young vulnerable audience, and painting mental health professionals as unhelpful and not worth seeing. Mental health experts are also educating the general public on what to do in the situations Hannah Baker goes through and also disseminating accurate information surrounding teen suicide, depression, and youth that experience traumatic events.
- For examples of the kinds of resources and materials clinicians and researchers have disseminated to complement their condemnation of the show visit the following Wikiversity pages:
|Wikiversity has learning resources about Evidence-based_assessment/Vignettes/Hannah_Baker|
|Wikiversity has learning resources about Helping Give Away Psychological Science/What We Wish They Knew: 13 Reasons Why|
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