Netflix has been dominating the streaming scene for the last few years. Bringing us binge-worthy addictions such as Orange Is The New Black and Stranger Things. They may have just outdone themselves though, in what some are calling the greatest show to hit the streaming platform … EVER! The concept of 13 Reasons Why, while not the most original, is pretty close to being the most powerful representation of suicide I have ever witnessed in a TV show. We have seen suicide stories and concepts played out in Lifetime movies, primetime television series, and hell even our own news media, but none have captured the sure depth and reality of this epidemic, which has been increasingly growing; especially amongst our teenagers. Netflix has given us, 13 Reasons Why.
13 Reasons Why, is now a television show, based on the the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This story revolves around the character Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide in the middle of her high school career. While she may not be living, she remains the focal point because she is actually guiding the story with a series of cassette tapes she had recorded to explain why she decided to kill herself… hence 13 Reasons Why. 13 Episodes, 13 reasons, and 13 tapes… well actually 14 tapes, but you will know what I’m talking about once you watch the series. (#spoilersortof) Adapted to screen by Brian Yorkey and executive produced by the one and only Selena Gomez, this show truly was a passion project to show us the depths and understanding of suicide.
Now I am not a huge spoiler person so, you wont find below a play-by-play of every episode, because I expect you all to watch this series and really appreciate the work and content of it. This review will highlight the things I took away from the series and why I highly recommend you all watch and share this story. In total, between my work schedule and personal commitments it took me three days to complete the series. Thirteen, hour-long episodes had my full attention and my investment when I was watching. High School wasn’t the most glamorous part of my overall life. I think all of us could relate to that. It was that awkward time where none of us really knew where we were or were we belonged. No matter how popular or unpopular we were, we just did not know, or let alone fully think about anyone but ourselves, our own feelings, our own perceptions, our own day-to-day lives. We didn’t think about actions, let alone our words. This carries over also into our adult lives, but I found most of us mature to at least caring greater as we get older. This show tackles this idea in every episode.
Throughout the series, we get the undertone of her choice, her drama, and her selfishness. But isn’t that the general stigma of suicide. It’s the selfish way out, you don’t think about the people your death will affect. How about the selfishness of others? Her classmates, the reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide: from trying to impress friends, to hiding a deep dark secret, rape, or not stopping to truly listen or be a friend. It takes only one moment of caring or thinking about another person to change a life. You also get this tone throughout the series. Sometimes it’s too late to save a life, but it’s never to late to change yours. 13 Reasons Why opens your mind to this concept by not sugarcoating any character or situation depicted. (SPOILER- You see the suicide, every cut!)
We meet a variety of characters in the series, while Hannah as previously stated is the focal point, Clay Jensen, is the protagonist. The guy and current person working through Hannah’s tapes, he is even a reason for her death. I know what your thinking, how can a hero cause someone to commit suicide? This is what makes this series even more fantastic. As parallel to our real life, none of us our perfect, when we ourselves are self-focused we don’t understand the harm we do intentionally and unintentionally to each other. Clay is just your average kid, kind of a nerd, but liked by everyone. But even he did not realize the contribution he had to Hannah’s overall school bullying. Yet again, a relatable high school moment we all were bullied in one shape or another. Now though, social media is heavily present and teenagers cant escape the torture their peers inflict. We see this in the first few episodes, which makes the show current.
Ultimately, what I am getting at is that the show itself can be seen as educational, relatable, and real. Its not just a Hollywood scripted drama where things don’t add up. Every scene and every action is conceptually executed to mirror reality. There was not one moment during the show where I was like I cannot see that happening. Hell… I have lived multiple moments depicted in the show, and I bet you have too. Technology may not have been around, but the weight of people and their actions really do impact a person no matter what medium it comes though. I could easily have been a Hannah Baker, and that is literally a gut wrenching thought. This is why the show is so popular because all of us have Hannah Baker inside. The weight of depression a person can handle is totally different from person to person, but its something that undoubtedly exists. This show does not glorify SUICIDE it projects it front and center in its most uncomfortable and most painful existence.
I would give 13 Reasons Why a 9.5 out of 10, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the series accept it left me wanting more. There are undoubtedly unanswered questions as far as character continuations, but ultimately the story itself was perfect and the message behind it really accomplished a dialogue that needs to be discussed more. Suicide is an epidemic but it is not the answer and it can be prevented.