“You can’t stop the future, You can’t rewind the past, The only way to learn the secret...is to press play” This is the premise of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” that everyone is bingeing based on the book by Jay Asher written 10 years prior. Produced by well known child Disney star, now artist Selena Gomez and directed by Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then) This piece follows a high school student Clay Jensen played by Dylan Minnette who receives a box at his doorstep filled with 13 cassette tapes from a girl named Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, who he knew and recently took her own life. Each of the tapes explains one reason why she was inclined to kill herself.
This show delves into many issues that are prominent in today’s society including suicide, rape, s***-shaming, bullying, cyberbullying, and so many more socially relavent issues. It also glorifies these issues in a way that is authentic and that the average high school student is able to relate without it seeming like a documentary about teen suicide. You are taken in the world of Hannah Baker through flashbacks and in each episode, you see the people around her constantly treat her like trash and you are able to see the downward spiral she is on throughout the season. Not only do you get to experience Hannah’s point of view but you get to witness Clay listen to these tapes and cope with the information that he is hearing and you also get to see his journey through all of the confusion of the situation. Minette and Langford also play “real teenagers”. Clay wears a bike helmet, works at a movie theater called the Crestmont, and plays the role of the average teenager as opposed to the fake, lovelorn, yearning for the girl stereotype that we all know and love. As for Hannah, she has a sense of humor and is individualistic, she “walks to the beat of her own drum” and she has her own inner demons just like any other teenager that she must attempt to ward off, but eventually gives in to. Each episode keeps the ball rolling and leaves you with an insane cliffhanger making you want more and more. This show is unique in the sense that it doesn’t romanticize its content. Especially with the media is it pretty ballsy of Netflix to display this content because it is such a hard-to-reach demographic of the middle school and high school. But it is a risk that certainly paid off and is receiving much acclaim for bringing these social issues to the light and is now being discussed with parents and child more than ever.
There are many differences between the book and the TV show but one of the major differences is that Clay listens to the tapes within the course of weeks whereas in the book he listens to them in one sitting. This gives the writers an opportunity to expand on each of the characters mentioned on the tapes and you get to know each of these people that ultimately led to Hannah committing suicide. Another key difference is that you get a chance to see the parents and they play a prominent role in the TV show as opposed to the book where you don’t see the parents at all. Mr. and Mrs. Baker, played by Kate Walsh and Brian D’arcy James, go after the school and sue them for being unaware about the bullying and allows them to investigate how their daughter died and get some answers and closure for her death. This demonstrates a perfectly real situation and shows that parents do take an active role in trying to really set the story straight and hear what actually happened as opposed to the naive parents who don’t know anything about their child and end up so shocked in the end that they are dead.
Some of the other notable performances are those of Miles Heizer (Alex Standall), Alisha Boe (Jessica Davis), Brandon Flynn (Justin Foley), and Justin Prentice (Bryce Walker) they had particularly very difficult material and it was seen to the viewers as so authentic and breathes new air to what the capabilities of child actors can do. They pushed boundaries and took their roles on with the challenges of never actually experiencing what they were meant to do. Their storylines were developed and they received a lot of screen time, each of these characters (with the exception of Bryce) grows throughout the season and attempts to justify their actions, but seemingly can’t.
This season also ends with a huge cliffhanger and many questions are yet to be answered. Hints of a season 2 may be in the works and some fans are hesitant about this because the season ends off where the book ends. I, personally, am a huge fan of the novel and would love to see a season 2 because the Netflix Original Show gives all of the characters a 3-dimensionality that I feel is missing in the book. In the book, we only know Clay and Hannah’s perspective and the whole book is Clay on his bike listening to the tapes. Whereas in the show you see everyone’s point of view and their aspect of the story, which also at times, leaves the viewer questioning our dead protagonist if what she says is actually true or reliable information. Was she misleading the whole entire time? Along with the whole theme of high school and the many tragedies that do occur at that age where there are opportunities for other topics they can cover.
Overall this show is worth a watch because it is new, fresh, something new seen before, and emotionally stimulating. Each episode leaves you wanting more and you want to know the details of why Hannah Baker died. Each individual character including the adults are so relatable and with some of them, you may get emotionally attached to and genuinely sympathize with their situation. The script of this show is so elegantly written and pinpoints the life of the high schooler without making anything feel cheesy or too complex. This show is also relevant in today’s society with bullying being such a heavy topic being discussed in schools and this show demonstrates what can potentially happen if a child goes too far and rolls on day by day and doesn’t tell a trusted adult. It is of vital importance that teens watch this show not only for the entertainment value that Netflix has to offer. But for the little tidbits of information that “13 Reasons Why” sprinkles in about these horrific teen tragedies.