What’s it about?
13 Reasons Why journals the events and the perpetrators which led a teenage girl to take her own life. It’s time they knew everything.
Katherine Langford, Dylan Minnette, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Amy Hargreaves, Derek Luke, Kate Walsh
An Introduction to 13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is the story of the events that led a young high school student with no obvious troubles to commit suicide. Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) was a 17 year-old sophomore at Liberty High School. Smart, likeable and mostly optimistic, Hannah also had moments of self-doubt, disappointment and social awkwardness – which of course, means she was a normal teenager (and would run a mile if you called her that). So where did the notion of ending her life come from? What happened?
Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) is a decent, uncomplicated sophomore at Liberty High. Neither an over-achiever nor a waster, Clay does his best to navigate the neutral zone between Popular and Loner. At a time and place when social standing seems to dictate everything, this ‘path of least offense’ has served him well so far. Although Clay was one of Hannah’s closest friends, her death came as a surprise – how had he not noticed things had got so bad?
Soon after Hannah’s death, Clay finds an anonymously-delivered box on his doorstep. Inside, there are a set of seven numbered audio cassette tapes – just the sort his dad used to play on his old boombox. So nineties! Clay locates the dusty machine and inserts tape 1, side a. The boombox comes to life and… there’s Hannah’s voice, talking calmly to the listener. The tapes contain the ’13 reasons why’ – a chronicle of the key events and players that led Hannah to decide to end things. There’s a bigger picture that no one person knows about, and it’s time to reveal all.
13 Reasons Why is adapted from the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The show was originally intended to be a film until Netflix picked it up as a TV series, with actress and singer Selena Gomez as one of the executive producers.
“Friendship. It’s complicated.” – Hannah
13 Reasons Why is a highly watchable teen drama that adults can also appreciate. In fact, a lot parents of young adults could do worse than watch this intelligent reminder of how emotionally exhausting the teenage experience can be. While growing up was never easy, the advent of smartphones and social media has meant carefully-earned reputations and fragile self-respect can be destroyed with just a few careless or malicious keystrokes.
The main focus is on character drama rather than detailing Hannah’s ongoing mindset in detail. In this way the viewer gets to form their own interpretation of events and, knowing what ultimately happens, see how these events impact from an objective viewpoint. Timelines alternate between the past and the present: in Hannah’s time and the aftermath.
While 13 Reasons Why is a signposted journey towards a teenage suicide, it doesn’t sensationalize or, most importantly, glamorize or romanticize its subject matter; no judgment is offered, a story is told. The tale highlights the importance of keeping communication channels open, of noticing when someone else is quietly in pain and putting personal troubles to one side to check up on them.
The show regularly illustrates that NO-ONE is perfect – often easy to forget when peer pressure is high. Even heroes make dumb decisions from time to time – it’s what a person does afterwards that shows character. It can take time to learn not to be too self-critical – and some people get there quicker than others. In a seemingly harsh and uncaring world, at least be kind to yourself. Just because.
13 Reasons Why has been largely well-received by critics and viewers alike, while some discussion forums have suggested “handle with care” because of the subject matter and the candid portrayal of Hannah’s final act. The storytelling and creative directing are strong, as is the talented cast. Then there’s the great soundtrack featuring Joy Division and The Cure, among others. All in all, a great show and a high-ranking binge-watch.
Check out the Season 1 Trailer here: