Painful and Socially Relevant: ’13 Reasons Why’ is the Series we Needed. A Review.
Based on the book TH1RTEEN R3ASSONS WHY by Jay Asher Netflix’s latest series 13 Reasons Why is an astonishingly powerful series centered on the suicide of high school senior Hannah Baker that tackles extremely relevant topics such as suicide, rape, rape culture, misogyny, coming out, toxic masculinity, patriarchy, slut shaming, bullying, and just plain being a better person.
13 Reasons Why is unflinching in its portrayals of rape, bullying, abuse, and suicide, and the nuances of being a teenager in the age of technology. At times it can be graphic, triggering, and downright uncomfortable, but I am glad that it did those things because it doesn’t downplay the impact that certain events not only have on certain characters but on people in real life. The show grips you by the face and holds your eyes open, making you look at and examine not just the harm being caused to characters, but also the harm that happens to teenagers everyday. The show handles so many relevant topics with such care that you can feel the hard work and time put into crafting something special and important. The show gives multiple perspectives and outcomes of bullying, especially when comparing the journeys of Hannah to another character that we meet later on Tyler Down.
The series is executive produced by Selena Gomez and is extremely diverse. The show made room for there to be complex and well written characters of all races, and I was surprised to see just how many asian and gay characters the show had. I was surprised at the level of representation not just across age groups but across races and “classes”. We see lower income families, middle class families, and wealthy families, and all of these characters and their different backgrounds blend so organically that at no point does it feel forced. The cast consists of quite a few new comers who bring their A game to these extremely fleshed out and complex characters. Many of the actors are in their 20s, but do a wonderful job of conveying the hardships and complexities of being in high school. The series is extremely well cast with each actor giving their all to their character. Three actors stood out the most to me: Katherine Langford who plays Hannah Baker, Alisha Boe who plays Jessica Davis, and Ross Butler all give amazing performances. 13 Reasons Why marks the first series main roles for both Alisha and Ross, both of whom I hope to see more of in the future. Some of you might recognize Ross from The CW hit show Riverdale where he plays Reggie Mantle. There are seasoned actors like Derek Luke and Kate Walsh, but the show is completely stollen by the younger cast who completely grip you with their performances, when they try you cry. You feel like you know many of the characters and you also come to genuinely like, dislike, and in some cases hate characters.
For the most part, the writing of the show is perfect, but there are some spots where the dialogue or a scene is a little cliche or corny, but at no point does it ever take you out of the mood that is being established. The show has a great pace that for me hit all the right notes in all the right places; giving you not too much, but also not too little keeping you engaged. The show’s writing definitely relies on weaving in flashbacks into current events, and as a film student and a writer I must say I appreciate the way the show transitions between the two both in writing and in visuals. The show grips you from the very first episode and makes it impossible not to want to continue watching. You can’t help but want to make it through all 13 tapes to know what each person did to Hannah to drive her to commit suicide.
With the way the series ended, its looking like Netflix is setting us up for a potential second season where hopefully some loose ends and questions get answered and the story begins to take another turn. There are some events that were being alluded to and set up that could make for a very interesting flip side to the story of Hannah and the bullying she faced.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts and contemplating suicide please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 they provide 24hr confidential support and crisis resources. Its all of our job to reach out and help someone because you never know what someone else is going through or just how much of a help you are to them.