By Emily Cole
Netflix’s newest binge-watch-worthy series is based on the book “13 Reason Why” by Jay Asher.
The series tells the story of the suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a high school junior, through 13 cassette tapes she recorded shortly before her death. Each tape focuses on one of Hannah’s classmates, her relationship with them, and how their actions negatively impacted her life and helped lead to her decision.
Though the story is the life and death of Hannah Baker, the main character is a close friend of Hannah named Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) who receives the tapes and then has to process the story, his and other students’ actions, and what to do with the information he learns.
At first, the concept of anyone telling the story of how other people are responsible for his or her death can be off-putting. But after watching the show the true message is clear: what people say and do have a real effect, and sometimes they do not know the real impact until it is too late.
Hannah experienced bullying and harassment from many of her classmates in addition to other students who simply stood as bystanders rather than intervening. While no one student or person can be considered the cause of Hannah’s choice and death, the theme of impact and affect is an imperative one in today’s world of cyber-bullying and an often harsh high school environment.
“13 Reasons Why” was produced on Netflix, which is a subscriber based platform that does not have restrictions. It contains a series of very graphic scenes. Hannah’s story is dark; there are scenes of rape and suicide and Netflix does not hold back.
The series shows exactly what happens and that can be very jarring for the viewer. That does not discredit the very important message that the show conveys. While the show may depict a very extreme example of high school bullying many high school students undergo similar experiences in their everyday lives. And there are multiple stories every year that mirror Hannah’s and this series can bring the problem that ended their lives to the light of the general public.
Mental health is a serious problem that is often overlooked and rarely talked about. According to a study done in 2015 by the National Institute of Mental Health, one in every eight adolescents had experienced a major depressive episode in the last year.
Langford beautifully portrays the effects of depression on Hannah. Now while most cases do not end in the same way as Hannah’s, her story can show people who may not be aware the signs to look for.
Minnette and the actors who play the other students do a phenomenal job. They give a captive performance that draws the viewer in and makes the series impossible to put down.
Even though the viewer knows how the story ends the characters create a great deal of suspense and mystery in a series with a given ending, which takes quite a lot of skill. The story, both the overarching plot and the individual plot development, is beautifully written. Whether the viewer has had personal experience with the situations in the show or not there is something for every person to relate to which makes the message easier to process and clearer to hear.
“13 Reasons Why” is a tough story to watch with a tough message to swallow. But for young adults and parents alike, it is a series with so many crucial lessons to learn.
Whether the 13 episodes are watched all in a row or paced out, much like the cassette tapes, this show should be the next one on anyone’s list.