Courtesy of Netlfix
“13 Reasons Why” Review
April 20, 2017
What do you get when you mix stereotyped teen angst, an unrealistic suicide and
a tape recorder? Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,”a highly bingeable new series that
attempts to navigate mental health and teenagerhood but misses it’s mark on several
key ideas. Its utilization of a fantastic cast of breakout stars makes it close to being a
classic, although it lacks the realism and intricacy to stand up against more widely
The show opens in the aftermath of the highly public suicide of teen Hannah
Baker (played by Katherine Langford), who leaves behind 13 separate tapes describing
in detail all the events that led up to her death, with each tape containing mentions of a
person who she feels contributed to her misery. The tapes are passed to each subject,
landing on her love interest, Clay Jensen (played by Dylan Minnette) who takes the
audience through each dramatic tape.
There are many great things about this show that deserve credit; however, some
of the biggest issues happen due to the sloppiness of the story’s transition from the YA
novel by Jay Asher to its R- rated Netflix counterpart directed by Tom McCarthy, which
outweighs every positive. In order to create a more adult version of the book, the
producers (which includes singer Selena Gomez) should have taken the black and
white morality that appears in the YA novel and translated the themes and characters
into more realistic and multifaceted representations to appeal to mature audiences.
However, they missed the mark completely on that opportunity and ended up making a
show that’s closer to a telenovela than a “Breaking Bad”- level drama. It just isn’t
enough to casually throw in sex scenes in order to make the characters relatable to
older audiences, you have to make them more diverse, complex and personable.
This fundamental problem appears in Hannah herself, who makes herself almost
instantly unlikeable as the story’s victim due to the fact that she decided to leave 13
tapes blaming others for her own decisions, just to entertain the juvenile idea of ruining
people with guilt from beyond the grave.
Not only that, but she is melodramatic, overly emotional, and is constantly inserting herself into bad situations against her better judgment (insert parents rolling their eyes and saying “sounds like my kid!”). That being said, her over-the-top angst is unfortunately necessary for this convoluted story, which yields a much more important message than just that teenagers’ actions constantly frustrate the people around them. However, that message of mental health recognition is constantly undermined by the excess gore, including a graphic depiction of Hannah killing herself by cutting her wrists, and several graphic rape scenes.
While I applaud “Thirteen Reasons’” utilization of Netflix’s no censorship
standards in order to give people a more realistic portrayal of the events, it truly takes
away from the story, and makes it more far-fetched. For example, in the book, Hannah
kills herself using pills, but the show went for the more nauseating route and decided to
depict Hannah opening her wrists just for the shock factor. Sometimes leaving things
gore off camera can be just as effective, if not more, in order to leave room for more
nuanced themes and emotions to shine through, and in this case it would have worked
well in contrast to the clumsy characters and extensive dialogue.
“13 Reasons Why” proved to be unrealistic, over-dramatic and full of missed
opportunities to stay true to its original story or real world mental health cases. It
completely failed at getting across its message of awareness, and simply left the
audience feeling guilty for possible wrongdoings in their youth through over the top
depictions of disturbing situations and violence. But hey, at least Selena Gomez is there
to sing viewers off into the sunset at the end right?