A Critical Review of “Thirteen Reasons Why”

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I was starting to get really burned out with the third season of Reign so I decided to give the most talked about TV series of the past few weeks a try. 13 Reasons Why was released on Netflix and is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so I can’t give an opinion on it. The first, and possibly only season, has thirteen episodes that tell the story of why a young girl named Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before we go further, this ENTIRE show is based on suicide, bullying and rape. If any of those topics are a trigger for you this is not a show you need to watch. Before I review this I want to say that I have never dealt with severe depression or suicidal thoughts. If I should say something that seems insensitive or ignorant about the topic, I sincerely apologize.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

The Plot

Hannah Baker was a junior in highschool when she committed suicide. She left behind recorded tapes explaining what, and who, caused her to kill herself. It was a culmination of embarrassing experiences, sexual harassment and a traumatic rape. However, her life wasn’t all bad. She had loving parents and she did have friends. People cared about her, especially Clay Jensen. She worked with Clay at the movie theater and they went to school together. They both had a crush on each other but when they tried to move forward with the relationship Hannah just couldn’t do it.  There had been some rumors spread around the school by a popular boy, Justin Foley, that damaged Hannah’s reputation. This caused Hannah to view Clay just like all the other boy’s in their school, even though she knew that wasn’t true. Each lost friend, rumor and embarrassment destroys Hannah a little more, but she makes it. Then everything changes. She goes to a party hosted by another popular boy, Bryce Walker, and while there Bryce rapes her. It is violent and awful. This is what does it for Hannah. She goes home and begins making plans. She records all of the tapes but at the last minute decides to reach out for help. She goes to the school counselor and he basically tells her “just to move on from the experience.” That’s obviously unhelpful and is the final straw for Hannah. She goes home, gets in the bathtub and slits her wrist. She is later found by her parents.

There is many other situations that lead up to this tragic ending but I don’t want to spoil everything.

My Thoughts

I am very iffy on how I feel about 13 Reasons Why. I understand that the show’s main purpose is to bring attention to suicide and sexual harassment. It’s also supposed to make you think about what you say and how you treat others. All of that is needed and great but I’m just not sure this show accomplishes those goals.

My first issue, I think it is ridiculously dramatic. I was in high school not that long ago and while a lot of these things happened, normal teenagers wouldn’t respond like these do. For example, Clay’s friend Tony Padilla is who Hannah left the tapes with first and then he was supposed to pass them on. From there Tony is always appearing out of nowhere to check up on Clay to make sure he’s listening to the tapes and doing what he needs to do. He refuses to tell Clay anything until at one point he makes Clay climb a mountain with him and then once at the top he finally gives Clay some answers. …what? I mean, is he Yoda? I just couldn’t help thinking that no teenage boy would ever act like this, but I could be wrong. The whole show is just cringey and dramatic which is annoying to me. Also, to clarify, these are dramatic topics that this show is dealing with so I understand that. I’m referring to unnecessary reactions and drama that would never happen in real life.

My second issue, I think Hannah is cruel. Let me refer to what I said at the beginning, I’ve never been severely depressed to the point of wanting to kill myself so my opinion on Hannah may be totally wrong. I just don’t understand a few things; like how she could kill herself and leave nothing for her parents. She put more thought into blaming everybody that she went to school with than even saying goodbye to the wonderful parents she had. Another problem I have with Hannah is many of the people she left tapes for had did extremely minor things to her but she decided to blame them for her suicide, which will affect them for life. I get that she was hurting but could she really not see that somebody putting her name on a list that said she had a nice butt was totally not as big of a deal as her rape? She seemed to equate every offense against her as one in the same.

My third issue, I hope this doesn’t make suicide over stupid high school drama seem acceptable. The only true traumatic event in Hannah’s life was the rape. The rest was just typical high school nonsense that everybody deals with. Every person that attends some type of high school is going to experience rumors, bullying, losing friends and crude jokes. I’m not saying that any of that is okay, because it’s not, but odds are it’s going to happen and it’s nowhere near worthy of suicide. I don’t want this show to make impressionable teenagers think suicide is easy or a way to get revenge on those that have hurt them. The best way to get revenge on those that hurt you is to LIVE, and not just live but thrive.

Conclusion

If you enjoyed or were helped by 13 Reasons Why please do not let my opinion affect that. All of this is just that, my opinion. If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts please get help. The world needs YOU, even if you don’t feel like it does. If you’ve made it through this novel I just wrote, thank you so much! I would love to hear your opinions and what you thought about this series. Have a wonderful day!

 

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