13 Reasons Why (stylized onscreen as Th1rteen R3asons Why) is an American drama-mystery web television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix. The series revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and another student, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances, brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.
The series has received largely positive reviews from critics and audiences, who have praised its subject matter and casting. It has also attracted controversy over the series’ graphic depiction of issues such as suicide and rape, teen angst along with other mature content.
Here’s what some of the top critics have to say-
Time Magazine –
The show depicts Hannah as taunted and isolated, only finally saying in death what she’d been too constrained to say in life. One sees easily how her shift in voice–troubled introvert giving way to avenging angel–worked for so many readers and appealed to show creator Brian Yorkey, a Pulitzer-winning playwright. 13 Reasons also gets brutally right the empty sympathy, tinged with drive-by curiosity, that bystanders to tragedy often demonstrate. Hannah’s classmates loudly mourn her once she’s gone, but their kindness might have saved her. This may leave parents a bit queasy, though. Hannah’s pain, with its themes of slut-shaming, feels contemporary. But the cruelty of her world, populated by clueless adults and nasty kids, can be gratuitous. If this was really Hannah’s life, she may be well rid of it–a chilling thought.
Amid all the rancor, 13 Reasons‘ performances stand out. Minnette manages to beautifully portray a young man’s growing awareness of other people’s humanity. And Kate Walsh and Brian d’Arcy James are heartbreaking as Hannah’s parents coming to terms with how little they knew about their daughter’s inner life. This story is sure to be devoured by teens who respond to its dark themes. But it could use a bit more leavening, acknowledging the reasons why life can be something more than apocalyptic.
Our latest binge-watching obsession is here, and it’s worth the hype. But beware — it just might wreck you. The true nature of the mystery remains ambiguous through most of “13 Reason Why,” and that carrot-and-stick element of the plot is a prime motivation to gorge on one episode after another. Another essential lure is the tenderness with which the story considers the thirst for love that is part of the human experience, an urge that parched Hannah to death. I wasn’t prepared for how deeply “13 Reasons Why” cuts into the raw epidermis of regret that grief’s rough grasping sloughs off of a person. The plot, the story, the soundtrack are all scalpels surgically slicing any pulsing veins of misery that may be lurking just under the skin, making rivers of remorse gush forth.
Admittedly this is one person’s reaction watching the show under a specific version of numbness, but maybe it conveys how viscerally affecting this show can be. Not many series puncture the veil of emotional separation between viewer and screen with such unexpected precision. Indeed, “13 Reasons Why” is a story about mourning, regret and culpability, but the mystery and performances are the main engine.
The series oscillates between the recent past and present, gradually puttying in the circumstances surrounding Hannah who narrates her tragic tale. Each hour of this 13-hr long series, advances the ball forward gradually, highlighting the contributory role of a different peer in Hannah’s orbit.
I completed watching this series in two seatings. Not because I didn’t have the time, but because it was too hard to watch Hannah go after how slowly and slowly she was thrown off the emotional cliff by the people in her life. It would be an understatement to say 13 Reasons Why has caused controversy.
I am not denying there is evidence around suicide contagion, however, the idea that there should be absolutely no discussion or exploration of suicide in media seems slightly absurd and may in itself be harmful.
Turning suicide into a “taboo” subject creates a stigma around suicide that has been around for far too long. I feel this stigma is the underlying current of the hysteria that has been building up since the show’s release. A series about suicide for a younger audience is like planting a bomb for protective parents. Adults, it’s time to stop sweeping suicide under the rug. We have the highest teen suicide rate in the developed world.
One intriguing thing I realized about this show is that it isn’t generation specific. While teens are at the center of this, and their emotions and actions are certainly age-appropriate but not specifically targeted to one generation alone, and this makes for a story about how unfamiliar sensations can be, and are, experienced at every age.
While part of the ending is known right from the start, the journey to get there is well worth the time it takes. There is an appropriate amount of twists and turns and most of them are realistic. While Hannah and Clay are the central characters, there are many collateral storylines that branch out, and every one of those involved has a personal story that’s highlighted via Hannah’s narrative. Now, that surely is interesting.
The best reason to watch 13 Reasons Why is that it’s worth your time.