13 Reasons Why — Review.
If you haven’t heard of Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. The aptly numbered 13 part series tells the story of 17 year old Hannah Baker; a teenage girl who has committed suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes directed at 13 different people, telling them how they contributed to her suicide like some kind of Ad Hominem ghost. Each person must listen to the tapes in consecutive order and not pass them on until they have listened to each one. The story is told through a mishmash of flashbacks and present day narrative from the perspective of Clay, who was in love with her.
The book is based on the Young Adult 2007 novel by Jay Asher yet somehow manages to be embarrassingly out of touch with teenagers. In what world do 17 year olds say ‘FML Forever’ as a friendship catchphrase? What teenage friends even have a catchphrase? Try lowering your age demographic to 7 year olds if you want this to resonate. Not to mention Hannah’s cheesy one liners: “Once again you and the point are complete strangers” she sasses at Clay, in a laughably out of place Wednesday Adams-ridden tone. Its moments like this when I really can’t help but agree with characters who say that Hannah was overreacting and being a drama Queen — however this is definitely NOT the reaction the series is trying to evoke from viewers. In addition; what teenager nowadays uses cassette tapes? Its 2017 !
The series manages to be more of a ‘tour de fail’ rather than a ‘tour de force’ as it tries to tackle a number of contentious issues such as voyeurism, bullying, rape, sexuality, addiction, and suicide, as well as alluding to a topic of gun violence in the now approved second series. This concoction of tragic topics leaves little room to give each one the attention it deserves and leaves the viewer feeling unsatisfied. The main criticism I have is that the main issue -that of suicide — is robbed of its complexity. The show is based on the premise that other people’s actions can be the cause for suicide and ergo if you are nice to people they won’t have any reason to commit suicide. This message is of course reductive, and untrue. It somewhat seems beyond belief that the show gives not even one nod to mental illness or the word depression. Indeed, some mental health charities have warned about the misrepresentation of suicide and some schools have even sent letters home warning parents to not let their children watch it. Despite this the series has worryingly still proven to be hugely popular. 13 Reasons Why falls at the first hurdle by making suicide entertainment and this poor execution of its primary concern makes it a no-go from me in terms of TV viewing.