Picture Courtesy of Netflix
13 Reasons Why is the controversial series added to Netflix that set off a chain reaction through all of its subscribers. Based on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher the story focuses on a handful of teenage issues but the focal point is suicide. It is this subject that ignited so many strong opinions from viewers that they immediately set their fingers to the web to spread their opinions and their campaigns against the show. People even threatened to cancel their subscriptions to Netflix over the release of the show while continuously pulling a Helen Lovejoy of “won’t somebody please think of the children” which frankly, good riddance to those types.
It has taken me a long time to begin this review as it took me just as long to try and formulate my feelings towards the show while watching it. Let us all begin with the fact that the main character of the show commits suicide. This is not a spoiler as it is thrown in our face during the first episode and every minute of each episode thereafter. Perhaps most peoples first and normal reaction was to pity our main character Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). What caused a young girl so much pain that she was willing to end her life you may have asked? Don’t worry, because Hannah Baker has set out 13 Reasons Why and has recorded them onto cassette tapes for her victims to hear. I can only imagine the spark that that word just set off in your brain as you read this. Victim. Clearly the girl who has killed herself is the victim, how could you possibly say that these people who she singles out as being the cause of her suicide are not to blame? Let us continue and find out, shall we?
Mental health is a very serious subject and something that should not be discussed lightly. There are too few discussions on the subject that only add to the difficulty that so many people have when it comes to discussing the topic. Or maybe the most difficult part is that we don’t know what it is that we are discussing? Mental health differs for each person. While you can create terms and categories that each person who suffers from mental illness can fall into, each person within those groups feels things differently. This effectively creates even further subgroups branching out organically creating a complex road map that fades away into the unknown. While one could applaud Asher for his efforts at trying to bring teenage issues, mental health issues and suicide to the lime light, one can’t help but think how much money follows the obvious reactions he knew he would achieve. Whether you achieved good or bad, Asher, you know you made gold.
Hannah Baker may be our main character and narrator, but as we know, she has killed herself, so the solution to this hitch is to insert Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette). The thing about Clay Jensen is that from what we can tell he is actually a really good guy. He is not the captain of the football team, he is not the smartest person in the class and he is also not the bully, and yet maybe he is? What do we really know about Clay? What do we know about any of the students from the school? What we do know is that a few of these students happen to spotlight in Hannah Bakers tapes and we also know that Clay happens to be one of them. The rules of the game, though I choose the word game loosely, you receive a mysterious box full of cassette tapes labeled 1 through 13 along with a map. You listen to the tapes, follow the instructions and use the map. Once done you pass the tapes on to the next person in line. Whether each person was meant to listen to all the tapes or just their own isn’t necessarily clear; however, there is no way of knowing which tape is yours without listening to them all. This also means that while you now know what role you played in Hannah Baker’s suicide, you now also know what role everyone else played. You could easily just not listen to the tapes. You could pass them on to someone else, not accept them, or simply just destroy them, but could you live with yourself not knowing what it is that you did that trigger her death? Could you live with the truth of what you did being shared with the entire world? Let the mental abuse roll on.
13 Reasons Why is like the saying “watching a car crash. It is so horrifying but you cannot stop yourself and you cannot look away.” Have you ever taken the bus and passed a car accident? Instead of being a “rubber necker” and jumping out of your seat to see what is going on, instead try looking at the people around you. You’ll notice that every single person has immediately stopped what they are doing and are looking on in shock and awe. The unknown is also a very terrifying concept. You are given a giant red button that says push me and you are told not to push it. How long could you last? The same as each person on the tapes needed to know what they did, the viewers are forced to continue each episode from tapes 1 side A and Side B to tape 13. The need to know who, what, where, when, why and how is just too hard for all of us to resist.
Normally I can formulate my opinion on something rather quickly, but what to say about 13 Reasons Why after episode 1 was no simpler after episode 13. I’d like to go back to the word victim. Can you really say that anyone in the show is a victim? Each person has their own blame to take responsibility for, but rather than allowing each person to do that Hannah Baker has devised a plan to shame each person and share it with the world. Had she not killed herself and still released a series of tapes, while the people on the tapes are at fault for their own actions, it would be easy to also call Hannah Baker a bully. We live in a world where today everyone is a bully, everyone is at fault, everyone is a good person, and everyone is a bad person. Your opinion matters, but it is also the wrong opinion and while you have certain freedoms to share your opinion, you should not be allowed to do so so freely. You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t.
Clay Jensen may be on those tapes, but what Hannah did to Clay by putting him on the tapes was a severe case of mental abuse. Clay loved Hannah and Clay thought he had been a good friend to Hannah. I think it is safe to say that Clay Jensen is a good person, especially compared to most of us at his age, or any age. There is always something you or I could do more for someone else, but is it fair to lay such a burden on someone like Clay? There are people like Clay all over the world who could be summed up into the theme of The Giving Tree. People will take and take from those trees until they are nothing and simply move on to the next tree while saying that now dead tree could have done more for all the takers. Let us also point out the fact that this is High School, a cluster fuck full of horrible people all trying to find out who they are while being pitted against each other in the ultimate form of Hunger Games.
Clearly I could rambled on about this series for ages. For those of you who were able to make it to the end of the series, congratulations on becoming the Victor in this endless Hunger Games called life. Let us all now take some time to self reflect on the little things that we do each day, the little things that we could do in our lives to make a difference and the little things that we could do in other peoples lives to make a difference. These are great themes and ideas, but while asking what everyone else and everything else can do for you, you should also be asking what it is you can do for yourself. There are outlets for everyone and all you need to do is ask. Easier said than done and something that may never be resolved, but I think we can all agree that killing ourselves and creating tapes, videos, mashups and other such terrorizing methods is not the answer, ever.
I had to laugh at the announcement that Netflix was forced to put out regarding 13 Reasons Why season 2. This has never been done for any other show, but Netflix actually had to put out a formal announcement about how season two will play out in order to try to appease and release the building backlash from the show. I couldn’t tell you for sure whether or not I would be watching season two. It all comes back to the unknown, we all want to find out what happens right? We need to make sure there is some sort of justice served in the end. A life for a life will make everything right….right?