I’ve spent the long weekend marathoning through Netflix’s new cocaine-like show, 13 Reasons Why. I don’t give many shows 10/10 ratings, but I’m inclined throw caution to the wind with this one. The show has me conflicted, but the best ones always do. It’s impossible to watch this show and not take something away. Here are my 13 Reasons:
1 – 13 Reasons Why doesn’t hold back. There are a lot of shows about teenagers that like to cover things up. A swear word? NO! Everyone knows that no one over the age of 18 swears. Duh. 13 Reasons shows teenagers acting how teenagers do. Like idiots. Like jerks. Like hyper-sexual human deviants. Thank you, Netflix, for not sugar-coating shit.
2 – The men are swoon-worthy. Well, a lot of them. There is one big fat exception, obviously. Let’s take a look shall we?
Clay. So adorable. So sweet and naive. He’s just, different, you know? I felt that Clay got the short end of the stick in so many ways. The guy did everything right. For the people who say he should have known that the girl he loved was in pain, STFU. That’s part of the beauty of this show. Everyone has demons. It’s no one’s job to take care of you but you. Clay did what he could. No, it will never be enough. But when is it ever? Clay was alone. He didn’t have close friends. He was awkward and antisocial. But he took what happened and he grew from it. Plus, he’s adorable. Bonus.
Jeff. I just. I just. I can’t. God, this kid deserved the world. He was a good guy with a huge heart who just wanted to better himself and those around him. His message? Bad things happen to good people. Everything is connected. Life isn’t fair.
Zach. Say what you will about Zach. I maintain that this boy did not deserve to be on those tapes. Hannah hurt his feelings – wrongfully so, mind you – and he acted out – in a pretty minor way. Yes, you never know what someone is going through. Yes, he should have tried to help her. But look at him: He was sweet. He tried to help and he was figuratively stabbed for it. Would you try again? Probably not. Also, he’s clearly scared of him mom. He’s just a kid who was afraid. I really think his heart was in the right place.
Tony. Tony speaks for himself. This guy was just as tortured as the rest of them, but he held his head high and did everything to support his friend – including stalk the shit out of him. Also, how cute was his boyfriend?
3 – Atypical villains.
Yeah, I’m talking her. If you’ve watched the show, you know that Courtney genuinely deserves to be on those tapes. That’s not to say she didn’t have demons of her own. But hell. To defend a rapist? To slut shame and call another girl a liar? Just to protect yourself – from a secret that isn’t even bad? Every time she spoke, I wanted to Ryan.
Courtney doesn’t look like a villain. She barely even acts like a villain. But she’s singlehandedly trying to put the LGBT and feminist communities back 50 years.
4 – Redemption. Speaking of Ryan. I hated him at first, you know, when I saw his tape. BUT, out of all the others, Ryan is the one person who never pretended what happened was okay. He’s the one person who believed Hannah and never called her a liar or slut shamed her. He’s not the only character who is able to redeem himself throughout the course of the show.
5 – You never stop thinking. From the lighting to the date stamp on the camcorder in episode 13, this show makes you think – and then over think – everything. This is a re-watch sort of show if I’ve ever seen one.
6 – Atypical heroes. Hannah is, arguably, the main protagonist of the story. After watching the series, I don’t know how I feel about Hannah. For one, I will never think suicide is okay or be able to wrap my head around it. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. In episode 1, I kept thinking, shit, this girl is badass. And psycho. Hannah obviously wants others to like her. She’s desperate and she craves attention, even if she doesn’t overtly say that. Hannah made a spectacle out of her death and used it as a way to punish those who didn’t give her the attention that she craved. Again, I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true. She never thought about what listening to those tapes would do to Clay. Or Jessica. Or Alex. She didn’t think about her parents. I can’t just be okay with that sort of selfishness. However, you can’t watch all 13 episodes and not feel her pain. Her pain jumped out of the TV and into me. No one should ever feel alone or helpless. No like that.
7 – Messages upon messages. This show is all about messages. I think the messages differ depending on the viewer, too. Now, the show has been getting some harp for showing incorrect ways to handle suicide as well as glorifying it. Both of those are correct. BUT (and maybe this is just me) watching the show didn’t make me think – not once – that suicide was a good idea. In fact, the show is all about the consequences of the act. I think that’s why Hannah is such a good character. You feel for her, but I don’t think anyone would ever want to be her.
8 – Real issues are dealt with. Sexual assault doesn’t get a lot of attention in TV. Not like this. Especially not targeted at this age group. Things like that DO happen. Women ARE often ignored and expected to shoulder some of the blame. They DO often feel embarrassed afterward. Often times they DO blame themselves. 13 Reasons shoves that knowledge in your face. I think that those depictions were ever more important than the topic of suicide. This show doesn’t show you how to handle these issues. It shows you that they are real. That’s step one.
9 – It’s the little things. 13 Reasons did a good job of showing that everyone has a truth. Justin didn’t snap that picture to be a jerk. Alex didn’t write that list to ruin a friendship. Hannah blamed a lot of people for her death. Most of these people didn’t really do anything that bad. It was the combination of things that pushed her over the edge. That and likely an inner issue that was already there. It was no one person, no one incident. This is true in life, as well.
10 – Emotionally complex characters. This goes back to my point on redemption and the idea that you never know what someone is dealing with. Each person was thoroughly developed. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, especially in only 13 episodes. I’m excited to read the book for this reason.
11 – Editing. It’s not always easy to seamlessly tie together the past and the future. From the lighting to Clay’s band-aid to the narration, the editors on this show really knew what they were doing.
12 – 13 Reasons is a giant mindfuck. The show kept me on the edge of my seat – or rather, by bed. I kept waiting for a big twist. Every piece of information was filed away. Even though the show didn’t really have a big twist – I say this because I sort of figured what has happened during episode 1 – that didn’t make me hate it. In fact, I think the lack of a twist was sort of perfect. That lack made everything that happened more real. Even the ending, which some could say was a twist, was perfect. It was realistic. For a show like this, I think authenticity is important.
13 – Parenting. 13 Reasons didn’t just look at the kids involved. It looked at the adults involved, as well. From the Wicked Witch that was Clay’s mom (God, I hate this woman) to the obliviousness that was Hannah’s parents to the idiocy that was Alex’s dad, the adults in the show demonstrated that it’s not just peers that can make things worse. And it’s not just peers who can help.
All in all, 13 Reasons Why was an emotionally complex mindfuck of a show that intertwined tragedy, hope, and compassion into a beautiful thing. Parents and psychologists will continue to tear it apart, but the truth is that important issues need to be discussed in an unfiltered setting. 13 Reasons has effectively opened the door for discourse to begin.