Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Reasons why 13 Reasons Why is not “must-binge” TV

Waverly Hart
Contributing Writer

Trigger warning: Suicide and self-harm

On March 31, 2017 Netflix released the drama 13 Reasons Why, a series of 13 hour-long episodes detailing the events leading up to a high school girl’s suicide. The show explores the cumulative effects that bullying, backstabbing, false rumors and sexual assault can have on a person, while using entertainment mechanisms to appeal to a teenage audience.

The series, based on a 2007 book by Jay Asher, begins with a pair of high school girls taking selfies next to the locker-turned shrine of a former classmate, Hannah Baker. Before committing suicide, Hannah Baker recorded and left behind seven vintage cassette tapes, which she sends to several of her hand-picked classmates and one adult. Each episode corresponds to the side of a tape, each detailing how a specific person contributed to her downward spiral, and ultimately, her suicide.

The main character is an awkward, clichéd geeky but lovable Clay Jensen, who receives the tapes in the first episode. In a bizarre combination of adolescent drama and mystery, the show weaves in and out of memories described by Hannah, Clay’s own memories, and the present-day Clay going to school and dealing with the classmates who he now knows have hurt Hannah.

Like most shows based on books, the writers had to expand on the characters and storyline in order to create 13 hours of material. As a result, the beginning and middle episodes prove repetitive and exhausting. The writers add gimmicky plot lines to try to develop minor one-dimensional characters that aren’t essential or necessary for the main point of the show. These elements combine to give the series a forced feel, which causes the show to move along slowly and makes it easy for the audience to lose interest after the first several episodes.

However, the last few episodes of the show are the most impactful, with all the factors building and culminating on each other, leading to the climactic scene in which Hannah takes her own life. The suicide is shown in vivid detail, demonstrating that the reality of suicide is a painful death, not a peaceful entrance into slumber.

Despite this realistic and powerful scene, the rest of the show uses stereotypical gimmicks to trivialize and simplify suicide. Since it is currently the most popular show centered on suicide, teenagers watch it and may think suicide is simply a culmination of bullying and specific incidents that occur in high school.

It is important that the audience realizes there are so many other factors that go into to suicide, such as the person’s own mental state and home life. The entertainment value created by the writers leads to an oversimplification of a serious and delicate subject that teenagers should learn about through the proper medium, not Netflix. In real life, every person is unique, and 13 Reasons Why only shows one person with experiences specific to her, without exploring different, real-life cases, causing false conceptions and mainstream ideas about suicide.

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