Finals are coming up for me and I decide to watch a 13 episode show on Netflix in 2 days. Needless to say, I probably could have had a better use of my time, but I was rather impressed by 13 Reasons Why. I feel that media that embraces the high school setting can make use of very strong, relatable storytelling. I also feel that high school settings can be done incredibly poorly, and they often are, relying on stereotypes, cliche storylines, and inconsequential plots. But 13 Reasons Why is a story with stakes, with drama, and with actual consequences. Dumb people do horrible things, and they have an effect on others. But, with that incredibly vague and pretentious opening out of the way, here are Thirteen Reasons to watch 13 Reasons Why:
1.) Believable Dialogue
I used to think adults never understood how teenager talked. And guess what? They talk just like regular adults. And 13 Reasons Why understands that. Every character handles the situation of suicide and responsibility differently, and it is commendable. Nobody has cheesy lines, there are no hashtags, or “LOL XD LOOK AT HAOW DED OUR GENERATION IS XD” garbage. These people handle the death of another girl with tact and grace. It certainly isn’t Life is Strange dialogue:
2.) Moral Gray
There are horrible characters who pushed Hannah to suicide, but 13 Reason’s Why doesn’t paint them as cackling, maniacal people. Their actions were dumb mistakes made in the lustre and narcissistic tendencies of high school. They did horrible things to a girl who was kind and welcoming, because they believed it would give them power, they were jealous, or that they had an image to uphold. It is also paramount that we learn of these people’s family live’s an expectations. It does not at all justify what they do to Hannah to make her kill herself, but it provides the audience with some understanding. We can hate somebody but empathize with them as well.
3.) Clay’s a Cutie
4.) Good Acting
The acting on these inexperienced newcomers is stellar. I truly believed that they were the characters they were playing and they weren’t just actors pretending. I feel their anonymity worked as a strength. Because these people are relatively unknown, we have a greater opportunity to assume that they are the character’s presented in the show. For example, although La La Land was a good movie, I always knew the leads were Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I never saw them as Mia and Sebastian. But I see this actor as Clay Jensen, and I see Hannah’s actress as Hannah. They are those characters, and that is a sign of great acting.
5.) The Most Nolan Soundtrack
When “Love Will Tear Us Apart” started to play at the beginning, I got so excited. Then the soundtrack kept pumping out stellar song after stellar song. The music presented here plays into the raw emotion of adolescence, and it is always tinged with slightly depressing music. There is no Smash Mouth, for example, but there is Joy Division, The Smiths, and Sonic Youth; bands that are known for their share of depressing music. Plus, I just love most of the songs in the show.
6.) No holding back from brutality
There are incredibly hard scenes to watch in this show. Arguments, Suicide, Rape, It’s all there. But it isn’t thoughtless and edgy. It is present for a purpose. This terrifying imagery is here to evoke disgust and outrage in us. It isn’t here to sell the show on shock value like Spartacus and Season 5 Game of Thrones (come at me). It exists to show how terrible this all is, and that a high school setting should not be romanticized. Terrible things like abuse and rape happen to teenagers, and we cannot pretend it does not exist. Doing so nullifies its impact and perpetuates it.
7.) Realistic image of high school
It could have been so easy for these teens to be stereo-typically vapid. They could be soulless and just spew hashtags and internet memes. But they didn’t, because this is a high school recovering from two students deaths in two months. All of the little details are there. The teachers that are trying to be empathetic, but completely failing to help any students emotionally, students being concerned with their own lives and not doing much to help others, and high school’s obsession with personal success over companionship. These are the qualities that make up a depressing high school setting, and being able to break this mold leads to a happier environment for students.
8.) Evokes sense of greatest high school movies
My favourite high school movie is still Perks of Being A Wallflower. I feel that movie captures loneliness and mental illness so perfectly, while showing that there are methods to improve and make tumultuous adolescence more bearable. 13 Reasons Why evokes a similar feeling by choosing to focus on struggles and conflict, rather than the rosy optimism seen in High School Musical. There is legitimate drama, there are hardships, and there are those romantic times spent with the person you love. These happen in that critical age range from 15-17, and they are all present and valuable in 13 Reasons Why.
9.) Very serious, believable tone
I was surprised to see how few jokes there are in this show. I figured there would be some comic relief, but this is almost entirely intense. Everything has a massive gravity to it, but it isn’t melodramatic whatsoever. It treats the subject matter with respect and dignity, as it should. Suicide is an incredibly tough subject to handle, especially when trying to portray characters who are not good people.
10.) Hannah’s a cutie
11.) The leads chemistry is amazing
Clay and Hannah are adorable. It makes you just wish that they would be together. That they would find a happy ending for each other. They are quirky, but they respect each other. Although Clay struggles to emotionally connect with Hannah, he does care about her immensely. She loves him too, as he was the only one her treated her with love and care, and who bothered to show some semblance of connection. Clay did not use Hannah for his own goals, or treated her like property, but rather, like a human being. Which just makes the situation all the more of a tragedy.
12.) Perfectly represents ostracization in High school
High School can be brutal. High School can also ostracize people for many reasons. Friends can randomly freeze you out and never talk to you again. Sometimes friendships end through conflict. But there will be a point for many high schoolers, where they feel completely lonely. They either feel this in a group, or on their own. They feel that they can’t make a connection to anybody. 13 Reasons Why takes this idea and runs with it. Everybody struggles to communicate emotionally and spiritually to anybody.
13.) Shows the obsession with self-image perfectly
Hannah gets screwed over because of people’s narcissism. It is the culture they were bred in, and the high school environment that perpetuates it. What they did to Hannah was their fault, but it was also not their fault. These characters were raised in an American Neoliberal high school system which emphasizes individualism and condemns showing weakness. Higher grades, higher numbers are everything. Humanity has no worth. And that is the tragedy of 13 Reasons Why. Everybody could have helped Hannah, but nobody truly cared.