Review: Controversial ’13 Reasons Why’ Sheds Light, Gets People to Listen

by Brittany Weekley

If you haven’t already heard, a new Netflix television series called 13 Reasons Why has taken over television and social media. The reason for this? It doesn’t brush over serious subjects that most of us don’t want to talk about. It forces viewers to endure the raw reality of it.

The television series is an adaptation of the book written by Jay Asher. It was published in 2007. It was adapted into a series earlier this month. To break it down, the story is about a young girl’s experiences with bullying that ultimately led to her suicide. However, there is much more to it.

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The show opens with a teen named Clay Jensen receiving a box of cassette tapes at his home. Unsure of what they are, he starts listening to them. He finds out that the tapes are  from Hannah Baker, a classmate who had recently committed suicide. There are 13 tapes in all, and each tape explains her reasons for taking her own life.

Clay finds out that he’s not the only one who listened to the tapes. The tapes were sent to several other people who Hannah felt were directly involved in the events that led to her suicide. Of course, Clay is one of them, and he must endure the pain of listening to the tapes of the others involved before he reaches the tape Hannah made for him. For the sake of spoilers, this leads Clay down a dark path of learning about those around him and what Hannah was actually feeling.

13 Reasons Why is a roller coaster ride of emotion. Throughout the entire series, I experienced depression and even anxiety. This isn’t a show to watch when you’re feeling down. In fact, I was only able to watch a little bit at a time because I found it to be overwhelmingly sad. That is not to say that this show isn’t worth watching at all; it most certainly is. However, I would never watch it again.

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The show has great acting and an interesting story, and creators certainly know how to pull emotion from the viewers, perhaps a little too much. The show has attracted the attention of doctors and mental health organizations for the way Hannah’s suicide is acted out. Some say it didn’t need to be so graphic, and others say the reality of it was necessary. The writer of the show, Nic Sheff, has stated that Hannah’s suicide needed to be detailed because that is the reality of what happens to someone going through it. This is also the reality of what happens when someone succeeds in taking their life. Essentially, Sheff and the other creators wanted to make an impact. In this, they most definitely succeeded.

Overall, 13 Reasons Why accomplished what it set out to do, and they did it well. I feel that if the story would have been subtle, then perhaps its messages wouldn’t have been heard. Although I’m a fan of being subtle in storytelling, (allowing the readers or viewers to figure things out) perhaps it was time to have a raw show like 13 Reasons Why to shed light on these issues to get people to listen.

Note: This show’s rating is TV-MA, which states that This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This show contains strong sexual content and scenes that some viewers may find disturbing, including depictions of sexual and physical violence, bullying, drug use, and suicide. Parents should be highly aware of the show’s rating if they are to watch this with their children.

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