If for some reason the memes, Facebook statuses or many articles surrounding the current trending Netflix phenomenon haven’t led you to discover ‘13 Reasons Why’, you may not know what the fuss is all about.
Firstly, what rock have you been living under, and secondly, you’ve been missing out on one of the most controversial TV series out there.
The Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, is based on the international bestselling mystery, written by Jay Asher. The plot revolves around the suicide of a young girl called Hannah Baker, played by Australian actor, Katherine Langford.
The series starts several days after her suicide and follows protagonist, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), within a two-timeline format, as he discovers and listens to a set of pre-recorded cassette tapes left behind by Hannah.
Throughout the episodes, Clay slowly and painstakingly listens to each tape. The catch being that each tape is dedicated to one person; a reason as to why Hannah Baker killed herself. 13 to be exact. The even bigger catch, if you are listening to the tapes you can be certain that you are one of the reasons why. What follows is Jenson’s journey through the tapes, flashbacks and guilt as he works to understand what lead to Hannah’s death. The episodes cover topics like the spread of rumours, and serious issues like stalking and rape.
What makes this series so controversial is arguably the final three episodes. The final instalments show violent scenes of rape and surprisingly, Hannah’s suicide.
Suicide is something that is rarely, if at all, shown on television, despite this, the scene that 13 Reasons Why depicts is heart wrenching and is masterfully created. The performance on Langford’s and acting mother Kate Walsh’s part, is astounding. While watching you can begin to grasp the pain that those who see suicide as their only option must feel.
13 Reasons Why continues to be surrounded in debate. There have been many articles concerned that it is merely a ‘vengeance rampage’, or that it is dramatizing suicide and more importantly, inciting ‘copycat’ behaviour. One of the major flaws of the show is its lack of reference to mental health, if anything the issue is brushed over.
Those who argue in favour of the show admire the series for bringing light to the issues of teenage suicides, loneliness, bullying, and even rape. There has always been a shroud of secrecy surrounding suicide and this show smashes through these boundaries without hesitation. Little wonder it’s facing so much backlash.
Despite these issues, at its core the show is well acted and its timeliness (despite Clay’s incredibly slow ability to listen to all the tapes) is constructed in a manner that keeps you entertained and wanting more. There are many twists and turns throughout the course of the episodes and most are unexpected.
When I was in year 10, I read the novel this series was based on. I can remember having a conversation with a classmate, about how insignificant and how frivolous some of Hannah’s reasons were.
Five years on and after watching the series I’ve had a change of heart. Growing up is hard for everyone and small things that seem insignificant now, meant a whole lot more during my teens years. Just like the everyone else.
Despite the controversies, at the end of the day, 13 Reasons Why exhibits the importance of being nice to other people, doing the ‘right thing’ and coming to people’s aid in times of needs. While your actions may be small they can add up, so doing one good deed might mean you change someone’s day for the better. This in itself is a great thing.
By Emma de Kiefte