’13 Reasons Why’ delves into horrors of teen suicide

Posted on Apr 18 2017 - 8:00am by Sarah Smith

Since its premiere on March 31, the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has become increasingly popular across campus and enthralled students.

The hard-hitting teen drama is a complex story about people battling issues such as suicide, rape and bullying. Protagonist Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) struggles with the recent suicide of his coworker and love interest, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). A few weeks after Hannah’s death, Clay receives a box of seven tapes in which Hannah explains the 13 reasons why she killed herself .

13 reasons why

Clay Jensen talks to Hannah Baker outside of their workplace on ’13 Reasons Why.’ (Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly)

“13 Reasons Why” is adapted from Jay Asher’s novel of the same name. The series does deviate from Asher’s novel, but most of the changes are made to relate to a more modern audience and give the characters who were once villains in Asher’s novel a perspective and explanation for their actions.

The series aims to shed light on everyone’s perspective in the story instead of just Hannah Baker’s. It effectively crafts multilayered characters by showing that people are more than what they appear to be and have reasons for the things they do.

As Clay listens to these tapes, he becomes aware of Hannah’s anguish, pain and suffering. Despite every cry for help and every warning sign, nobody takes heed. Clay hears firsthand the isolation Hannah felt in her last days.

The series brings on feelings of loss and fear for the audience, making it, at times, a difficult watch. While uncovering the mystery of understanding a dead girl, viewers unravel a story that, at moments, is relatable for everyone in some way.

The show’s screenwriters developed their characters well on this project. These writers gave several people voices in the story that, in the book, are one-sided. Character development builds throughout the series and viewers see each character grow.

As different as the book and the series are, they both relay the same message about the importance of speaking out on the horror and mystery of suicide. 

The show depicts rape and suicide, and the filmmakers do not spare the audience any gory images. There are moments that are impossibly hard to watch because of the self-harm and sexually graphic material depicted.

The acting was executed epically in this series. Unlike characters in so many other shows, these characters embody the teen angst that is often lost by adult actors. The actors’ empathy in this series is spot-on.

It’s an easy story to get lost in but a hard one to keep up with. Its message is something you will have to debate and reason with. This is the kind of show that tells its audience what to think about but not how to think about it, an important ambiguity when approaching such touchy issues.

It is easy to judge each of the story’s characters before the plot thickens, but the beautiful thing about the series is that there are two sides to every story: this series tells the stories of both villains and victims.

The story quickly becomes intricate in explaining the motives behind everyone’s defining moments, not just Hannah’s. As empathetic as the audience is to Hannah, it’s important to realize she is a flawed character.

The series watches well, but viewer discretion is advised because of touchy subjects. Overall, the message is executed well, and it is a relevant one in today’s society.

Rating: B+