Over the holiday break, I decided to binge watch Netflix’s newest craze: 13 Reasons Why. I honestly can see what all of the hype is about. This is a bandwagon that I do not mind shamelessly hopping on. I’m sorry that I have not read the book or that I just only found out what it was a week ago, but I really enjoyed this show nonetheless.
You see, I can admit that 13 Reasons Why is not a perfect show. It has flaws that sometimes made me cringe a bit, but I don’t care. My philosophy is that if a show or movie can elicit an emotional reaction out of me, I can forgive many of its flaws. That is this show’s biggest positive quality — it got me emotionally invested in its characters and made me care for their struggles.
I am going to admit (and I do not think I am alone here) that this show wrecked me. The show does a great job of realizing its characters enough to make you understand their motivations. I was truly invested in the characters of Hannah Baker and Clay Jensen. I empathized with them and, even though we all knew Hannah’s fate, I was desperately hoping in the end that she would find happiness. When the characters went through emotional torment, I went through emotional torment too.
The show also does a solid job of bringing attention to depression and the importance of detecting suicidal tendencies in a person. Growing up, I have had my own battles with depression and suicide as well. I was able to empathize with Hannah in regards to opening up to people about those topics. It is hard talking about why you are depressed. The fear of opening yourself up to someone in such a vulnerable way is a daunting task. It is an incredibly difficult and scary thing to do, and I admire the show for presenting this struggle on screen. It is extremely important to address these topics.
I have heard some say that this show glorifies suicide; however, I disagree with that argument. The show does cause some controversy about what motivated Hannah to commit suicide, but it never makes it seem like suicide is the best option. Throughout the show, the characters are battling with their own emotional torment as they try to deal with her suicide. Her parents’ marriage even takes a toll throughout the show as they try to uncover the reasons why their daughter killed herself. The main male character, Clay, becomes emotionally unstable as he thinks about what he could have done to prevent this from happening. Not once did I feel like the show was saying suicide is a good thing.
As for the performances in this show, I felt that they were fine as well. The true standouts of the show were Dylan Minnette as Clay and Katherine Langford as Hannah. Both actors played their roles well and together brought a great sense of emotional presence to the show. For the most part, the other actors were acceptable as well. There was only one performance that I felt was not consistent: Michele Selene Ang as Courtney. The quality of her performance would vary from episode to episode and distracted me a little bit.
I think the biggest flaw in the show is the occasional inconsistent writing. At times, the show feels grounded and real, while other times the writing came off as cartoonish. Some of the dialogue between characters did not land for me, and I felt that some of the ways that characters reacted to situations was unrealistic and silly. This was never a major detractor from the show, just one that I noticed.
13 Reasons Why is an important show that left an impact on me after watching it. Overall, I feel like the goal of the show was a commendable one: make it okay for people to talk about depression and suicide. The show has made significant grounds in opening up discussion about these topics in the mainstream media. As for me personally, my emotional investment in the show and its characters left me wanting more when I finished the first season. I am excited for the upcoming season and hope that it continues to deliver the same quality I have come to expect from the series.