Suicide, Cassette Tapes, and Sexual Assault – There’s No Dismissing ’13 Reasons Why’

Surprise, surprise, the next biggest teen-related show is not on MTV or Freeform (ABC Family), but inside the big red vault of Netflix. Upon its release a frenzy was started with its content. On the face its a teen drama that pulls you in, but inside of that are conversations being started that either criticize or praise the show’s portrayal of heavy issues in teen life. One thing is for sure, it has opened a refreshing dialogue. Certainly bingeable, there’s a reason this show falls into the Watch It category instead.

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NOTE: A new post has been created about this show with additional thoughts and changes to my original ones. One major one is the demotion of this show to the Check It category. 

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Unlike most shows that I come upon, 13 Reasons Why was practically forced upon me by the attention it was getting. Seeing it all over Twitter and Facebook made it too tempting to put off watching this show and I was right. The very concept of the show keeps you watching episode after episode till you probably regret it in the morning. Since the episodes are based around the tapes of one of the main characters, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide, the show immediately wraps you in. Yes, the main character commits suicide and it is presented to you without much warning as I just have. Before doing this act she records the 13 reasons why she does, hence the title of the work. Originally a book by Jay Asher, a following grew around it till Selena Gomez thought it was worthy to make it to the screen. The translation into a TV show allows further depth, but to the point where it is too much. The book was certainly exploited and while separating it into 13 episodes was fitting to the cassette tapes, it dragged out everything unrealistically. The creators could have shortened the episode length and definitely kept this to one season. A limited series would be more fitting than a big production spanning multiple seasons when the book is only about 300 pages. While I am not certain of another season, the finale left too many questions where it is rather obvious that there will be. It’s rather unnecessary to have another season, but we love to exploit art.

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The show centers around another character in real time. Clay Jensen, who was friends with Hannah, receives the tapes and we learn the reasons as he does. Not only that but we learn the motive behind why Hannah creates the tapes. Flashing back to when Hannah is alive and when she is not is perfectly woven to create the effect of a person missing in the present. I also liked how the creators of the show created a distinction between present Clay and past Clay by having an injury on his forehead in the current time. This helps cure some confusion that viewers may have by going back and forth. The most noteworthy thing about the show is how many subjects are packed into one drama. While it centers around Hannah’s suicide, bullying, drunk driving, sexual assault, and the general nuances of teenhood are included. While this is a bit much, I believe most would agree that high school, itself, was a bit much as well. However way you feel about the content, it has stirred the internet quite a bit.

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There are plenty of flaws in the show. When the students are in class and they are so obviously passing notes around and going on phones simultaneously drove me crazy. The teacher hardly pays any mind to the fact that everyone’s phone is practically blowing up at the same time. One could argue that this was the creators exaggerating the affect of rumors in school and if that’s the case it works pretty well. However, when you try to be realistic in the show and then do that you lose believability in the process, especially when you are dealing with such heavy topics. Another thing I noticed is that this is the teen antithesis to It’s a Wonderful Life. While George is guided into what life would be like without him and wishes he never thought of the idea of killing himself, Hannah already has and is guiding the characters in exactly why she has.

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– Slightly off topic, one less important point that bothers me in all high school depictions is how breakfast is treated. Clay’s mom wonderfully creates an array of breakfast foods in the morning, but instead of enjoying it, Clay dismisses it entirely. If my mom prepared an extensive breakfast like that, my ass would be in a chair, drinking OJ, and eating that french toast. I would even thank her on the way out the door. PSA to whoever creates these shows and movies: THIS IS NOT REALISTIC. When I was in high school we had to wake up at the crack of dawn. The sun was not out like it is when Clay gets up before school and my parents are getting ready for work as I get ready for class. Cereal was the most common breakfast food. While this seems like something that hardly affects the show, it creates a disconnect. –

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Regardless of my hard feelings towards how breakfast is depicted, Hannah’s 13 reasons are all too relatable. Whether its rumors or just the feeling of loneliness, we can connect in some way. This is the reason why the show is important. While shows have done it in the past, none have started with a suicide and then explained why. Sexual assault is always something hard to bring up, but 13 Reasons Why draws some light. The internet has been divided on the depiction in the show and how the teen who committed the acts was not portrayed properly. Despite disagreements, even starting a conversation is something to be proud of. However you feel about all of this, the show drives the point that we never really know what is going on in another person’s life. While that doesn’t mean you should revolutionize the way you live, it serves as a reminder that little things grow.

Author: Connor Schmiegel

Classic rock fanatic, actor, tv & film buff, and political talker. Currently discovering my way in life.

2 thoughts on “Suicide, Cassette Tapes, and Sexual Assault – There’s No Dismissing ’13 Reasons Why’”

  1. I’ve seen this sitting at the top of my Netflix screen for a week or two now. I’ve been debating watching it, teen dramas can really be a hit or miss, but I think I might give this a try (even though I 100% agree with the whole breakfast thing. What time do kids start school in T.V. -10 in the morning???)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt the same way. I was unsure about it, but since it was so popular I had to at least try it. It’s extremely dramatic, but it’s easy to be entrenched in it. I finished it in a few days lol. And BREAKFAST!! It bothers me so much haha.

      Like

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