"13 Reasons Why" You Shouldn't
Views 48 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 11 - 2017 | By: Jada Fox
Hey, it’s the new Netflix Original everyone’s talking about — live and on screen — but it’s not worth it. 13 Reasons Why, based off of Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, follows high school wallflower, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), as he struggles to uncover the reasons of his classmate and friend Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) recent suicide.
A few weeks after Hannah’s death, a shoebox containing thirteen cassette tapes arrives on Clay’s doorstep. The cassette collection contains a chain suicide letter of tracks recorded by Hannah before her death, retelling the thirteen events that lead to her decision to take her own life. Clay, and the other recipients of the tapes, are accused of being one of the causes of her decision and are instructed to listen to the tapes before passing them onto the next person.
Originally, in Asher’s thirteen-chaptered novel, Clay marathons the tapes in a single night as he travels to locations in his hometown specified by Hannah as landmarks to events in her life. Brian Yorkey, creator of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, translates the novel to a thirteen-episodic series with each individual episode lasting just shy of an hour. Similar to the book, the show intertwines both Hannah and Clay’s recollective narrative of the past in warmly filtered scenes contrasted with the cool-toned shots of present day action.
However, Yorkey amplifies the present day with character development of other accused recipients of the tapes and adult involvement. Rather than passively striving to walk through Hannah’s past, Clay suddenly faces grief head-on and refuses to sweep Hannah’s story under the rug by avenging her reputation.
Clay appears to have suddenly gone rogue against the other characters and his introverted nature, his distrust of others keeping him from making alliances in what unfolds to be a convoluted and morbid melodrama. The narrative goes beyond simply Clay’s perception, but includes the legal aftermath of a lawsuit by Hannah’s parents. The heartbroken performances by Kate Walsh and Brian d’Arcy James as Mr. and Mrs. Baker illuminate an aspect Asher’s novel does not. While in the midst of pursuing legal compensation for Hannah, Mr. and Mrs. Baker struggle to keep their family-owned store afloat and uncover evidence to understand the side their daughter never showed them. Similar to Clay — and perhaps as well as the viewers — Mr. and Mrs. Baker are in pursuit of the truth of Hannah Baker.
Despite the morbid teenage melodramatic plot, the story captives the mystery of Hannah Baker and explores the questions, “Why would someone choose the ‘extreme?’”
But is the thrill worth the full graphic portrayal of sexual assault and suicide, awkward dialogue, flat nameless actors, knock-off Logan Lerman (Dylan Minnette), and approximately thirteen hours of Netflix? After all of Clay’s blood, sweat, and tears: no.
While the series does not glorify suicide, its depiction is distasteful, even for the purpose of portraying the weight of overall message. Unlike the novel, the series does not leave Hannah’s death to the audience’s imagination. Rather, it includes a traumatic scene of Hannah’s suicide in the final episode. The intruding realism of the scene is sickening and does not match with the overly-dramatic tone of the entire series.
However, the final four episodes do gain momentum that was absent in the first part. Powerful performances arise from the anchoring adult actors along with Katherine Langford as Hannah’s story fully surfaces, accompanied by an underhanded hint of an unnecessary second season. Ultimately, the effort to illuminate a dark topic is lost between polarizing melodrama and attempted realism.