“13 Reasons Why” is a high school themed drama/crime series which tells a story of a suicide of a teenage girl, Hannah Baker. Perhaps it was my recent 30th bday that encouraged my to indulge my inner teenager and binge on this series, but I have no regrets about watching it.
The series has an interesting narrative structure. Hannah leaves behind a loooong suicide note in the form of tapes. The recordings explain why she killed herself, giving 13 reasons for her deed. Each reason is a different person she encountered in high school who hurt and failed her in some way. I guess it’s questionable whether someone on the verge of taking their own life would have so much integrity to devise such a sophisticated tool of postmortem revenge, but it watches well…
The protagonist of “13 Reasons Why” is bullied and sexually harassed and she’s very much on her own with her problems. She struggles to make friends because of a reputation she got for something she didn’t do. Her parents are facing some financial trouble and they’re mostly focused on making the ends meet. Hannah is just surviving, going every day to a place that horrible things happen to her and she can tell no one about her suffering. Every time she attempts to improve her situation it backfires and she seemed to be deemed to eventually give up. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective, but have you ever been a bullied teenager? It does feel like tomorrow doesn’t bring anything but pain and lots of kids more or less seriously contemplate suicide.
To tell exactly what the kids do to a protagonist, would be too much of a spoiler. I can only say that unfortunately after very believable high school story till mid season, the plot starts to escalate and at some point you just watch it being like “Right, well, I wonder what else is going to happen to her now”. As truly EVERYTHING happens to Hannah, her suicide almost seems logical. The creators (or rather the writer as the series is a faithful adaptation of a novel) should have made a life story of a teenager who’s bullied and so overwhelmed by her reality that she stops to believe there’s anything else out there. It’s an American mainstream product after all, so perhaps my expectations are unrealistically high.
The series is too dramatic but it talks about important issues. Apart from the obvious main theme of suicide, the show emphasizes that parents and teachers of teenagers have no idea who the children are. Teenagers drink, have sex, take drugs, are horrible to one another and none of this is known to adults. Unless a kid ends up being knocked up, addicted or fails at school such things usually remain hidden. Of course teenagers prefer to keep their secrets to themselves, but it’s partially because parents and teachers are rather willing not to know too much. Often if children try to open up, they’re shouted at and end up in trouble, which discourages their further honesty.
To sum up, “13 Reasons Why” is an interesting series and an attempt to talk about serious issues. I’m not sure whether it’s a great show for a troubled teenager who may get wrong ideas, but it could certainly serve a parent or a teacher. Also, anyone who was ever bullied could watch it as a reminder of how far they’ve gone from there.