13 reasons why tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teenager who committed suicide, but before she did, she made thirteen tapes, explaining the thirteen reasons which led to her ending her own life. Each reason is a person, from friends who let her down to people who did terrible things to her. The show focuses on Clay Jensen, one of the kids who are on tapes and went to the same school as Hannah. The story follows him as he listens to the tapes and tries to recreate what happened, make sense out of it, hold people accountable and grieve for Hannah.
Basic Story & Review
While Clay is the main character, the show explores the other kids at High School and how things they did and didn’t do affected Hannah and how her suicide affected them. This is a complicated show to talk about. So let’s first talk about the show, the performances, and the plot. And then let’s try to talk about the issues the show tries to deal with.
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The performances in this show were very strong, especially Dylan Minnette as Clay. Clay, in my opinion, was the best-written character. He made the most sense. He reacts to stuff the way you would expect him to, and he had very few no-one -would-ever-do-that moments. It is a complicated character, and Clay manages to capture a lot of the things that a teenager would go through. Other performances in the show were okay. They did what they were supposed to do. Some were pretty good, some not so much.
The biggest issue I had with the show was pacing. It felt incredibly long, even though the story and the show are genuinely interesting. I wanted to know what happened and why it happened but the show keeps throwing things in the way of that. Character building is great and essential, but almost in every episode, the show slows down to almost a halt to do that.
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The show presents a case where a girl was driven to suicide, and it does a really good job of showing you the different sides of that. It shows you the side that she made her choice; it wasn’t anyone’s fault but hers; she was selfish but took the easy way out. It shows you the side that we could have done more; she was asking for help; we could have done things differently. It also shows you a side that is dismissive – she was a drama queen and wanted attention.
What show does well is that it does say that maybe she was the type of girl who wanted to twist every story to make it about herself and play the victim. Maybe she was that kind of a girl and maybe it doesn’t matter. What 13 reasons why shows us are that there were things along the way which could have been done differently that would have made all the difference. We are all selfish and unbelievably stupid as teenagers. It still is better to have a self-obsessed teenager who is alive and who will eventually grow out of it. The reality is that these kinds of things happen. Kids have killed themselves because they were bullied or embarrassed on social media or school.
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While I agree that show does a good thing by telling a difficult story and it mostly does it pretty well, I think the show does two things wrong. Firstly, I think the show over-romanticizes suicide. I think it would be extremely unhealthy for someone like Hannah Baker to watch that show. I get why the show does this, but it is something to consider. I think it is a show for adults about teenagers, not for teenagers.
Secondly, I think the show shoots itself in the foot by making Hannah go through too many terrible things. Towards the end of the show, it seems like they had to further justify Hannah and her actions so they put her through something terrible. I think it undermines the whole point that she was going through a lot of the things that other people were going through as well. The whole point was that it is just harder for some kids and we should understand that. You don’t have to go through something awful in order to be able to feel bad about something. So by putting Hannah through that extra terrible thing, they made it about an equally important and terrible point, but a different one that the rest of the show was not actually about.
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That being said, it is an interesting show. It is a very divisive topic and so it will inspire many opinions and conversations, which is a good thing. Also, it is a well-made show. I don’t think the show is crazy good, but I enjoyed it. All around, it’s a solid drama about something that needs to be talked about.
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