13 Reasons Why is a new hit original series on Netflix. Based on the Young Adult Novel of the same name by Jay Asher, this series has an 8.6 rating on IMDB. If you thought YA was about fantasy and dystopian worlds then this will shake your belief. Wondering what the fuss is about and whether you should watch the show? Then read on..
The story is about a teenage girl who commits suicide. But before she takes her own life she creates audiotapes to share 13 reasons why she chose to end it all. 13 tapes shared with the people who brought on her death. If you think this is an unsettling premise you are right. With such a poignant topic the creators dance on a fragile balance of capturing teenage angst and depicting gritty reality while delivering on entertainment. Some episodes could have been shorter, but the storytelling makes up for the lack of pace at times. It is not happy viewing, but a necessary one.
Remember high school? When a test score was life and death. When your crush passing notes to someone else meant unbearable heartbreak. When a fight with your best friend left you alone in the whole universe with no one to confide in. Remember when some days everything seemed out of your hands? When it felt like a universal conspiracy that absolutely nothing would go the way you wished it to.
What if things don’t just stop there? What if you are a girl who is ridiculed by other girls? Embarrassed by unwanted attention from boys. Boys who are not young innocents, but bad bullies. What if you don’t have the strength to protect someone you care about? What if you hate yourself for being weak and there is nothing you can do about it? What if you reach out for help, but don’t get it?
Each episode is one such reason why Hannah, played with haunting integrity by Katherine Langford, decides she can’t stand another day of her miserable life. The story takes you back to those hallways in school where young people are not angels. They are human beings. Most are fighting to come out on top, not caring if they trample others in this race to success and popularity. But the awful truth is that sometimes this harsh conduct is for no better reason than because.
Dylan Minnete plays Clay Jenson. He is the decent kid who was a friend to Hannah. In the midst of mean, materialistic and shallow classmates he was a ray of hope to her, but even he could not be enough for her to stay alive. It hurts to see the compassionate gentle boy grapple with the truth of Hannah’s suicide. Could he have done more? He has the tapes, so is he one reason she killed herself?
Throughout the series, I kept getting surprised at how each day our behaviour overlooks seemingly small acts of cruelty. Senseless gossip can hurt someone. Lewd obscene ogling can hurt someone. Jealousy and distrust can break friendships. Hero worship can make you do senseless things. No one really know what someone is battling with and worse no one really cares how someone actually feels. And if you start noticing all this inconsideration in fellow humans, despair creeps in, on how friendless our existence is. How much strife there is in survival.
Hannah sums it articulately that each of these events crushed her soul, destroyed her strength, left her friendless and made her ultimately take the only way out that she could think of. Right or wrong? Attention seeking or a desperate escape from it all? Weak or simply beyond saving? I have my answer, will leave you to figure out your own…
What this show did was make me question our conduct towards others. More importantly, the show has the capacity to make youngsters and adults look around and actually see a person. Notice what he feels. If he needs some words of encouragement. A stray smile. If he is looking for a sliver of friendship to stay afloat. Had Hannah gotten any of this maybe 1 of the 13 reasons would not have been there and maybe that would have been enough to save her. Sometimes strength within has to hang on to something outside.
The show didn’t leave me happy, but it did leave me hopeful that if in our own lives we are kind, thoughtful and loving to the people around us we just might have prevented such a terrible tragedy.
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