Show runner: Netflix
Directors: Kyle Patrick Alvarez (3 Episodes), Gregg Araki (2 episodes), Carl Franklin (2 Episodes), Tom McCarthy (2 episodes), Helen Shaver (2 episodes), Jessica Yu (2 episodes).
Running Time: 1 hour episodes
Main Cast: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Kate Walsh
13 Reasons Why is undoubtedly powerful, but do we really need to dramatize an issue such as suicide in a television show?
The series features 13 episodes, with each episode focusing on one tape that Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) created. Each tape is associated to a person who was a reason behind her suicide. We listen to these tapes through Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), who was one of Hannah’s closest friends. We follow Hannah’s struggle and her downward spiral that led to her taking her life. The tapes have their passengers and it all turns upside down when Hannah’s parents start a court case to understand why their daughter took her own life.
This plot structure is a very powerful way of addressing the issues associated with youth suicide. Ideas of cyber bullying, bullying, stalking, sex, drugs, alcohol and sexuality are all explored through these tapes and it’s a powerful way of addressing the issues and showing its possible outcomes. The content is aimed directly at an audience between 12-24, where issues such as consensual sex, drugs, alcohol and bullying are more prominent. It is a way to get these audiences to realize the signs and counteract them, ultimately making 13 Reasons Why a powerful awareness tool.
These issues can be explored because of the strong script and screenplay of Jay Asher (who also wrote the book) and Brian Yorkey and the structuring of episodes by directors Kyle Patrick Alvarez (3 Episodes), Gregg Araki (2 episodes), Carl Franklin (2 Episodes), Tom McCarthy (2 episodes), Helen Shaver (2 episodes), Jessica Yu (2 episodes). We are able to see Hannah in the past and present and the impact of the show never dampens with every different director. The style remains the same, whilst the issues change.
All the cast are wonderful, but Dylan Minnette (Clay) and Katherine Langford (Hannah) showed how suicide effects both the victim and the people they leave behind. Both are able to provide performances that can shift emotion at the slightest moment. As each episode progresses we can see the impact of the bullying and harassing on Hannah take there impact, and the content of the tapes impact Clay. But some of there performances are distressing to watch and I would give examples, but this show needs to be watched without spoilers to have its full impact. On a side note as well, Christian Navarro‘s (Tony) hair is wonderful to look at, as well as delivers a wonderful performance as a man looking to keep his friends secrets and hold the people accountable for what they did.
The production is simple and doesn’t take away from its powerful messages. It is there to paint a picture of the scenes we are in and to emerge us in the world of high school. It features a wonderful pop soundtrack that never feels out of place, whether it be background music or a part of the actual world the characters are in.
The one problem I found with the show was I constantly asked myself, why do we need to dramatize an issue such as suicide for us to realize it’s still a terrible issue youth face? Why do we need to make how a girl killed herself a mystery that needs to be solved? There is plenty of coverage in the media about this show, which prompted me to watch it, with a number of publications talking about the issues it raises. Surely we shouldn’t need a show to highlight these issues. Surely we should already know about these and should be acting to prevent them. I didn’t want to see some of the graphic content in the show because it was too raw and something that should not be shown for entertainment purposes, which television and Netflix are for. I will not give explicit examples of this in the show as I have said before because it will spoil the shows impact.
Overall the show is powerful. From its story, to its structure, to its themes, to its content, it will have you hooked from start to finish. But I believe it’s not an issue we should be dramatizing, we should be trying to prevent the issue. It is however a step to better recognizing the issues and prevent future youth suicides. Definitely one of the most powerful shows I’ve seen in a long time and definitely one you should look at.
The Front Row Opinion