Writing about a Netflix series sucks. It’s an impossible task to put together an interesting blog discussing a full season of content without dragging on and getting lost in my own words, which is why I typically avoid doing it. Oh, and I can’t blog about it after a couple episodes either because the whole damn series is released at once so my analysis and comments are pointless unless I find that very specific audience that reads my blogs AND watches Netflix on my schedule. (fun fact: that audience doesn’t exist) So yeah, I don’t invest my time in writing Netflix blogs.
Except with this one, I have to… Not because it’s dominating headlines and not because it seems like everyone in the country is talking about it. I have to write about it because I strongly feel that 13 Reasons Why might be a fucking masterpiece. No joke. No exaggeration. This thing grabbed my attention by the throat and never let go. It is incredibly well done, it’s important, and it fully commits to the topic without watering down the uncomfortable moments. I knew it was about a teen suicide when I started, but that’s it. When Clay got those cassettes and I realized this was a 13-part audio suicide note? BUCKLE UP. I was fully on board.
But just because I feel compelled to write about it doesn’t change anything from that first paragraph. So I figure the best way to do this is to make a list of reasons why I decided I should write about it… and it just so happens that I have 13 reasons. Convenient!!
By the way, I’ve avoided reading or watching anything about the show to avoid spoilers for myself. Everything I say here is directly from my brain, so keep that in mind if I’ve totally missed something or say anything obvious that is common knowledge on the interweb. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Also this list will have some highs and lows, I promise not to depress you.
#1- Romanticizing Suicide vs. Raising Awareness
This is the core debate. I’m assuming it’s a hot topic in almost all schools and with parents of teens everywhere. Luckily I’m involved with neither, I’m just a guy who enjoys a good story. I can watch something and judge it based on it’s performance and not how my kid or anyone else will react to it. It’s bliss.
This was the one thing I knew about before watching, so I kept a close eye on it. I decided the determining factor would be the severity of Hannah’s situation which caused her to slit her wrists. If it ended up being some “woe is me” millennial pseudo-tragedy then yes, I would have 100% said this was romanticizing suicide. But that wasn’t the case. I was on the fence with my decision until episode 11 when it suddenly took the giant leap from high school drama to a very real crisis. In the last 3 episodes this girl watched her friend get raped, played a role in a car accident that killed a classmate, and was raped at a party by the same guy who raped her friend. After all that she went to her school counselor for help and he said she should “move on”…
I firmly believe that suicide is never the answer, but even I can admit I understand where her head was when she made the choice to end her life. She wasn’t crazy, and she wasn’t being dramatic. She was broken, beaten, and defeated. This series did not romanticize the situation, and if there was any doubt about that it was quickly washed away in the final episode. I refuse to believe a human can watch the bathtub scene and not be horrified at the heavy reality of suicide. I’m glad they showed it in full detail. Suicide is gruesome, painful, sad, and lonely. Nothing in this world is worth putting yourself through that, but more importantly it’s worth the effort to save someone from doing that to themselves.
#2- Why would anyone become a high school counselor?
I will never understand how someone could wake up one day, think about their future, and say “That’s it! I’m going to go to college and earn a Masters degree in Counseling, then get my teaching license so I can fulfill my dream of becoming a high school guidance counselor!” What’s the allure of that career? Why bother? Your salary/responsibility ratio is garbage, and you have to deal with teenager bullshit every single day. What if you assume a kid is just an introvert because he’s quiet and keeps to himself but then he comes to school one day ready to burn it down? YUP you’ve just been buried in paperwork, have to answer to all the angry parents, and oh yeah you’re fired. #DREAMJOB
#3- There was a major (and stupid) flaw in the plot.
How about that crazy car accident huh? Pretty bad right? That dude Jeff died which sucks because he was super nice and stuff. Too bad there wasn’t a stop sign at the intersection or else maybe he’d be alive.
A big factor in Hannah’s decision to commit suicide was the fact that she felt partially responsible for Jeff’s death. She was in the car when Sheri ran over the stop sign, knocking it over. Sheri bailed on Hannah, leaving her alone to find a phone to notify someone. Meanwhile Jeff (who was totally sober, says Clay) comes along and blows through the intersection, getting t-boned and killed. Police assumed he was the one who knocked over the stop sign and because his car was full of beer (from the beer run) the cause of the accident was determined to be drunk driving.
But wait! let’s take another look at that “intersection”:
I admit, I’m a veteran driver who prides myself on my ability to get from point A to point B while not dying, but I call bullshit on the Jeff pity party. First of all, Jeff is a local kid who I’m assuming drove around that area at least a few times – he knew there was supposed to be a stop sign. But ok lets assume he didn’t. Look at that photo. If you’re approaching that intersection are you just blasting straight through? You know, where that giant wall of a hill is? Of course not. Jeff was a teenager at a keg party on a beer run. He was fucking drunk and he was dying at that intersection whether a stop sign was there or not.
#4- Selena Gomez was an Executive producer?
She was supposed to play the lead role in a film based on the book, but Netflix ended up buying the rights away from Universal to turn it into the massive success as we know it today. Just a fun fact to brighten up this list.
I, for one, am thankful this happened because the story was way too good to be chopped down to a +/-120 minute movie. Oh and I think Selena is the worst. And this role needed a nobody actress to play a tormented, depressed girl… not a worldwide superstar pop singer.
#5- Listening to a few cassette tapes is a contact sport for Clay Jensen.
Seriously, has anyone ever fought this hard and put themselves through so much just to get through 13 cassettes?
All he had to do was sit in his room and listen, but nope he had to be mobile. He fell off his bike a couple times, caught a rock off the forehead while rock climbing, and got into two separate fights and lost them both. One with the rapist who beat the absolute shit out of his face, and the other was his own bike. Yes he lost a fight with a bicycle.
#6- After everything that happened, did it matter?
I can’t shake the feeling that Clay’s endeavor was completely irrelevant in the end. Yes, he got Bryce to confess on tape but after some light googling I’ve discovered that it likely would be inadmissible in court. Not good.
Jessica finally told her father about being raped, which is enough to bury Bryce’s reputation since the accusation is coming straight from the victim. I suppose Clay helped push Jess towards that decision with his refusal to overlook it like everyone else, but she was clearly on that path with the drinking and acting out. Clay just helped speed up the process.
Maybe if Clay hadn’t been pressing the issue then everyone would have continued the “I know nothing, we barely knew Hannah” routine by the time the subpoenas for deposition arrived, but this trial was going to happen regardless of Clay’s fight to find out the truth. And no matter what happened with the tapes, Tony was in charge of carrying out Hannah’s wishes. Once all 13 people heard the tapes it was up to him to decide what to do with them. We saw him give Hannah’s parents the recordings in a very apologetic and awkward exchange because of his guilt for not coming forward sooner, which was an independent act separate from the drama surrounding tapes.
So yeah, the truth would have come out regardless.
#7- Fuck Courtney. For real.
If it weren’t for Bryce the serial rapist I’d make an argument for her being the most disgusting person on this show. I’m not even joking. She had the most harmless part in this whole thing, a picture of her kissing Hannah that nobody could tell was them, and she was the lead crusader in the cover-up which protected a rapist. WOW COURTNEY. WOW. YOU’RE UGLY INSIDE AND OUT.
#8- The ripple effect of bullying, and how easily it can compound itself.
I think one of the more important themes they touched upon was how seemingly innocent teasing can lead to bullying, which can quickly get out of hand. This all started with a picture being circulated attached to a lie, and because of her recent falling out with her friends she had no one to turn to for support. The lie stuck and she got a reputation which made her a target for horny teenage boys. When she denied these boys she got an additional reputation as a bitch. Things like this occur every day, and a small percentage of those occurrences develop further into a dangerous area like we saw with Hannah. If this show raised awareness of how to prevent even a single situation before it gets to this point then it has done it’s job.
#9- Just close the fucking store.
It’s just not working out. At what point do you think Hannah’s parents will give up on this sinking ship? It’s a disaster. It’s pretty clear things are never going to turn around. I’m not positive, but it sounded like the father said they moved to this town to get away from big-name stores like Walplex… does that mean this is their 2nd attempt at a store? Nobody can be that stupid right?
The best decision the father made throughout the entire show was filling out an application to be the night shift pharmacist at Walplex. The worst decision he made was picking those giant shelves to hold the little pill bottles. They made it look like his store was empty. If I know one thing about business it’s that if you want people to think you’re successful, you can’t look like you’re failing… write that down.
#10- Alex’s suicide wasn’t just an attempt to get a 2nd season.
In the moment when we found out Alex tried to commit suicide and was in critical condition, my reaction was “wtf are they doing?!?” Why throw this at us from left field? We didn’t need another suicide from the clouds, in fact it only weakened the importance of Hannah’s suicide. I was sure they just threw this in at the end to try and lock down a 2nd season.
But then while brushing my teeth (a time when all adults are deep in thought) it occurred to me what I missed. What I’m assuming the majority of viewers missed. Alex’s story was the most important piece of the puzzle to promote awareness for teen suicide prevention. I was trying to think of the last time we saw Alex to try and make sense of things, and it was when he was getting praise from his father for cleaning his room so well. That’s when it clicked. Hannah did the same thing before killing herself, she got her affairs in order and cleaned her room. Alex had been exhibiting all the signs of someone in need of help for the last half of the series. He stopped caring about things, he was the first one to accept the fact that the tapes would get out and that they deserve whatever was coming their way. He was acting out in uncharacteristic ways by initiating that fist fight in the street, and then getting upset when he wasn’t punished. His father was proud of him for acting out, which only added to their strained relationship because he completely missed Alex’s point… Looking back on it, it was clear he was screaming for help. Nobody noticed because they were too wrapped up in their own lives to notice or care about what was going on in his. Brilliant job by the writers to sneak that one in there so well.
#11- Missed Connection: Hannah and Skye.
Hannah was the victim of some bad luck, but she was also blind to some things. Throughout everything there was one constant: the coffee shop. She spent a LOT of time there. You know who else did? That girl Skye. She worked there… literally all the time. Hannah and her could have been the best of friends, and maybe develop a solid support system for each other. That would’ve been nice. Clay would have liked that.
#12- The suicide scene.
This was a tough one. That bathtub suicide was some heavy stuff. It might be one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen on TV. I’ve already discussed the merit of showing it to the extent that they did in my #1 reason on this list, but it needs more attention. I knew we’d see it eventually, but despite knowing it was coming I was genuinely unprepared to watch it. I sat there squirming as she started the process. I even considered not looking at my screen which is something I’ve never done. Why was it so difficult to watch a fictitious character go through with this? Because the writing was outstanding. They made the viewer become invested in a character’s life despite knowing from the jump that she would kill herself. A good show makes you feel something, a great show makes you emotional. This was a great show.
#13- ❤ Tony
Tony isn’t perfect because he has a major flaw: he’s not a real person. I’m only half kidding when I say Hannah’s story was dangerously close to being overshadowed by Tony’s perfect everything. I know I don’t have to write anymore about it, because if you watched the series then you already know. The guy is everything everyone wishes they could be, but too casual to even notice. God damn… he’s so cool.