Sometimes, a show strikes a chord with an audience, and you can’t help but get drawn in. Sometimes, there’s so much controversy surrounding a show that it brings about shouts of protest and other combative responses. When you have a show that brings both of those entities together, you know you have something worth paying attention to. That’s where we arrive with the show 13 Reasons Why. Built off of the backbone of controversy, the show tackles the highly sensitive issue of teenage suicide. All the usual suspects are there: a high school setting, bullying, body shaming, etc…, etc…, etc…. So what makes this show worth watching when the issues are so highly sensitive?
This is where this article comes into play. Dissecting a show like 13 Reasons Why isn’t always the easiest journey. But there are some obvious reasons to jump on board with this series. What was once scheduled to be a “one-off” (a single season series) has now been slated for a season 2. The kind of hype and tread that this series has created is a big reason why the series will extend further than its original plans. That’s nothing to shake your head at. A series that was only slated for a single run getting a second season approved this early in the game is impressive. There’s life in this series, which is ironic being that the show is ensconced in a very morbid place. The premise arises from the greatest of tragedies and explores some extremely sensitive material. Let’s dive into why you need to pay attention to 13 Reasons Why from every angle imaginable.
15. The Premise
13 Reasons Why was dropped onto Netflix on March 31st, 2017. All the episodes were released at once, and since, the show has exploded with all kinds of opinions spraying all about the internet concerning the show’s content. The show tackles teen suicide amongst a slew of other issues in a variety of fashions. It’s from here that so many people have become drawn to the show’s intrigue. Teenagers, in particular, have been some of the most loyal audience members when it comes to the show. And that has sparked a great deal of concern. The nature of the show’s messages are riddled with confusion as the show itself takes on numerous taboo subject matters. As a single girl, Hannah Baker kills herself; the 13 tapes she leaves behind explains all the reasons she came to her extreme decision-making.
14. Parents Beware
Parents should be aware of the television show 13 Reasons Why. First off, you should have some sort of idea what your kids are watching on television. But in this case, it’s very important to pay close attention to what’s going on. The show delves so deep into such dramatic content that it could tread into dangerous waters for teens who are already suffering various levels of depression. The show crosses a lot of difficult bridges along the way and from some who have expressed opinions, it’s too forgiving of suicide without connecting important dots. The show, for some, speaks to a terrifying truth, an underbelly of depression without a proper avenue for release. And with that, the show stokes some of those fires.
13. Selena Gomez
No, the highly talented singer/actress is not starring in this Netflix original series, but she has a heck of a lot to do with its existence. The idea originated from a book which Selena Gomez‘s mother brought to her attention. Gomez then did some digging herself and decided she wanted to help the project come to life. But Gomez didn’t want to be front and center on the project. This was a brilliant move. She was interested in the content standing tall as opposed to adding star power to muddy the waters. Instead, Gomez lent her name as Executive Producer and helmed the project, helping to steer it forward. She’s traveled around the country to promote the show, and this has helped garner extra attention for the series. The subject matter, depression, is also near and dear to Gomez’s heart. She, herself, has battled through bouts of depression and other issues, so the content was extremely personal, and the story has since thrived.
12. Teenage Suicide
First, let’s try and see how this book has been received on a whole other level. Sure, there are the positive results with regard to sales and a television series. But what may be more extraordinary is the blame coming its way due to increases in teenage suicide. In fact, this past May 2017, a school district in the state of Colorado had librarians removing the book from their shelves. They claim that the book is to blame for an increase in teenage suicides; opponents of 13 Reasons Why claim that the book indirectly promotes suicide. Its impact cannot be understated, although the reasoning for their claims is dangerous. Fictitious content, no matter how real, is make believe. It only becomes real when there is a visceral reaction. This book treads that gray line and strikes a chord with many wayward teens lost in their sea of depression. That’s why open communication is so important. Teenage suicide is a major issue, and this book and television series are excellent vehicles to bring an important topic to life.
11. The Ratings and Reviews
It’s difficult to quantify the ratings of a show that appears on Netflix, but let’s dive into a number of reasons why you should check this dramatic series out. First off, Rotten Tomatoes has come in with an approval rating of 86%, which obviously shows a positive reaction to the series by most. Metacritic has come in with a 76 out of 100 rating. Other reviewers of the show have come in mostly positive as well. Jess Schedeen of IGN gave the show a 9.2 out of 10. The Boston Globe, Variety, Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter all came in with glowing reviews. They used phrases like “powerful,” “hard-hitting,” “consistently engaging,” and “simply essential viewing.” These kinds of high praises from critics all across the board have been a distinct reason why the show has been applauded by so many.
10. Kate Walsh
Most television series that surround young kids or teens always have what I would refer to as an “anchor” actor on the show. Think of it like a mall that has a lot of cool and interesting stores, but you always have your Sears or your Macy’s as an “anchor store.” That is Kate Walsh to this series. The veteran and talented actress plays the highly challenging and difficult role of Olivia Baker, Hannah Baker’s mother, on the show 13 Reasons Why. Walsh really came to fame with her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice but has long since found success in both the small and big screens with tons of credits to her name. Walsh has been a part of many big casts, but here, she helps anchor a cast of relatively unknowns through a very difficult series of subject matters. Her performance is stirring as the mother that has no idea her daughter is about to end her own life. Her distinguished appearances on the show are a big reason for its success.
9. Dylan Minnette
Dylan Minnette is one of the young stars of this new hit show. He’s played a number of roles in a short period of time. Minnette has had a very successful early career. Minnette’s most recent run of success has come via his role of Clay Jensen. Minnette’s successful young career began back in 2005 when he grabbed a small role on the kids hit show Drake and Josh. From there, a few key roles on shows like Two and a Half Men and Prison Break put Minnette on the acting map. He parlayed all that success into a whole gaggle of TV and movie appearances that have led him to his shining moment, playing a lead in this dramatic and impactful series. The role of Clay Jensen is huge as the audience (and readers) get to see this dramatic tale played out through his eyes. He represents Hannah Baker, the girl who commits suicide. She has left tapes that Minnette’s character is responsible for listening to in order to digest why she took her own life.
8. Katherine Langford
Katherine Langford scored the key role of Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why as the main character who has committed suicide. The controversial tale has Langford’s Baker creating 13 tapes that tell her story of suicide, which unravels during the course of season 1. It’s both dramatic and a mystery and draws audiences into attempting to understand this complex web of psychological dysfunction. The story has Langford’s character attempting to adjust to the extremely difficult school atmosphere. Unlike Langford’s seasoned counterpart, Dylan Minnette, she has far less camera experience prior to 13 Reasons Why. Her lead role is her first major role and one of the first roles of any substance she has ever played. Now, she’s enjoying the focus of the audience on a hit show that seems to be getting a second season run after its highly successful miniseries release. Make no mistake about it: Langford’s career is looking up and for very good reason. She does an excellent job of playing the lead role and is just another reason for the show’s success.
7. Christian Navarro
Christian Navarro is another relative unknown who has a big impact on this show. He plays Hannah Baker’s good friend, Tony Padilla. The character is vital to the show. Navarro’s Padilla is gay and is Hannah Baker’s delivery man. He’s charged with protecting the tapes and given strict instructions on what to do and how to do it. His character is a juicy one for Navarro, and he does an excellent job of delivering to the audience some much-needed flavor and diversity. Navarro’s take is incredible as the bearer of the tapes. When you think about the character as a whole, a person who delivers tapes to those who are potentially responsible or played a part of a teen suicide, the message is dark and deep. Navarro has some experience behind him playing small parts in a variety of large television series including a 4-episode run on HBO’s disaster, Vinyl. But this is Navarro’s crowning achievement on film to date.
6. The Writing
Any television series is built on the back of great writing (and acting). With 13 Reasons Why, the show is able to piggyback off of the highly successful book. That lends quite a bit of content for the screenwriters to work through. And they’ve done a masterful job of translating teenage angst and awkwardness into a television series that more directly hits home than any words on a page. If you look online, there are both positive and negative reactions to this show. There are outcries of how great it is and others who attack the show for not getting teenage suicide right. I applaud the writers on this front. Anytime you can get people to voice a strong opinion about your subject matter on both sides, you’ve succeeded. The writers have taken a very difficult slew of subject matters and brought them to light. Some people scoff at the idea that every little bad teenage horror story is going on simultaneously here. Guess what? It happens. It happens every day. What the writers have done is successfully shed an abundance of light onto difficult topics and spurred a national conversation. To that, I say, bravo.
5. The Book
Jay Asher wrote a stirring story revolving around teen suicide. The subject is touchy at best and one that parents strive to stay away from like an easily transmitted stomach virus. There hasn’t been enough credit given where credit is due. The book dives deep into some dark places. Teenage depression is as common as peanut butter and jelly. Teens are ripe with hormones and personal challenges that deal with a lot of social implications. Asher wrote the novel back in 2007 (just shows you how long these things actually take to get going on the TV/movie end). Far before the television series arrived, the book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in July 2011. The book was a “young adult” hit, garnering awards all over the place from 2008-2010. The awards were small in name — local young adult book awards — but they showed the life and power of the content and helped the groundswell of support that took the book from a 2007 unknown release to a 2011 bestseller.
4. School Controversy
What happens when a school fails to provide children with the right support system? That’s the question swirling around that has many faculty members in defensive postures. In fact, due to the content of the show, schools have attacked the book and storylines of 13 Reasons Why as “dangerous” and “inaccurate.” However, let’s push back a little on this by exploring some of the reasons the schools and some parents are so upset about this fictitious tale. First off, the character, Hannah Baker, speaks to a counselor at her school only to have very little done. Now, schools throw their hands up in the air as if they react to everything and can provide the necessary support for their students, but I say, nay. Certainly, there are heroes out there who do their jobs well. But there are far too many “clock-punchers” within the school system. I have personally encountered them, so to say that the storylines of this show do not coincide with reality is a completely false defense. The guidance counselor and school support system looking the other way or being as worthless as a net made of Swiss cheese may not be the norm, but it does happen. Instead of combating the story with cries of falsehoods, the school systems should be looking at themselves and asking questions to ensure that their support systems are, in fact, in place and working. Nobody ever loses by communicating. But shutting down the conversation seems like a copout, a big reason why this book and television show resonates.
3. The Cast
The young cast of the show has come in and impressed everyone, which is why 13 Reasons Why has been such a big success. Critics have stated that “Langford shines in the lead role.” Another critic from the Boston Globe had this to say about the performances of Langford and Minnette: “Watching these two young actors together is pure pleasure.” IGN’s Schedeen stated that when Langford and Minnette are together on screen, they are “often at their best together, channeling just the right sort of warm but awkward chemistry you’d expect from two teens who can’t quite admit their feelings for one another.” Kate Walsh, a stellar actress in her own right, and who plays Hannah’s grieving mother, was described by Variety as giving her “career-best work.” There are clear praises for other supporting actors as well.
2. The World Reacts
Not only have schools reacted to this show, but so too has the entire world. Shows rarely have the kind of reach and impact that 13 Reasons Why is having. But all the impacts are not deemed positively. The extraordinary nature of the show has stirred some real emotions in teens. In the United States, multiple schools have raised alarm bells over the content and sent communications to parents. Palm Beach County in Florida reported an increase in suicidal and self-harm behavior from their students. Many of the students cited the television series when questioned. In Australia, Headspace, a youth mental health service, had to issue a warning in its country due to a large increase in calls that coincided with the television series release. New Zealand issued a rating of RP18, meaning it recommended only those who are 18 and above should be able to watch the show alone. Many psychologists and psychological associations have warned that seeing someone else’s reasoning and eventual suicide can help spur suicidal thoughts in those who are already having issues. Make no mistake about it: this show is having a VERY big impact on the world.
1. Here Comes Season 2
13 Reasons Why was made to be a “one-off.” The 13-episode miniseries was meant to run and be done. However, due to the show’s success — and Hollywood always knows what to do with a winner — a second season has been ordered by Netflix. Since the show was based on the book, and the “first season,” as it’s now being designated, dealt with the content of the book, a lot of question marks have arisen on what would be done for season 2. Well, the showrunner, Brian Yorkey, who is responsible for evolving the show’s tale, came out and gave us a version of what we’re likely to see. Basically, if two people see the same event occur and go tell others what they see, there are always different perspectives, different stories that surround the same set of circumstances. That’s what we’re being told. There are a number of other people who bore witness to the events that were captured in 13 Reasons Why, and soon, audiences will get to see the characters re-emerge and showcase those events before our eyes. It’s basically the same thing but told a little differently. I’m not completely buying the reasoning at this point, but certainly, season 1 was an extraordinary and disturbing journey into some deep and dark places. So we can give them some latitude here on what will come next.