Binge-watching and Netflix go hand in hand, it’s an inevitability. The level of new content they’re creating of late is fantastic. It’s a great platform which is allowing creation of shows which may not have worked on a network level, and is changing the way we watch television. One of the more recent additions to Netflix is 13 Reasons Why, the adaptation of the Young Adult novel of the same name by Jay Asher. While it’s all about high school and the drama that ensues, the content is definitely something that all adults should tune into. So here are 13 Reasons Why you should be watching 13 Reasons Why (With No Spoilers).
One: The Book
The series is based on the book of the same name, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Released in 2007, it tells the story of teenager Clay Jensen, as he listens to tapes which he receives after the suicide of his friend and classmate Hannah Baker. In the tapes, she has given her 13 reasons behind her suicide, each on a tape of their own, and she tells it from the start that he’s somewhere on there. It made its way to the New York Times Bestseller List in the number one spot and has sold over 2 million copies. From all accounts and from seeing this, I’m a firm believer it should be on every school curriculum for teenagers.
Two: The Soundtrack
If you love your 1980s tunes, you’ll love this. You’ve got songs from The Cure, Joy Division and other bands who wouldn’t have looked astray on the soundtrack to classics like The Breakfast Club. There’s also a beautiful cover of one of my personal favourite songs “Only You” by series producer Selena Gomez which is well worth a listen. I’ve also discovered new bands (to me) like Lord Huron, who are just LOVELY.
Three: The Producers
Speaking of herself, Selena Gomez and her Mammy are behind this fantastic show. Working closely with writer Jay Asher, they’ve kept the feeling of the book throughout and brought this story to the screen. Gomez had originally been mentioned as a possible contender for the lead role, but chose to stay behind the camera to share the story which she related to. In the earliest days of production, she had herself been in a treatment facility with other teenagers who were in a dark place, linked to her anxiety and depression.
She spoke to many young people and this cemented her decision to bring this show to the masses, increased its importance to her. “It hits a very important part of me, and I think this is what (kids) need to see,” she said. She spoke to CNN at a Netflix panel the other day, saying “They have to see something that’s going to shake them. They have to see something that’s frightening. … I want them to understand it. … I would do anything to have a good influence on this generation. It’s hard, but I definitely relate to everything that was going on, and I was there for the last episode. I was a mess just seeing it all come to life, because I’ve experienced just that.”
Four: Mental Health
It’s growing in the amount of coverage it receives in the media and in public life, but accurate depictions of people living with depression and mental health issues can be rare to come across. This is something done really, really well in 13 Reasons Why. Because of this, I feel it will be a useful tool in educating young people and ensuring they speak out. Suicide and depression are topics that aren’t taken in any way lightly, and of course it is necessary to point out that this may trigger people who have associations with certain elements of the story. There are trigger warnings before the episodes concerned, as not to spoil the story I won’t go through them here but if you feel that you may be more sensitive to these issues it is probably best to look it up before viewing.
Five: Tackling Rape Culture
Like the fantastic work of Louise O Neill and her novel “Asking For It”, this book has opened millions of eyes to the realities of rape culture in our teenager’s lives. From issues like reputation, to consent, to the way that people talk about each other, it’s definitely a conversation starter and one that needs to be had, repeatedly, with young people. This show is definitely a good start. Cyberbullying, revenge porn, sexual assault – these are all unfortunately popping up as issues in teenage life in the news, they are happening – they just need to be topics we speak to our kids and each other about.
Six: The heartbreaking reality
This show does not hold back. It’s intense. And the more intense part is that it’s undeniably real. The stuff depicted in the story does happen. These are things happening in the lives of teenagers in schools all over the world. From the littlest things to the bigger traumas, unfortunately calling it fiction will not be applicable to many. As someone who was bullied relentlessly through many years of school, I found myself nodding along to certain parts and saying “Yeah, that happened”. (And much as I was hoping to be able to say “Oh it’s the fault of social media etc, the book was released in 2007, when I was the same age as the central characters. The show may add the social media elements, but rumours and this culture hasn’t changed).
Seven: Do we ever leave school, really?
This is a story about high school kids, but it could be as applicable to adults working in offices, in academia, in all walks of life. Unfortunately the idea that life magically changes once you leave school isn’t always true – it is for a lot of people, but not always, and the idea that tiny little things you do can have an effect on others is something that definitely travels with you through life. It’s a worthy watch just to hammer that home.
Eight: The lead actress
One of the joys of this show is their casting, and their lead, Katherine Langford who plays Hannah Baker, is a hidden treasure. She was unknown before this but is definitely set for big things. Hailing from Perth, Australia, Langford began studying acting after graduating from Perth Modern School where she was a nationally ranked swimmer. 13 Reasons Why is her first major acting credit. Prior to that, she appeared in the short film Daughter that debuted at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. I really do expect big things will come from this girl, she’s a very talented actress!
Nine: The Lead Actor
Dylan Minnette plays the main male character, Clay Jensen. He’s a bit more of a known face, having appeared in things like Law and Order SVU, Greys Anatomy (he trick or treated for ears!), Scandal and Awake. Through the entire thing I wanted to give him a big hug and simultaneously shout at him (watch it, you’ll see why). He pulls you into the story as he listens to the tapes and you’ll be with him on his journey through them to find out what really happened to Hannah Baker.
Ten: The Casting
Aside from the two leads, the casting for this is absolutely genius. Kate Walsh (Addison from Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice) plays Hannah’s mother and is truly heartbreaking in her grief. The younger generation are definitely up and coming actors, and not knowing them from other things was an advantage in getting into who they were in this story. As well as telling the story, these are NORMAL kids, they look normal, and look the age they’re depicting. The oldest member of the kid cast is Ross Butler who plays Zach – he’s 26. The rest are aged between 19 and 25, playing 17 year olds. Given Hollywood’s previous love for putting 30 year olds into high school, this is definitely refreshing. (Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls (27), Keiko Agena in Gilmore Girls (30)). Speaking of Keiko Agena, she’s in this as Mrs Bradley – Laine is all grown up!
Eleven: Beyond The Reasons
The series is accompanied by a Behind The Scenes documentary, where the writers, actors and producers all discuss the topics included in the series. The producers discuss the reasons they felt it was important to bring this project to life, and telling a story that told the truth about what some do encounter in high school is like was key to that. Cyberbullying has become such a big issue that it can’t be ignored, and it’s definitely set to be a massive eye opener for parents. Also, watching it as a parent myself, I am now DREADING the teenage years, but will definitely be heading into them a whole lot more informed!
Twelve: It’s Really Well Plotted
The series uses a lot of flashbacks to tell the story, with it going between past and present using them effectively. Use of physical markers, like cuts and hairstyles is key in distinguishing past and present, as well as clever use of lighting. The series is plotted differently from the book, for storytelling reasons which will become apparent, and I agree with the changes the way they’re done as it becomes more effective and allows for further discussion. While I did find some of the episodes rather long, I really liked the format and would love to see it for some other books I feel would work with it well.
Thirteen: It Depicts the difference in how Teenagers and Adults Think
I spent a lot of the time watching it going “Seriously, why, why did you do that?”. That’s because at 25, my brain is far more fully formed than it would have been at 16 or 17, the ages these kids are. Therefore, I’ve learned how to manage certain social situations, and the realities of reacting to what other people think. Even so, I’m imperfect at reacting the way I probably should to certain things, so what can I expect from people who haven’t got the added life experience as well as a fully formed brain? The story is intriguing because while the general focus is on the high school kids, the reactions of the adults who are involved in the story becomes a bigger and bigger deal, and it does show a certain level of the same inadequacy.
The adults don’t have all the answers, they can’t wrap it all up in a pretty perfect bow. It’s the truth – much as we’d like to say so, we can’t honestly say that we can manage any situation truly perfectly, we can only do the best we can. In Beyond The Reasons, the writer Jay Asher states that “Teenage brains don’t work the way adult brains work, you know, trauma and pain feel like they’re going to last forever. And I think that we forget that sometimes”.
So, there we have it. 13 Reasons why you really need to check out Netflix’s newest series that everyone is binging on, 13 Reasons Why. What are you waiting for? I’d love to know what you think if you’ve watched it already, or if you want to let me know once you have! Leave a comment below, tweet me or chat over on Facebook – I’d love to hear from you.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and received a Netflix subscription and an iPad Mini in return for posting Netflix updates and reviews, however, all opinions are my own, and I already had a personal subscription before joining the Stream Team.