A couple of days ago I finished watching Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why and it left me buzzing with questions and thoughts about it. It’s certainly not perfect, but there’s something about it that makes it feel unique, and really important. When I finished watching, my mind was racing with so many thoughts about why I liked it so much, so I decided I’d write a list of 13 reasons why you need to see it.
1. It’s incredibly addictive
I tend to be a binge-watcher, but only ever with shows I get really invested in; If I don’t like a show after the first episode it’s unlikely I’ll keep watching. Something that this series does so cleverly is that it teases you with information. It gives you just enough to not be annoyed that it’s hiding things from you, but not enough that you can wait for the next episode. It leaves you needing to know what comes next. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it centres around 7 ‘cassette tapes’ (13 sides) and each episode revolves around one ‘side’. This creative way of telling the story keeps you hooked immediately. I’m convinced that even those of you who don’t tend to binge-watch will probably end up wanting to with this show.
2. The story is told in a non-linear manner
The structure of the series is very smart; the non-linear storytelling makes the show feel fresh and new. The story begins after ‘Hannah’s’ suicide when ‘Clay’ receives a box of tapes. The series follow’s Clay’s timeline from his perspective, however each episode tells us the story on one of the tapes from Hannah’s perspective, constantly showing us flashbacks to Hannah’s memories; we as the audience learn everything as Clay learns it. It’s done so seamlessly that on one hand you forget you’re watching two stories being told at the same time, but on the other hand you understand very clearly what’s happening and when. The fact that it’s non-linear also helps to keep secrets from us as the audience, as it can easily avert our attention from certain things until it’s ready for us to know them, without letting us feel cheated of information.
3. It’s beautiful to watch
The show is so beautifully shot that even though the story is narrated by Hannah, much of the information is given to us visually. The constant changing from Clay’s timeline to Hannah’s memories is flawless and creative, often putting Clay in the middle of the drama, watching, learning everything for the first time along with the audience. There’s also a visual colour change in the scenes narrated by Hannah compared to Clay’s present reality; It suggests that the future is cold and bleak without Hannah in it.
4. It’s based on a best-selling Young Adult Novel
I can’t say too much about this as I haven’t read the book but I’ve put it as a reason why I liked the show because it’s made me desperately want to read it. Not only that, but from what I’ve heard, the show is a great adaptation of the YA novel, and stays true to the story.
5. It’s topical and important
Something really great about the show is that it tackles issues that have existed for a very long time, but are very relevant today as there is more and more emphasis on breaking mental health stigmas and actually talking about these types of problems. It’s no secret that the show revolves around suicide and I think that that’s something that makes it so special. It talks about very sensitive topics in a way that many people can relate to. Even if someone has never experienced the issues explored in the series, it can open them up to the things that could go on in other people’s lives, and to maybe just be a bit kinder to each other.
6. It’s raw and honest
This links a bit to the last point, I suppose. The series tackles very sensitive topics, and whilst it does so in a somewhat tasteful way, it certainly doesn’t skirt around the gritty details. Without giving away any spoilers, the graphic details of certain situations are shown, and the suffering that the characters go through is always portrayed in a very honest and real way.
7. The cast and characters are diverse
Some people may say this isn’t a reason to like a show, but I beg to differ. The very fact that the characters are diverse in their culture, races, sexualities and even family structures is something that I think is amazing; there’s not enough of it in TV. I loved the fact that there was a range of characters that actually had depth to them; they weren’t walking stereotypes. It feels like a breath of fresh air to watch – actual people who aren’t reduced to their one defining characteristic. If you want to read more about it and don’t mind a few spoilers, this article is a really interesting read.
8. The casting was amazing
Leading on from the last point, this show is a prime example of how “diverse casting” is not mutually exclusive with “choosing the best actor for the role”. Every single character in the series was extremely well portrayed and they were actually all really convincing teenagers – which is something special for high school shows. Most of the cast were in their late teens/early twenties when it was filmed which considering the subject matter I feel was a very wise move. They were all young enough to really know what being a teenager in today’s society is like, but old enough to truly understand and handle the topics explored throughout the series.
9. The characters are three-dimensional
Something really great about this show is that no character is all good or all bad. The characters we are meant to hate have good aspects about them and the characters we are meant to like have fundamental flaws. Because that’s what real people are like. It’s interesting and makes us question what we’re seeing, who we trust, and what we believe. And it’s realistic – the characters automatically become more relatable when they start to seem like real people.
10. Clay is relatable
Clay, the main character whose journey we follow, is a very genuine character. He seems like a person you’d meet in real life, be friends with or maybe even be similar to. Yes, he’s flawed, but that makes him all the more relatable. Okay, so I basically said this all in reason 9, but I wanted to focus more on Clay. The fact that we see it all from his perspective, but still see his flaws, makes it seem all the more realistic, like we’re living through him, like we can really understand what we’d be feeling in his situation. It also made me really think about how no matter how you try to come across, you never know how people really feel about you, or the impact you could have (positive or negative) on someone’s life.
11. It’s not just about the teens
For some reason, I think this is one of the best reasons to watch the show. The series centers around Clay and a group of other teenagers going through some really tough things, but the parents and teachers in the show are almost just as important, if not more. They’re not the standard ‘teen movie’ parents that are either way too involved and overbearing or completely terrible and disinterested in their children’s’ lives. Hannah’s parents are some of the most important characters, and their portrayal really shows them as not only decent parents, but real humans with real problems too. I also think the fact that we are introduced to the parents as ‘real people’ makes it all a lot more interesting. Why don’t they talk to their parents about what’s going on? Or their teachers? It kind of highlights the fact that they are really all just a bunch of confused and scared teenagers going through things the way teenagers probably really would.
12. It’s dramatic without being ridiculous
Okay, so the show is full of melodrama – so many things go wrong in these people’s lives. But not one of them is unrealistic, and they all happen over the space of roughly two years, which makes it a lot easier to believe. Again, the non-linear structure helps with this, as we are shown what we need to see exactly when we need to see it without it all actually happening at the same time.
13. It’s a teen drama that’s not really a teen drama
And finally, reason 13. I’m hoping this reason doesn’t sound too much like reason 12, because they’re sort of similar. What I mean by ‘its not really a teen drama’ is that whilst yes, it’s set in a high-school, it’s not covering cliché ‘teen movie’ problems. It’s not all about relationships and trying to be cool. It’s gritty and honest; they’re all real people. This is one of the reasons the show is so smart, and so successful: It covers really dark topics that people often don’t like to talk about or think about, and puts them in a scenario that is accessible to not only young people, but to pretty much anyone.
Just a note
This post was originally going to be called “13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why is a must-see show” but I decided against it when I read an article called “6 Reasons I’m Not a Fan of ’13 Reasons Why’.” The article made me see the series in a different way, and from a different perspective. Whist some people find comfort in the show, others find it triggering and painful to watch. Personally, as someone who has struggled with mental illness, I find the show to be extremely important, but the article (written by a suicide-attempt survivor) makes some very interesting points that I did find myself agreeing with.
So, as much as I would like to recommend the show to everyone, I can completely understand why some people may not like it, or could even say it’s harmful. I think it’s a show that should be watched with the full knowledge that it is not only a story about suicide, but it’s one that tells the story and circumstances surrounding one (fictional) person’s suicide, and not necessarily every situation; it’s not trying to reduce suicide and depression to this one scenario.
With that all being said, I personally really enjoyed the series and found myself identifying a lot with many of the characters.
So there it is: 13 Reasons why I loved 13 Reasons Why. I really think this show will go down in history, and I’m so glad it came out when it did, it feels very appropriate in today’s society. But again, that’s just my opinion. I can completely see why some people can’t watch or enjoy it, but I personally found it to be a show that I actually took something from. I feel like I’ve learnt something about myself, and about other people from watching it.
If you liked this post, hopefully you’ll go off and binge-watch it all now 🙂
Thanks for reading.