TV Show Review: “13 Reasons Why” (NETFLIX)

~ Warning! Spoilers! My Thoughts on “13 Reasons Why” ~

REVIEW / THOUGHTS

By now, everyone has either seen or heard of “13 Reasons Why”. Therefore, there is no need for a summary. I was unsure at first if I wanted to watch it or not. It didn’t seem like something I could stomach, and I did read up on its controversial points beforehand. However, the hype and my brother got to me. I originally wanted to read the book before watching the show, but my brother was playing it on Netflix when he came home from school and I joined him. Side note: now that I have finished the show, I no longer want to read the book since I heard that the TV show goes into much greater detail. People who have read the book and seen the show, what are your thoughts? Should I still check the book out?

Anyways, I did not binge watch the show, I took my time with it. I want to start off by saying that I do think this show was created with good intentions. It is extremely important to start the conversation going especially with teenagers about suicide, bullying, and rape. I’m glad if this show started the conversation for the people who needed it. With that said, there are a lot of articles out there which points out the show’s problematic aspects. I hope people will spend some time reading those articles as well. Frankly, I am not a professional or educated on the issues of mental health / depression, so I think it is best for me not to comment on that and let the articles that are already published speak for themselves. So, everyone, please go reads those articles and form your own well rounded / educated opinion.

I don’t want to comment too much on the main plot(s) because I don’t think I will be able to articulate myself well. I have some strong opinions that stray from the mainstream love this show receives. Therefore, this review will focus more on my thoughts about the characters. I was a teenager when cyberbullying wasn’t even coined yet. It is hard for me to understand what teenagers are going through now especially having to grow up alongside social media. However, I genuinely hope that every teenager out there will listen when I say that middle and high school isn’t forever and that there is a bright future out there. If you are curious as to how I feel about certain plot points, you can ask me.

Before I start discussing the characters, I want to applaud the diversity of this show in cast and in characters. This is something viewers need to see more of especially in shows which want to portray ‘real’ life.

Alright, the first character I would like to discuss is Justin. It’s clear why Bryce is evil. It’s even obvious why Courtney is villainous. However, I can see why some people may want to defend Justin, but it’s not right. Yes, he has a terrible family life, and I feel bad for him. However, allowing and covering up for a rapist makes you equally as bad. Come on, that’s your girlfriend who you supposedly love so much. How can a person tell someone else that they love them but then sit back and watch them get raped and proceed to lie to their face every day, watching them break into tiny pieces? Some may say this is harsh, but I think it’s true: covering up for a rapist is just as bad as raping.

I know everyone hopes that Bryce has what is coming to him in season two, but I think if this show wants to portray real life… Nothing bad will happen to Bryce. It’s impossible because it’s a show and justice will be served one way or another. However, in light of recent news, it’s been proven over and over again where a wealthy, white, athlete “with so much going for them” rapes someone and gets away with it (even if there is evidence). That’s the cold hard truth. If in the next season, Bryce’s actions going unpunished, I think this could spawn a very necessary conversation especially about the legal system.

Clearly, Country is super manipulative and conniving. Yet, she most likely will be quite successful after graduation. She has the personality to be really friendly while backstabbing you all at the same time without feeling bad all the while maintaining a flawless reputation. That’s the key: not feeling bad. Truthfully, I think the casting and depiction of this character could have been better, but I still get her purpose in this story. Her comments at Monet’s showed off her real deadly, hidden claws.

There were two parts which tore at me up. Before I get into those, I have to confess that I did skip the suicide scene. It was too much for me. I saw her touching the razor blade in front of the mirror and immediately could no longer stomach it. Since I didn’t watch that scene, I have no ability to comment on it. Instead, I will mention the two scenes which struck a chord with me. The freshest one was when Jessica was about to share what happened to her with her father. She starts off with a shaky, “Daddy,” and my heart just breaks. I can’t even phantom how her father, how her daddy, can even comprehend what happened to his little girl. Going through that and having to remember it and talk about it is very difficult. THE BED is still there!! I was so relieved when Jessica removed the alcohol bottles from under her bed and had that chat with Clay. I hope she can continue living strong. I was also happy to see Clay come to the conclusion that when it comes to rape or any other sort of trauma, it is the victim/survivor who gets to decide if they are ready to share their experience or not.

Another scene that got to me was Clay opening up to Jeff’s parents about being mad at Jeff for dying. My heart broke. I can just imagine that heavy burden of being angry at someone you care about who suddenly passed away and you being the last person who saw them. Jeff was a good friend to Clay and probably the only few good characters in this show along with Tony.

The show ends with Clay showing compassion to an old friend, Skye, who he fell out of contact with and is self-harming. I think the show wants to tell viewers to be kind to one another. One nice act can go a long way. Yet, at the same time, in the scene where Tyler removes Alex’s photo from his ‘reasons why’, viewers clearly see Clay’s photo up there in the corner. Revenge is never the answer. I speculated that the show would end with Tyler shooting up the school because of how badly bullied he was. Montgomery, with no story, only existed to be a bully especially to bully Tyler. Yes, Tyler is a stalker, but he is also a kid who does not know how to socialize with others. I really don’t understand why his parents never called the police after having their window smashed over and over again. When I learned that both Justin and Tyler came into possession of a gun and one student attempts suicide, I thought it would be Tyler. But when I found out it was Alex, I was sad and watching ‘Beyond the Reasons’… I guess the signs were there.

The pacing of the show did bug me at times. I found it a bit slow in the beginning. Then it just punches you over and over again in the last final episodes. The slow beginning isn’t really a big deal though. What I didn’t like was how Mrs. Baker supposedly went through Hannah’s stuff multiple times, but right before the subpoenas, she finds the important note which connects them to the tapes. That was some Hollywood magic right there. It was quite sad for me to watch from Hannah’s parents’ point of view. Her loving parents couldn’t see that their daughter was dying on the inside. Her parents particularly her mother was searching so hard to find a reason, a note, or someone / something to blame. Yet, probably deep down, they wish they could have seen it and done more for their daughter before she committed suicide.

I think another problem I have with this show is how absent a lot of the parents are. Bryce’s parents are never around. Jessica’s parents are always away. Clay’s parents try but are unsure. I know that teenagers will act out and everything, but it’s sad to see this show not present what a supportive family environment could look like.

One of the best things about the show was the conclusion: ‘Beyond the Reasons’. It presented important information and linked viewers to resources out there. I hope everyone who is or has ever contemplative self-harm or suicide will reach out and get help. Suicide isn’t ever an option. There can be a light in the dark.

I wish I knew more about mental illness to comment on it in a professional and academic way, but I don’t. I know that the show will have a second season, and I hope it will also address the mental illness side more. I think I can see where the second season might go. I would like to know more about Tyler and Justin especially since they are carrying guns. However, one season is enough for me. When the second season comes out, I don’t think I will be watching.

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