When a book gets adapted into a movie or TV series, it is common to say, “Of course the book was better!” Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” adapted from Jay Asher’s bestselling 2007 novel, is joining the ranks of book-to-TV adaptations that will make you admit that the TV series is way better. It is an addictive and immersive show that tackles a touchy subject in a thoughtful and interesting way.
Last week, Netflix debuted this teen drama, directed and executively produced by Tom McCarthy and Selena Gomez. After a week of showing, the show boasted a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“13 Reasons Why” fleshes out Jay Asher’s well-written novel in a way that allows its cold-hearted high-school environment to become very real while revolving around the death of Hannah Baker, a student who committed suicide. Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay, and Australian newcomer Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, could not have played the characters better.
Hannah Baker recorded a series of cassette tapes explaining thirteen traumatic events related to why she decided to end her life, with each tape representing a person she deemed partly responsible. She then created a system to pass the tapes along to the culprits one by one. The tapes recounted a series of experiences of innocuous youth to bullying and sexual assault.
According to Mental Health Daily, a website which documents any information and updates in the field of mental health, people are most likely driven to suicide when they view their current situation as being completely hopeless, and feel as if they have no way to change things for the better. Common causes of suicide include depression, drug abuse, financial problems, and difficulties with relationships. In Hannah Baker’s situation, the poor girl experienced a package of all of these problems. Hannah lacked an inadequate support system to tackle a number of issues that increasingly built up against her. Although Hannah Baker’s story is fictional, it reflects similar concerns in many real life cases.
The series’s intention is to transfer a message about being kinder to one another and seek help when needed, but some suicide prevention experts said the series could do more harm than good.
The Huffington Post was criticizing the show for its “dangerous” portrayal of suicide.
While a few of the episodes had triggering scenes, it portrayed the truth of what was happening in reality. As a society, we tend to shy away from such hard topics. “13 Reasons Why” is the voice that says, “This is a real problem and it needs to be addressed.”
The series treated the audience like young adults, and not as teenagers. It intensified audiences’ feelings on the disturbing issues in high school. Nothing about this story was polite. Audiences witnessed different scenes of shaming, sexual abuse and self-harm in order to gain awareness of how serious suicide is. The whole issue of suicide is an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but it does happen, so it needs to be addressed. Without confrontation, it gives those suffering no possibility for hope.
High school can be a tough environment since having a bad reputation can actually destroy someone’s life, especially to students who are just learning how to shape their images in the society. No one was kind to Hannah, as they referred to her as the school’s “slut” and, of course, she could not go around and redeem herself to each person. Hannah did not appear to be a human being anymore, but instead she became an object to boys at school. She became an object which they can look at and touch without any consent. Sometimes we forget that teenage brains do not work the way adult brains work. Trauma and pain feels like they are going to last forever. As a result, by having Hannah Baker walk the audience through her tapes, as she retold all the drama she has gone through, and helped the audience understand more of what was going on in a depressed girl’s mind. Hannah’s story not only awakens fellow students, but also parents to pay attention to issues that may be small to them, but could be world-crushing to another. The audience needs to be exposed to scenes that depict real life issues in order to recognize how fast things can turn ugly.
“13 Reasons Why” also encouraged teenagers to seek help when in need. Hannah was an imperfect human being, like us all, as evident in her missed opportunities to say what has happened to her. She pushed away people who cared about her, who could have given her the help she needed. However, we have all made choices not to open up, even though a person was right there asking how we were feeling. It is okay to recognize that Hannah could have opened up more to people, but it was also not her fault for staying quiet. Thus, the TV series reminded audience to have courage and determination to speak out in searching for a second chance.
Suicide should never be an option. It is important to acknowledge what has happened to Hannah Baker in “13 Reasons Why” to prevent suicidal thoughts from sneaking into one’s mind. Everyone deserves a second chance, and sometimes it is us who can play the signature role of proving it.