Being a teenage high school girl in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, shows the hell that the current computer world can bring to those years of being teenagers and in the series no one seems to want to do much about it. This series was adapted from Jay Asher’s best-selling novel, and executive produced by Selena Gomez, Netflix’s latest sure-to-be-binged TV phenomenon takes a cutting look at high-school misogyny, all of it diverted through a mystery narrated by its victim. You see, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) has committed suicide at the beginning of this series, much to the outward shock of her classmates, teachers and counselor as well as to the painful misery of friend Clay Jensen (Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette), who had a not-so-secret crush on her. Far from gone, however, Hannah lives on, through a collection of cassette tapes where she narrates the thirteen reasons why she took her own life.
TAPE RECORDINGS TELL EVERYTHING
Clay Jensen receives the tapes at his front door and as he learns, they come with a strict set of instructions: he must listen to these tapes completely and then pass them on to someone else, and if he fails to do so, a 2nd set of identical tape recordings will be made public. Even if Clay isn’t immediately concerned about that possibility, his peers certainly are, given that Hannah’s from-beyond-the-grave communications contains revelations of a variety of sins against almost everyone she knew. Borrowing an old Walkman from his friend buddy Tony (Christian Navarro), who lives on the other-side of – town and seems to be always hovering in the background of all of Clay’s waking moments as he sets about consuming the cassettes, Each side of every cassette is dedicated to an individual who hurt Hannah is some way – including Clay himself.
As you will see, it does not take very long to understand that everyone is blameworthy in this series. This series represents a persistent culture of sexism and bullying that will probably be recognizable to all girls and should be an eye-opener to all well-adjusted guys. This group is populated by Hannah’s first-kiss boyfriend Justin (Brandon Flynn), his wealthy jock pals Bryce (Justin Prentice), Zach (Ross Butler) and Marcus (Steven Silver), yearbook photographer Tyler (Devin Druid), one-time BFFs Jessica (Alisha Boe) and Alex (Miles Heizer), and newer friend Courtney (Michelle Selene Ang). Along with Clay, they form a group of pre-adults trying to make the struggle that teenager years can bring. The show weaves together this group’s tales by a dual-track narrative in which Clay struggles to get through the tapes that are upsetting and that deal with people who are quite eager to protect their secrets –inserted with Hannah’s traumatic experiences and Clay’s own memories of the incidents.
SLOW-BURN TO BOMBSHELLS
Cleverly interlacing past and present, the thirteen episodes are a slow-burn building toward ever-more-awful bombshells that, eventually, exposes both individuals’ and communities’ measurements for selfishness and cruelty. That construction is aided by sharp writing showing teens’ alternate between self-disapproving, deceiving and disrespectful voices, as well as by strong, sturdy direction. Director Tom McCarthy brings the investigative-procedural lucidity of his Oscar-winning Spotlight to the first two chapters, while Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin) brings a touch of hallucinatory horror to his mid-season donations, especially once Hannah’s memoirs begin to deeply affect Clay’s ideas about himself.
REVEALING TOO MUCH
I fear that I am revealing too much in this movie review so I will just advise every teenager or parents to a teenager to watch this series. It has information that every person has probably felt in their teenage years but for many, the computer world did not also spread rumors all over Facebook. And it is not all about sexual abuse – it is in more ways about bullying which the reader has probably felt in some form or another during these difficult years of becoming an adult.
13 Reasons Why expands its plot to focus more on Hannah’s guidance counselor Mr. Porter (Derek Luke) and her grieving parents (Kate Walsh and Brian D’Arcy), who run a local pharmacy and are suing the school for failing to properly identify the bullying that drove her to suicide – litigation that also concerns Clay’s mom, who’s defending the school in the suit.
This is a cleverly written drama that I highly recommend to anyone who can easily set aside a week-end as it is addictive. I watched it day and night until I finished the entire series.