*Warning: This review contains mentions of suicide, self harm, and sexual assault.
Whether you’re talking with friends or browsing Netflix to find something to watch, it’s impossible to avoid the new hit series 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix original based off of Jay Asher’s young adult novel of the same name. 13 Reasons Why tells the story of high schooler Hannah Baker and the events leading to her tragic suicide. On the day it came out, I woke up at 5:45 a.m. in order to binge-watch it all on the same day. I only got up three times, once to use the restroom and twice to grab a quick snack. Honestly, it was completely worth it. With its captivating storyline, dynamic characters, and inspiring messages, this breakthrough series is one of the most important televised works of our current time.
The show takes a direct route of telling the story. Hannah Baker records her account of each person responsible for her suicide in the form of cassette tapes, which she sends off before she dies with clear instructions to pass them on. The first episode introduces the tapes to protagonist Clay Jensen, and starts with Hannah’s first reason. From there, every episode is a different tape. Although a few tapes jump around in time, the majority of the episodes are in direct chronological order, making the show easy to follow and understand.
One thing that made this show so effective was the acting. Obviously, hired professional actors should be talented, but this was something else. The actors connected to their characters so well, and no emotion on screen seemed fake at all. Watching the show, you feel like you’re not watching characters. You feel like you’re watching real people, people that you know and care about. This pulls at the heartstrings and makes the experience so much more meaningful. After watching it, I felt like I legitimately missed Hannah Baker, and if that’s not an example of effective acting, I don’t know what is.
Of course, a show centered around a suicide is bound to receive criticism. Many have chided the show on being too graphic, as there are multiple extremely graphic rape scenes, and the Hannah’s suicide is completely shown in a particularly gory way. Despite advisory warnings appearing at the beginning of these episodes, some people continue on, unaware of just how graphic these scenes are. However, I believe these scenes are necessary. The show’s aim is to be as real as possible- to make the watcher feel the pain the characters are feeling. In order to achieve that, these hard scenes must be shown as they happened.
All in all, 13 Reasons Why is an incredible show that brings up taboo topics that are often avoided. Due to graphic scenes, people who may be uncomfortable with the content should avoid this show to preserve their own mental health. However, if you can handle the emotions that will come with 13 Reasons Why, it is definitely worth watching.
Sensitivity Rating: PG-16 for graphic suicide, self-harm, and sexual assault