Teen dramas are not few and far between. Usually, relationships, friendships and fallouts take the spotlight. Not with Netflix's newest arrival, 13 Reasons Why, however. Based on Jay Asher's 2007 book of the same name, it takes on difficult themes that film and TV scarcely focus on, namely mental health and suicide. Despite this tough content, the show (reminiscent of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has proven to be a hit. This may just be a blessing, not only for the producers, but for people worldwide and the awareness of these important issues.
Hannah's Story: 'Old Media'
Student Hannah Baker's story is told in her own words over seven cassette tapes — each side giving a reason to why she ended her life at the age of 17. Each tape is dedicated to a person in her life — an ex boyfriend, a best friend, a fake friend, an enemy. Everyone who made her life hell as she battled to get through high school is documented, and these are the only people the tapes are passed on to.
The use of these cassette tapes and "old media" reflects how times have inevitably changed. Bullying has transitioned into cyber-bullying, the joys of social media have been disadvantaged by trolling, and the ability to escape once you are out of school and behind the shield of your own front door has been ultimately lost.
Yes, the show tackles some heavy themes — most notably suicide, alcoholism, sexual assault, rape and bullying — but this is crucial to the story and people's lives across the globe.
Life, Grief And Tragedy
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I just wanted to take care of Hannah."
Initially, I had no interest in watching the series or reading the book for this exact reason; it would be just too much to take on. The mystery has since been branded by media outlets as "the best show in years" perhaps due this. It is heartbreaking to see what Hannah left behind and the grief of her friend (and our protagonist) Clay, as he apprehensively uncovers the truth and deals with his own affected reality.
It was not only this that sparked emotion for me — a notoriously unemotional person when it comes to film and #TV — it was the relatability. It separates teen angst and the tidal wave that is depression and mental health — something I personally spent years trying to decipher (and still trying to conquer.) Hannah seems to sum up everything felt in those dark moments, giving you a chance to reflect on your own life from the perspective of an outsider looking in. Of course, this isn't the easy weekend binge watch I had been searching for before eventually pressing play, but it has opened my eyes to a few things I didn't expect to experience from yet another teen drama.
Since the release, members of the cast and producer Selena Gomez had semi colons tattooed on their wrists to signify the troubles discussed in the series and faced in aspects of their own lives. It suggests you are more than mental health and the problems you face — something we all need to remember from time to time.
The other issues dealt with in the series are just as important, with each character having their own story. There are no boundaries to difficult topics and there is no holding back — something that is appreciated, as (believe it or not) life usually doesn't hold back, either.
Asking For Help
Speaking of characters, Tony Padilla (pictured right) — Hannah’s confidente — signifies everything a person needs in a friend. He keeps himself to himself, he is calm and rational, and acts almost as a guardian angel to protect everyone else falling apart even though deep down, he is too. He shows the importance of asking for help and being there for someone that really needs it.
The stigma attached to all facets of mental health is diminishing but there is still a long way to go. More shows that tell us that struggling in life is OK would only benefit and educate. We can only hope there will be further seasons of 13 Reasons to kickstart this.
A Part Of Growing Up?
"I don't need your brochure, don't need your scholarship, and I don't need four years of wasted time. I have skills!"
As a teen drama, the show does well. It focuses on the obstacles faced when you are young and the daunting pressure of the future bearing down on you — something we may have all experienced. If the series or book could be taught or recommended in schools, it could definitely pose some pressing questions and raise more awareness for these issues.
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13 Reasons Why shouldn't just fade, moving over for #Netflix's next profitable hit. It should spark difficult, but important, conversations that could ultimately save someone. It may be a difficult watch and have you reeling for hours after viewing, yet it is something not just teens, but everyone, should see. Watch the entire first season on Netflix now or check out the trailer below:
Have you seen the series? What did you think? Sound off in the comments below. We would love to hear some opinions on this.