13 Reasons Why Transcends Ratings


One of my co-workers recommended I watch 13 Reasons Why, one of the newest series on Netflix and an adaptation of the 2007 YA novel by Jay Asher. He told me how good it was. Chilling was the word he used. I thought it sounded like a cool concept so I thought I’d give it a try. I watched the first episode and it was sort of letdown. I felt like if it had been done in the vein of Making a Murderer, it would’ve been so much better, like a real documentary. I thought it was just another teen drama with poorly written characters and bad dialogue. The characters were unbelievable to me. I obviously was not the demographic for this show. I’m a 41 year old single male with no kids of my own. Anyone I knew who enjoyed the show were 30 years old or younger or if they were closer to my age, they had kids that were in high school and going through the same stuff the characters on the show were.

So I watched the first episode, after that I didn’t have any immediate plans to continue the show for a while. Eventually, during a day off in which I didn’t have much going on I thought I’ll start up that show again and just plow my way through it. I’ll finish what I started. So I watched episodes 2-4 in one day, my opinion didn’t really improve much. I figured I’d watch one episode a day until I finished. I ended up watching two episodes a night until I finished the series which took me about five days. It got increasingly better. I’m a creative writing student, so the entire time I’m watching I’m nitpicking about the writing quality. I complained about the characters not being believable. Hannah sounds a little too cheery and smart to commit suicide. The one I liked to harp on the most was a text sent from one character to another, “Dude, are you coming?” I thought no teenager, let alone anyone period, would send a text using proper punctuation. This show isn’t horrible, but it’s not great either. It had occurred to me that 13 Reasons Why is the My So-Called Life of the Millenial generation, which became a literal statement when Wilson Cruz made an appearance.

When My So-Called Life debuted for its one and only season, I was 19 and a year removed from high school. I could totally relate to the subject matter. When I first started watching 13 Reasons, I couldn’t relate at all, but it goes beyond that. I am human therefore I can relate when another person needs help or I need help. Yea the show is not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Everyday my co-worker asked what rating I would give the show. It started out at a 4, by the end I was at a 7-7.5. Only because it took a little while for it to get going.

Usually I like shows that draw me in right away. Like Game of Thrones or House of Cards. It’s exactly why I gave up on The Expanse after episode 3. He told me by episode 8 it gets really good. Anyway, the point of the series isn’t to be a Shakespearian tragedy like I think everything should be. It’s to highlight a mounting problem in today’s high school environment. A situation I’m 20 years + removed from, and do not miss. Yes high school sucks. We all know that. Yes, I was picked on and teased. Not every year but it happened. But I didn’t have to deal with the social media aspect of it. When I left school at 2pm every day I was safe.

Here are my ups and downs. Clay, who reminded me of myself at times, annoyed me. Yes, he was good kid but…okay I’m going to nitpick just to show my failings. Why did it take him so long to listen to those tapes? Just pop them in and go. Why did Hannah do this, why did Hannah do that? Why did Hannah put herself in those situations? Oh yea…I’m 41. Never mind Eric just watch and let it play out. Things have changed in the past 20 something years. Wow kids swear a lot these days! That is the point of the show. To make people like me realize that high school is tough, being a teenager is tough. And kids that experience the things that Hannah experienced have a place to turn to when they think suicide is the only option. It’s never an option. When I was 21 it had crossed my mind. But I was not in the position Hannah was. A person has to feel so lost as to even consider suicide. I wasn’t lost I was feeling self-pity.

I didn’t see the hot tub scene in episode 12 coming. I knew then that’s what broke Hannah. I always feel like the best forms of “entertainment” should make a person feel something. Shock. Anger. Sadness. Joy. I felt shock, I felt hurt, I felt angry. Hannah felt nothing. The blank stare on her face was all we needed to see. Hannah why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you fight him off? Why? You gave up so easy! Why were you even there? These are the questioned being asked by an outsider. Someone who has never and probably will never experience something Hannah Baker did. And I’m an asshole for asking it.

A detailed review of this show isn’t the point. This series was obviously created for more reasons than just ratings or approval. It was to make us see. To open our eyes. Stuff like this really happens and it’s so not okay. These people need help and we need to help them. Talk to them. Make sure they know they’re not alone. I feel extremely unqualified to talk about this, but I am. No one is qualified, I don’t care if you have a PhD in psychology, We’re all human. We’re all imperfect.

The “scene” in the last episode is hard to watch. I couldn’t. I got up and walked away. I actually felt a little light headed. I appreciated the need to show it however. There is a 30 minute behind the scenes video after the last episode which I highly recommend. If you’re one of those parents that are upset at this show for depicting suicide as an option for your teen then you should watch this with them. I won’t go into to theory territory because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. All I will say is I’ve never felt the need to write out my thoughts about something as much as I needed to after finishing 13 Reasons Why. I actually sat down to balance my checkbook, and then this happened. My thoughts are raw and pure. Sort of like the poems Hannah wrote in her diary.

Take them for what they are. At the very least Thirteen Reasons Why succeeded in starting a conversation. It succeeded in making us think.