’13 Reasons Why’ review: ‘A new look at cumulative humiliations’

Alexandria Mansfield, News Editor, A.M.Mansfield@iup.edu

Katherine Langford, left, and Alisha Boe play frenemies in the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why." (Beth Dubber/Netflix)

This article contains opinion.

If you were an avid teen fiction reader in 2011, you may remember a little novel Jay Asher wrote called “13 Reasons Why.”

The book follows the life and death of high school student Hannah Baker, who left behind a series of cassette tapes that explain how each person on the tapes drove her to commit suicide.

Although the show premiered on Netflix just last Friday, that was plenty of time for many people to binge the 13-episode first season of this suspenseful series, despite each episode lasting an hour.

The plot and dialogue primarily stick to Asher’s original work, following the outsider protagonist Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he tries to piece together his place in Hannah’s (Katherine Langford) life and work through his feelings about his dead friend, coworker and crush.

Amid jumps forward and backward in time, perspectives change to revolve around jock culture, sexuality, responsibility, shaming, depression, abuse, sexual assault and death.

Even while watching, you can’t help but laugh and fall in love during Hannah’s happiest moments. It’s difficult not to have a glimmer of hope that she can fight through the worst parts of life and navigate her way to a happier ending, even though we all know what really happens.

Likewise, it’s hard not to wonder how any of us would act in the given situations. It’s difficult to not get teary-eyed when the inevitable happens.

Speculation about this book-to-screen adaptation lasted for a few years, as it was published in 2007 and didn’t receive its big break until 10 years later. It bounced between being made for the big screen or television, but the show was eventually picked up by Netflix, Paramount Television and executive producers Selena Gomez, Joy Gorman, Brian Yorkey and Kristel Laiblin.

Yorkey, a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, also wrote the show’s script, while Oscar winner Tom McCarthy, who directed “Spotlight,” was also involved in the project.

In a genre that regularly provides new faces but often the same old stories, a truly captivating and emotionally charged tale comes through in the leading characters and the palpable feelings and authenticity they face.

As everyone knows, high school can provide some of the best and worst memories for people, even for the popular kids who seem to be breezing through, or the wallflowers who are just dying to get out.

The series is a new look at the cumulative humiliations and pain we too often ignore until it’s too late.

It demonstrates, in the most gripping way, every reason that could push a 17-year-old girl to kill herself.