If you haven’t heard of Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. The aptly numbered 13-part series tells the story of 17 year old Hannah Baker; a teenage girl who has committed suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes directed at 13 different people, telling them how they contributed to her suicide. Each person must listen to the tapes in consecutive order and not pass them on until they have listened to each one.
The series is based on the Young Adult novel by Jay Asher, yet somehow manages to be embarrassingly out of touch with teenagers. In what world do 17 year olds say ‘FML Forever’ as a friendship catchphrase? Try lowering your age demographic to 7 year olds if you want this to resonate. Not to mention Hannah’s cheesy one-liners: “Once again you and the point are complete strangers” she sasses at Clay, in a laughably out of place Wednesday Adams-ridden tone. Its moments like this when I really can’t help but agree with characters who say that Hannah was a drama Queen.
The series manages to be more of a ‘tour de fail’ than a ‘tour de force’ as it tries to tackle a number of contentious issues such as voyeurism, bullying, rape, sexuality, addiction, suicide, and gun violence. This sickly concoction of tragic topics leaves little room to give each one the attention it deserves and leaves the viewer feeling unsatisfied. The main criticism I have is that the main issue -that of suicide – is robbed of its complexity. The show is based on the premise that other people’s actions can be the cause for suicide and ergo if you are nice to people they won’t have any reason to commit suicide. This message is of course reductive, and untrue. It seems somewhat beyond belief that the show gives not even one nod to mental illness or the word depression.
Indeed, some mental health charities have warned about the show’s misrepresentation of suicide and some schools have even sent letters home warning parents not to let their children watch it. Despite this, the series has worryingly still proven to be hugely popular. Ultimately, 13 Reasons Why falls at the first hurdle because of its simplistic portrayal of suicide and this poor execution of its primary concern makes it a no go for me in terms of TV viewing.