“13 Reasons Why” starts controversial yet important discussions among students


Image: Courtesy of Netflix

The controversial new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” follows a set of tapes left by high school student Hannah Baker explaining the reasons behind her suicide. Clay Jensen, a high school student heartbroken over the suicide of his classmate Hannah Baker, listens to the 13 tapes she left behind.

Meg Oldham, Contributing Writer

Campus is buzzing with talk about the new Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why.”

Based on a 2007 novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why depicts the story of Hannah Baker, a 17 year old girl who committed suicide and left behind 13 tapes, each directed towards a different person. The series was produced in part by singer and actress Selena Gomez.

Viewers travel back and forth through time, learning all of the secrets and rumors that plagued Hannah’s last few years and watching the impact of her death unfold among the 13 tape recipients.

The show handles the controversial topics of suicide and rape in a sensitive manner, yet still communicates the ugliness and severity of the situations.

Cameras were kept on faces just a few seconds too long for comfort. Scenes were kept quiet as opposed to being drowned out by music to expose the tension. There was even a change of lighting that signified the setting of the scene, with vibrant, warm colors used to signify the time while Hannah was alive and duller, cooler colors to portray the gloom after her death.

Writers created an authentic high school atmosphere by utilizing a vocabulary that is realistic for an average 17 year old. The students in the show do not have the cleanest, most polished language. It is even downright vulgar at times, but it shows the need for rebellion that many high school students experience.

Katherine Langford, the Australian actress who played Hannah Baker, successfully portrayed the struggling yet hopeful teenager who was easy as a viewer to root for. Her American accent should also be commended, as it was extremely convincing.

Perhaps the most outstanding performance of the series was put on by Brandon Flynn, as Liberty High athlete Justin Foley. The character starts off the season seen as a cocky popular kid who runs the school. As the series grows, so do Foley’s struggles. Flynn brings a truth to not only the hardships that he faces at home, but also the aftermath of his mistakes, showing that he is much more helpless than anyone knows.

The rapidly unfolding plotline and easily attachable characters in “13 Reasons Why” has led to an easily bingeable series. Mercer freshman Kiana Spinola finished the show in a short five days.

She said that, though it has received mixed reviews, “13 Reasons Why” is important because it is starting a conversation among young people about suicide and rape.

“I know there’s been a lot of arguing over Twitter and social media about whether or not what Hannah did was right,” Spinola said. “But honestly I think that it’s just good that people are talking about it at all, because it’s really something . . . that shouldn’t be kept hush-hush when it’s so common with teens nowadays.”

“13 Reasons Why” has had a massive social media presence since its release. There are discussions about Hannah’s intentions, the actions of her peers, and even a few conspiracies involving the possibility of a second season, taking the script away from the original novel.

Regardless, “13 Reasons Why” is, and will likely stay, an important watch for young people to bring forth awareness for the issues at hand. The show is only 13 episodes long, so if you haven’t started it yet, open up Netflix and immerse yourself in the Hannah Baker’s world. You may find it to be very similar to ours.