13 reasons to watch

Katherine Langford plays Hannah in the new Netflix series, "13 Reasons Why" based on the book by Jay Asher.

“13 Reasons Why” is the new Netflix original series that has the whole nation talking. Based on Jay Asher’s book, published in 2007, the show follows the lives of high schoolers dealing with the recent suicide of a classmate and for some, a close friend.

The show never turns its focus away from the controversial topics of bullying, depression, sexual assault and suicide, which has made it one of the best representations of the issues teenagers face today. Here are 13 reasons why you should join the trend.

1. First things first, READ the book.

2. This story isn’t a light-hearted comedy, but instead takes on the serious topic of teenage suicide. Asher does an amazing job of showing what the modern American teenager is like and what problems, even hidden ones, a person can experience daily.

3. Hannah Baker is one of the main characters of the story, and like many teenagers she experiences depression. This is one of the important themes portrayed in both the book and show. Our society is known for hushing any discussion about teenagers with depression, but this show makes it a prominent issue that needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

4. Selena Gomez was first cast as Hannah Baker in 2011, before the role was given to  Katherine Langford. The reasoning behind the switch for Gomez, now a producer, was because she didn’t want her recognizable face to take away from the importance of the story.

Therefore, because of the cast’s new-to-Hollywood faces, the show’s story takes precedence, and anyone can relate to any of the characters.

5. The book doesn’t specify the race or ethnicity of every character, but the show’s cast is incredibly diverse. This breathes life into the story and allows for viewers of all backgrounds to connect with Hannah Baker or other cast members.

6. When watching “13 Reasons Why,” you may get lost in the story as the characters begin to feel like your real-life classmates. The constant drama between dating, friends and cliques brings the halls of Liberty High to life.

7. Due to today’s technology, we can witness the attacks of cyberbullying without even batting an eye. Hannah Baker is bullied throughout the story and feels like she has no way to escape the constant criticism because of society’s normalization of social media attacks. “13 Reasons Why” couldn’t have come at a better time to bring about the conversation of cyberbullying, and the legislation or power people may need in order to fight it, which is shown through Hannah Baker’s parents’ lawsuit in the show.

8. The whole point of the story is that Hannah Baker records her reasons for suicide on tapes, not MP3 files. The book was published in 2007, which would put tape recorders way out of the decade’s trends. Asher did this intentionally, as if to make the creation and listening of the tapes much more intimate, even for the readers of the book.

9. The show’s made up of 13 episodes, which illustrates one tape per episode. Each tape didn’t need its own hour-long episode, but to account for all the extra time, Netflix had to put in a lot of backstory for each character. This creates a dragging middle, but sure makes up for the lag at the end.

10. Even with the many plots and subplots in the show, the story doesn’t slow down. It’s become harder to find shows that can keep pace with viewers’ expectations, which “13 Reasons Why” does. The extra bits from each character throughout the show give perspectives from all angles, instead of just the stories on tape. Therefore, as a viewer, you’re tossed into the drama of several different lives that mix with one another, and aren’t given the single story of only Hannah Baker, which makes for a well-developed show.

11. Another conversation Asher brings up in his story is on sexual assault. There are two rape scenes that take place, both of which affect Hannah Baker enough to consider suicide. This is an important part of the story because many teenagers, especially when going to college, may not know how to deal with these issues. Asher’s story shows that it can happen to anyone, and that covering it up isn’t always the best option.

12. In the book, Hannah Baker’s death isn’t defined, which gave the show’s writers the freedom to choose how she dies. While in the bathtub, Hannah Baker cuts her wrists. This wasn’t an easy scene to watch, especially with headphones in. The writers knew that her death would be hard to watch, and didn’t cover up any of the heart-wrenching pain that comes with committing suicide. This shows to those watching that suicide is a serious topic that shouldn’t be washed over, especially in mainstream television.

13. The story isn’t over. Although Asher’s book ends with Hannah Baker’s suicide, the Netflix show doesn’t. Therefore, there could be a lot more coming than just the death of Hannah Baker, which gives meaning to all of the subplots between characters that you don’t meet in the book.

Although “13 Reasons Why” might be the hardest show to sit through because of its darkness, it’s definitely worth it. This story brings light to viewers that they’re not alone in the world, especially when suffering. Also, it shows that what those around us do, they may not know that what they do can affect someone so much. As you watch, you gain insight on the lives of others that can be represented to those around you today.

Maddelynne Parker is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Maddelynne at parkermn@dukes.jmu.edu.

Maddelynne Parker is a senior writer in her third year working for The Breeze. She loves to write album reviews, artist features and really anything that involves music. Her goal in life is to be published by NME and Spin magazine.