I watched Netflix’s new series, “13 Reasons Why,” so you don’t have to.
“13 Reasons Why,” based on the novel by Jay Asher, details the aftermath of high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide. Hannah leaves 13 tapes to 13 people, which tell these people how their actions caused her to kill herself. Her fellow classmate, Clay Jensen, is a subject of one of the tapes and takes it upon himself to investigate the suicide. The film is garnering lots of attention, especially through Facebook memes, but regardless, here’s why you shouldn’t bother watching it.
- The timeline can get super confusing. Large portions of the show take place in the past, when Hannah was dead, but sometimes the transition from past to present can be indistinguishable, especially at the times when Clay is imagining Hannah’s voice or face. Some viewers believe, as detailed by Seventeen, that Clay’s recurring head wounds are the show’s way of distinguishing timelines. This can still be confusing, as sometimes the viewer has more important pieces of action to watch than Clay’s forehead.
- The teenage house parties don’t make sense. There are always a million people there, no one’s parents are ever even a vague concern and kids are OK with their house being trashed. Somehow Hannah threw a raging house party before she knew anyone besides two people in town, and of those two, we only know how she met Clay. Why is everyone coming to her party? Why is everyone’s house ridiculously large?
- Hannah’s mental health is never actually discussed. The circumstances behind her suicide appear to the viewer to be mostly caused by outside people. That shouldn’t be entirely the case. While outside factors may contribute, Hannah’s depression would be an internal circumstance that the show should acknowledge if it wants to adequately address teen suicide.
- Clay is insufferable. While he’s investigating the circumstances of Hannah’s death, he constantly makes her life and death about himself, acting as if he was the only person who could have possibly saved her, even though 12 other people also have tapes. I really enjoyed when he got repeatedly punched, though.
- Every single parent in the show is basically the same. The parents in the show don’t understand their children, and their efforts to do so are portrayed as annoying and misguided. Many teenagers may feel that their parents don’t understand them, but this isn’t the most helpful or original thing to demonstrate in a show aimed at teenagers.
- Tony basically exists to be a plot device. Eventually we learn about his motivations, but that doesn’t explain why he’s somehow conveniently everywhere. He could be responsible for the tapes without somehow being the magic glue that holds the entire plot together and yet he is.
- Hannah is a “manic pixie dream girl.” TV Tropes describes this character in an article of the same name, “She’s inexplicably obsessed with our stuffed-shirt hero, on whom she will focus her kuh-razy antics until he learns to live freely and love madly.” This accurately describes Hannah’s post-mortem behavior and messages to Clay, and makes her death about him.
- “13 Reasons Why” subscribes to the stereotype of ‘suicide as revenge.’ Hannah kills herself partially to get revenge on 13 other people and punishes them through the tapes. Her suicide is framed based on their actions and is used to make them guilty.
- The graphic scenes in the show are too long and really distressing. The details of the scenes themselves are extreme spoilers – if you do still want to watch the show – but they’re very long and uncomfortable to watch. It would be one thing if they were short and uncomfortable to watch, but instead they’re so lengthy that I found myself leaving my laptop to take a break instead of watching.
- The actors playing the teenagers are too old to actually look like teenagers. Dylan Minnette, the actor who plays Clay Jensen, is only 20, as is Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). But this isn’t true for the other actors – Tony (Christian Navarro) is 25, Justin (Brandon Flynn) is 24 and Bryce (Justin Prentice) is 23. Alex, supposedly a high school underclassman, is played by 22-year-old Miles Heizer. When all of the actors in the show are obviously older than high school students, it removes the viewer from the experience of watching the show. I found myself thinking “these people are clearly too old to be high school students” more than once. Putting grown adults in varsity jackets doesn’t make them look any more like high school students; it makes them look weird.
- All of the male actors in the show look similar. Most of the male characters are brown-haired white men – I couldn’t tell Justin, Josh or Bryce apart. This makes watching “Thirteen Reasons Why” difficult when you’re trying to keep complicated plot lines as straight as possible. One of these boys could definitely have a different hair color or wear something other than a varsity jacket.
- The characters aren’t well developed. Even Clay doesn’t feel fully fleshed out and he is one of the main characters. We don’t know how Clay exists outside of his relationship with Hannah and her death, and rather than being a character on his own, he feels more like a tool through which the viewer can hear the mystery.
- There are better shows about teenagers and mental health on Netflix. If you want to see a show that deals with similar issues as “13 Reasons Why,” try “Skins,” “The Get Down,” or even “Degrassi.” They’re honestly a better use of your time.