There are different forms of death, and although we say we figuratively die, bereavement is too strong as it tastes as dark as coffee in a wake, yet as cold as the coffins purifying the dead. Heavy yet compelling—the Netflix series adaptation of the novel 13 Reasons Why written by Brian Yorkey and produced by Selena Gomez flips the other side of our emotional coin, addressing the details behind the suicide of 17-year-old high school student Hannah Baker and the reasons for her decision. Listen with your eyes and feel with your ears as we play the tapes in your mind.
Tape 1: Tapes
It was meant to be rewound, passed, and listened to. With its rolling tapes, words—or rather stories—are established, producing a sheer amount of guilt, shame, and mystery. The tapes’ vitality draw the entire storyline to its unique core—reflecting profound vulnerability depicted by Hannah Baker from her seamless yet intricate waves of emotion. Her soothing, almost calm, voice crafts the tapes and its underlying grim. Hannah’s casual and cool delivery of the suicide tapes also makes for a somewhat disturbing depiction—especially considering that 13 Reasons Why is a coming-of-age story that deals with grave issues.
Tape 2: Plot
Although changes were made to adjust the story jumping from page to screen, the plot still manages to salvage the entanglement of the characters’ stories—despite the book being a lot simpler and shorter than the adaptation. Those who haven’t read the book will be slightly bewildered, even though spoilers have been rampant even way before its initial release.
With the sensitive atmosphere of the series, its approach to suicide, depression, and rape are noticeably complex and triggering—even more so in the visual level. Nevertheless, the producers see to it that the impact is universal, flicking open a new bulb of understanding, especially in the flagship of underrated and often misinterpreted societal issues.
Tape 3: Characters
Praise rains down on the actors that perfectly harmonize their take on the story. Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker is evocative, mastering the perfect blend of emotions and intensity diving the audiences into the roller-coaster series of relatability and, of course, dismantled and unrecognizable feelings. On the other hand, Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen builds another presence for Clay himself. Bringing life in every episode, Dylan embodies the striking vision of Clay’s emotions through his flexible acting and clear character development. Extending more than just supporting characters, minor role actors shine bright as well for the show’s chemistry with a gleaming passion to deliver the message the show intends to give.
Tape 4: Beyond the reasons
Apart from the twisted storyline revealing the hidden events behind Hannah’s death, the show addresses several sensitive issues—those we often tend to shy away from. Ranging from distinct perspectives, the snowball effect of each episode unveils pertinent issues that seek awareness in today’s society. An example of this is of how sexual assault and rape can bring shame on top of the pain, making it even harder for victims to speak out. The effect of cyberbullying also proves the isolating power that social media holds. Aside from this, the issue of slut shaming also takes center stage, as more and more young women are being treated as objects and not as human beings—as if what they choose to do with their bodies defines who they area as person. This is strongly seen from the lack of emotional education that most school systems have. Above all, the show presses on the importance of taking serious actions toward the warning signs and symptoms of suicidal tendencies.
Tape 5: Ending
If you’ve read the book, you’ve probably noticed how different the ending was from the series. The director and producers of the show were convinced that the series must end with how Hannah ends her life to justify the disturbing scenes of the show. The overall message that appeals to teenagers alike is to figure out why someone takes away their own life and how to prevent it from happening to others. As viewers carefully watch the disgrace and agony afflicted with the show, the truth is, most of us just ignore these reasons until we can’t look away from it anymore. Although the show itself has its share of flaws and imperfections, it can become a platform for us to understand the silent suffering we all often fail to notice—and in a lot of ways it already has.