Netflix Original series, 13 Reasons Why, stresses mental health awareness in high schools

By Jesika Islam || Arts & Leisure Editor

Photo courtesy of indiewire.com

Over this past weekend Netflix released its newest original series produced by singer and actress Selena Gomez, Thirteen Reasons Why. Thirteen Reasons Why is an adaption of the popular young adult novel by the same name. It took me less than thirteen hours to binge-watch the entire series and am currently in the process of re-watching it a second time.

Over the last year, Netflix has released an abundance of new, original series and subscription rates have resultantly skyrocketed. Netflix has particularly excelled at producing high-quality series adaptations of books. The sit also recently released its adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which immediately became popular. The book series was written by Lemony Snicket, about orphaned siblings that are trying to find their new home while simultaneously solving the murder of their parents and avoiding their treacherous relative, Count Olaf. Netflix has shown itself capable of doing what movies and made-for-TV shows cannot do, they are allot the right amount of time necessary to translate a book into a show. For example, with A Series of Unfortunate Events, the movie only allowed half an hour per book, for the first three books. For a thoroughly detailed book series, this was not enough time to develop the plot and provide imperative explanations on the big screen. But with made-for-TV shows like Pretty Little Liars the show strayed far from the series and added parts to keep the show on air for longer. 

The Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, allots two hour long episodes per book, exactly about the time each book took me to read. Aside from Neil Patrick Harris’ perfectly strange and strangely perfect performance of Count Olaf, the show took its time to build the unfortunate atmosphere, gloom, and doom that the movie failed to create. So when I found out that Thirteen Reasons Why was being turned into a Netflix series, I was really excited.

For those who are unfamiliar with the book, the story revolves around the circumstances that led to the death of Hannah Baker played by Katherine Longford. The story starts when Clay Jensen, portrayed by Dylan Minnette, receives the tapes that Hannah recorded to explain the thirteen reasons, and the thirteen people, that led to Hannah’s untimely death. The Netflix show does an unbelievable job capturing the angst, depression, loneliness, and all that it feels like to be in high school.

The story is not without its faults, however. While some of the characters are flatter than others, some of them are just entirely unrelatable. However, the show does help illuminate how serious mental health issues are, especially during the awkward and sometimes depressing developmental stage that occurs in high school. High schoolers are often considered melodramatic and short-sighted, and therefore the seriousness of their issues can often go unnoticed or ignored by friends, parents and even those that are supposed to help, guidance counselors. The show reminds the audience of the helplessness that high schoolers sometimes feel, that sometimes it all is too much, and the mental health problems that can make this stage additionally difficult. That being said, the show does not glorify suicide nor does it depict depression as glamorous in any way. The show clearly wants to send the message that no one should resort to that route. Thirteen Reasons Why simply reminds us of the repercussions of our actions, when we choose to bully, reject, or neglect a person in need of help. It serves to remind a young adult audience that it is impossible to always discern what another person is going through mentally or privately, so treating everyone with the kindness they deserve is imperative.

Using Netflix also allowed the show to truly do the book justice because Netflix does not have to conform to the FCC protocols, or the rating status of movies. Because of this, the show is able to depict the truly terrible things that can happen at high school like bullying, online harassment, rape, assault, and suicide. 

I would recommend Thirteen Reasons Why with the caution that the show depicts a lot of disturbing scenes that are capable of triggering trauma. The actors, the plot, and the filming of the show is incredible, every scene is filled with hints and clues, and every piece of dialogue is completely jam-packed with meaning. If you have the twelve hours to spare, consider watching the show.

Junior Jesika Islam is the Arts & Leisure Editor. Her email is jislam@fandm.edu.

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