Unlucky Number 13

I’m a little bit apprehensive about writing this blog post. I’ve sat down before and tapped away on my keyboard, telling you all about my struggles with depression, anxiety and even how I got to this point. Perhaps because I’ve the vague anonymity the internet provides me I have fearlessly told you everything there is to tell about how depression has crept over me a pulled me under. But today I am apprehensive. It’s not my story I want to tell. My story pales in comparison. And I’m not sure I’ll do this story, it’s characters or it’s themes justice.

Thirteen Reasons Why was a book and then, at the end of March, Netflix put it out there as thirteen binge watch worthy episodes. I’ve been distracted with my gaming so only a couple of days ago did I notice it’s presence on Netflix. I watched four episodes straight once I started and then I had responsibilities like work and travel. But I picked up where I left off last night and this morning I rounded off the thirteen hours of exquisitely painful viewing. You can watch the trailer here and though it’s intriguing it makes it seem like it’s going to be about as interesting as season 1 of Pretty Little Liars. It’s so much more than a bit of mystery surrounding a suicide.

Thirteen Reasons Why will draw you in and break your heart while staring you dead in the eyes. You know from the get go that Hannah Baker has committed suicide, maybe you don’t know all the details and you certainly don’t know what led her there, but you know she is dead. Yet somehow I kept finding myself hoping for a satisfying, happy ending. I could say for that reason the show lacked closure but actually isn’t it artistically fantastic to lack closure when suicide provides so little closure for those left behind?

I can’t dissect all the themes of this show without spoiling it for you. Jay Asher’s story is too wonderful and Brian Yorkey adapts it too well for television for me to spoil it’s beauty in a tentatively written blog post. But what I can say is that it pretty much all boils down to how we all communicate. How we communicate what is good and what is bad, how we keep secrets and share half truths, how we communicate the value of individuals in society, how we ignore people who are hurting and are afraid to ask for help when we are hurting. The story is the beginning of the end for Hannah Baker, but it’s the beginning of a discussion for society. It asks us to evaluate how we treat each other and how we deal with mental health problems.

You can tell the cast and crew have worked so hard to do the writing justice. The camera shots are all meticulously planned and work to drive home the messages, particularly in episode 12. I actually watched the behind the scenes stuff afterwards too. Everyone involved was passionate about this show, it was no ordinary job for them. The research done to accurately represent the events was wonderful and the cast all got stuck into their roles no matter how emotionally uncomfortable the scenes were. The show comes with warnings because they don’t shy away from the ugliness of these events and I think that’s important in order to help our understanding.

If you have watched this show I hope you know what I mean and are changed forever, even just slightly. If you started to watch and stopped, I ask only this, how were you able to stop watching? And if you haven’t watched any of it I would encourage you to beg, borrow and avoid stealing to access netflix and give it a watch (if only Netflix would pay me sponsorship, that’s pretty much the perfect advert right?).

Netflix Originals can be fantastic and they can be disappointing. But this isn’t just a show that will popular or unpopular. Thirteen Reasons Why is a highlighter marking up problems in society. It’s a starting point for a societal discussion on mental health. And it’s a way to help those fortunate enough not have suffered from mental health problems, to understand. Suicide is a choice but it’s very often the only choice many people feel that they have. When you are dealt a hand and people take it away from you, piece by piece. And you get left with one card to play, that’s the card the you play. Sometimes people don’t see there are other choices and they don’t see the collateral damage. But that’s not nature, that’s the way our society is built. Can we do some renovations?

S. Hansen

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