13 Reasons Why: 13 Reasons Why   Books Included 
April 4, 2017 2:22 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Clay Jensen's crush and classmate Hannah Baker dies by suicide. Two weeks later, Clay finds a package on his doorstep containing 13 audio cassettes made by Hannah explaining the 13 reasons why she killed herself, and Clay is one of them. In order to find out how he fits in, Clay must listen to the tapes. But doing so may reveal a disturbing secret about Hannah, as well as some of his classmates, that Clay isn't ready for.

Just finished binge-watching this and wanted to hear other people's thoughts.
posted by daybeforetheday (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm only through four episodes, but damn, this is great.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:01 PM on April 5, 2017

I really enjoyed this Netflix series. I had not read or been aware of the books, but I have a fondness for teen shows and this one did not disappoint.

The mystery unfolds in interesting ways and I thought the acting was very good (I understand the books did not include Hannah's parents and I am thrilled that the writers adjusted that and the production got Kate Walsh to play the mom as she was a strong addition to the cast). It's also a very pretty show to watch, with interesting props in the background of nicely produced sets and engaging filmography. They do a variation of the How to Get Away With Murder time jumps/perspective changes and I can see some viewers finding this annoying but I liked it.

Mostly the entire time I was watching this, a track kept running through my head:
"This is so sad. This is so very sad. This is sad in so many ways." A few of the later episodes had trigger warnings, and even though I knew exactly what was going to happen at the emotional climax of the series, I still found myself just demolished watching it. I will be talking to my therapist about this one. When the series was over, I did not know what to do with myself.

The soundtrack is very, very good. It truly enhanced the mood. I had goosebumps when they used the best part of Ultravox's "Vienna", in particular.

Looks like they left some plotlines open for further examination in a second season. I don't know how they can replicate all the little details that make this season special, but I think that more drama from some of the characters would be interesting to watch.
posted by danabanana at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Wow. That last episode is brutal.... Very well done series.... I have to gather my thoughts....
posted by pearlybob at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Brutal is an understatement.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:42 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm only two episodes in, so will probably try to avoid this thread, but I'm a little on the fence about continuing with the whole series. The narrative structure is cool, with the tapes gradually filling in back-story and a general paranoid sense that a lot of the characters have hidden ties into the narrative that are yet to be revealed, but I'm not really fond of the performance of the actor playing Hannah so far - I like the character as written, but the actor seems like she dropped in from a CW teen drama universe.
posted by whir at 9:58 PM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ijeoma Oluo on why 13 Reasons Why terrifies her for her son and other teenagers:
We can’t keep every bit of harmful messaging away from our kids, and honestly, if I had shut off the television when I started to realize how problematic the show was, it would have practically guaranteed that my son would have finished the series alone and not have talked with me about it. Which is why, when I think about all the other teenagers out there struggling with mental health problems and suicidal ideation who are eagerly devouring every episode of this series right now, I want to alert every parent to the messaging that they must be prepared to counter. Suicidal ideation is contagious, especially with teenagers whose brains are not yet developed to the point to see past their immediate troubles and are more likely to make rash and devastating decisions to end their pain.

If you have a teenager, or if you work with teenagers, please talk with them about this show. Don’t let them watch it alone and even if they have, make sure that you are having an honest conversation about the realities of suicide and depression. Make sure they know all of the resources that are available to them if they are feeling depressed or suicidal. Make sure they know that they, just like Hannah, deserve to be heard, deserve to be helped, and deserve to live.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:55 AM on April 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

The writing and plot lines were so horrible. It was so cheesy.
This must be the 21st century Afterschool Special.

Maybe it is because I'm a university professor and thus get regular training on sexual assault and suicide prevention, but the narrative and lessons seems pretty out of date to me. The statistics they use in the interviews by the cast are not legit.
posted by k8t at 12:20 AM on April 15, 2017

I enjoyed this show the same way you enjoy a really way too huge a tub of ice cream. You know, thinking this is so wrong but finishing it nevertheless, with gusto even.

It was cleverly made, had great music and an addictive structure, and as suicide fantasies go, it was enormously problematic. I feel like if teenage suicide were a product for sale, the manufacturer would right now be rubbing their hands together and cackling, while also ordering a bigger safe for the money coming in. Jfc, it was basically free advertisement for suicide-as-payback, depicting it both as a valid choice and a total success.

For the sake of all depressed teens (and their loved ones) everywhere, I wish the suicide had been shown to be a mistake. That it had been more obvious that Hannah was not seeing everything clearly, that there would have been solutions, opportunities, a way out for her, even when things seemed the most hopeless. But no, the only thing in that vein was that she didn't see that Clay loved her all along (which in itself is not good enough, because that's just playing into the idea of romantic love as a solution).

The makers of this show had a very fine line to tread between making you see things from Hannah's POV and realize she made the wrong choice. And I think they failed.
posted by sively at 2:51 AM on April 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

I watched the behind the scenes episode and I still feel like they did not do their do diligence to show this with the greatest care. They had a handful of experts but, in my estimation, they really ranged in their quality.
I've had conversations with university staff that deal with mental health and assault and they seemed 100x more knowledgeable than the "experts."
There were also some "experts" that had that vibe - you know what I mean - the female equivalent of "fellow kids" that speak with a younger voice, keep their hair really long, and accessorize their look with things to make them look young. One woman, in her 30s, did her entire professional interviews in a ball cap. Maybe I'm a jerk but that doesn't scream expert in a very important topic.

And the way that the producers and the actors kept harping on what an impact the show would have... It made me a little sick.

We have models for how educational content can be done well! Look at the MTV teen mom/16 and pregnant series. Yes, it is reality TV and has many of the marks of it, but years of empirical studies show that it has had a huge effect on teen attitudes toward being teen parents. They show the content in a particularly responsible way.

I'm steaming mad at this show. Also I had nightmares about it last night.
posted by k8t at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I enjoyed this a lot, though wow very hard to watch at multiple times. It's interesting that someone found it unbelievable above; I found it actually rang horribly true in many places to my own high school experience. Many of the lines were cheesy - esp with Hannah and Clay - but you know, when I was a teenager I have no doubt I delivered stilted and horribly self-aware dialogue just like that.

I do agree that more should have been done to show that Hannah was an unreliable narrator - losing perspective because of her depression and ignoring opportunities to get help/connect. I mean, I think the show does it a little bit, but I wanted a little more. One of the sinking realisations I had towards the end of my high schooling was the rashomon like nature of my experience re: the impacts different things could have on people.

Also, I was torn about Hannah being raped, ultimately. It pushed the narrative towards being more black and white, and also I felt like it was part of a justification for suicide. Sadly, most teen suicides are not raped - you don't need to be raped to be suicidal as a teen. Also it pushes Bryce into moustache twirling territory - but again, serial rape, date rape etc are real.

On the other hand, I felt it dealt with the group dynamics around it well, including the relative indifference of the school administration - which mirrored my own school's almost precisely.

Also, Clay was a little too perfect. In the book apparently he is much more removed from Hannah, and stayed away from being friends with her, because he too had heard she was a slut, and weird, etc. I would like Clay to have alienated her, a little more, like Alex, for example. To show even "Good" people can do bad things.

Nonetheless, I found it very powerful and affecting, and horribly sad - both as a parent, and the ghost of teenage smoke that contributed to others negative experiences in school, as well as weathering his own.
posted by smoke at 5:13 AM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

That's a really interesting piece and perspective, ChuraChura. I can see the author's points - esp regard suicide as a kind of revenge fantasy. And yet, the idea of suicide as revenge pre-dates 13 Reasons Why, and I'm not sure that the show valorises that, per se, so much as places a value on reaching out, talking, and considering the impact your behaviour might have on others.

I would like to see some data around the idea that a particular text can have an impact on a person's suicidal ideations. I'm sure, as a parent of a depressed teen, it can feel like any push in the wrong direction could have disastrous consequences, but I think there are so very many directions that can push, that trying to shut one in particular down, I don't know. The counterpoint of course is media reportage on suicide and we know what that can do.

But I don't know that tv shows don't make people kill themselves. Depression, isolation, trauma, etc etc do, and I'm uncomfortable with the - very old - idea that teenagers/children are passive sponges, soaking up media in an unwitting state and acting on its overt and non-overt messages; there has been a lot of research demonstrating that this is not the case and that - like adults - teenagers and children are active participants in the media they consume and its interpretation.

Now if - like in the article you linked - a teenager is in a depressed state, yeah I think they could totally interpret the show as championing suicide. But, I dunno, I don't think the answer is banning the show, I think the answer is talking about it in a better way, and this is another area I think the show fell down - the trigger warnings were good, but I was expecting to see a coda at the end of each episode with a brief message and a help line phone number. Even better, before and after.

So I guess I think the show could do better. But I don't think the alternative is to a) ban it, b) judge it solely against a perfect standard, or c) only have teenage shows where no one kills themselves.

I'm really interested to read more about the reaction to it.
posted by smoke at 5:29 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would like to see some data around the idea that a particular text can have an impact on a person's suicidal ideations.

It's sometimes been called the Werther effect, if you want to google for scholarly articles.

I come from a suicide country - when I was growing up, Finland used to be one of the leading countries in suicides per capita, and I lived in an area that skewed the statistics higher. I never met my great uncle because he threw himself under a train before I was born. I had at least two high school classmates who made repeated attempts, and a couple of people I knew back then I've later learned ended up taking their own lives. We actually once had a small wave of teen suicide attempts in our town, but in some places up in the North where the sun disappears for half a year it was much worse. (The statistics have fortunately improved since then.)

Anyway, my best friend's godparents were social scientists who studied suicide, and they said they felt their heart sink every time there was a lot of talk about suicides in the media - especially if a particular method was discussed - no matter how well intentioned it was, or how geared it was towards making the general public more aware, or to encourage people to look for help, etc. I recall e.g. an attempt at a campaign to reduce the amount of traffic suicides, which actually lead to an increase. The Wikipedia article I linked to mentions that in Norway, the journalistic code discourages all mentioning of suicide in the media; it's probably based on similar observations.

That said, my 14 year old daughter who also watched 13 reasons is adamant that its effect could be positive. She says her peers are talking a lot and the tone is very caring. So there's that, too.
posted by sively at 11:19 AM on April 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thanks Sively, that's actually a great wikipedia page!
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on April 17, 2017

Episode 11 and ouch ouch ouch. What a gut punch on so many levels, and flashbacks of being a teen.

How are there 2 more episodes? I can't do this!
posted by olya at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

This was incredibly difficult to watch, but i agree that it has some air of unbelievability to it. Not that these things don't happen to girls in our schools across the US on a regular basis, they absolutely do - but that ALL of these things happened to this one girl in such a short time frame (a year), strains the credibility. But maybe this is just an example of all the awful ways that girls and women are treated through a single filter of Hannah.

My other issue is the weird tonal shift for all of the kids once Clay heard their tapes. Justin had NO issues with Bryce raping his girlfriend until Clay (the audience) realized that Bryce raped Jessica. Then all of the sudden, Justin can't be friends with Bryce anymore, isn't ok with Jessica hanging around with him, etc. Courtney isn't even included in the group until after Clay hears her tape. Wouldn't they all be concerned ahead of time? Instead of arbitrarily getting together with a new addition after Clay hears their tape? Again, it's a conceit for the film so we don't know who is or is not on tapes, but it's a little annoying in retrospect.

This is also nitpicky and stupid - but no one in my high school had tattoos. They're supposed to be mostly sophomores and juniors? So not 18?

Then again, maybe i am concentrating on that so I don't have to think about the awful things Hannah lived through until she didn't.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:38 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been reading more about this over the last week or so - and every single mental health, youth organisation, and academic I've read has been unequivocally against the way the show has handled youth suicide. Literally, every single one.

It's really hardened my complaints that things could have been handled better into they should have been handled better. And given this uniformity in opinion, it makes me question which experts, exactly, the show used to support their approach and whether there was heavy cherry picking involved. I'm kinda gobsmacked, tp be honest, and it seems really irresponsible to me.

Again, I don't think this means there should be a ban on talking about or making stories about youth suicide, however when so many experts have condemned your approach, it seems like due diligence was not done - and with something so serious, it really should have been.
posted by smoke at 4:35 PM on April 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I watched this show because Netflix put it in my face. It was one of their top promoted shows so I pressed the button.

It was intriguing enough to keep me watching and I wasn't thinking too deeply about it, it was just something to watch. But in the end, it left me with a really nasty taste in my mouth.

The obvious problem with it is the one stated above: that it breaks practically all the guidelines for responsible dramatic portrayal of suicide. The Samaritans have been the UK's leading suicide prevention organization for many decades, and they're pretty clear that media portrayals of suicide do influence people's actions in these matters. These experts and others do seem to be unanimous that shows like this are actively harmful.

First, it portrays a teenage girl observing and commenting on people's reactions long after her death. This subverts the narrative reality of her death, even as she makes rebarbative comments like "I'm still dead".

Second, most of the reactions she observes are the ones she intended to elicit: horror, grief, self-recrimination, belief that if they had tried harder, if they had refused to take her at her word, they might have loved her enough to prevent this outcome.

In other words, she gets exactly what she wants as a result of her death by suicide; and not only that but she gets to KNOW that she gets exactly what she wants. And what does she want? To emotionally torture everyone she has a grudge against.

Super-great message to send, I'm sure that those left behind by the suicide of a loved one will take comfort from it.

The ostensible loftier goal, of ending bullying through the dramatic statement/self-martyrdom of her death by suicide, is nothing more than a figleaf. For one thing, not only are many of the recipients of the tapes including Clay extraordinarily distressed by them, but Clay's response goes so far as to pay the bullying forward by taking nude photographs of the stalky photographer kid and distributing them around the whole school. Nice.

Furthermore, the denouement consists of various teens having video interviews describing what they thought about what happened to Hannah. And it turns out that that's the happy ending (apart from an apparent suicide attempt by another character and maybe a school shooting in the offing, clearly left there as an opening for season 2, but that will be another story if there is one). Then Clay and his friend riding contentedly off into the sunset. Justice for Jessica? Punishment for Bryce? After all that is made of Clay getting a confession, those issues turn out to be incidental after all, because the whole drive of Hannah's actions is eliciting sympathy and eulogies for traumas perceived as happening only to Hannah. Even if martyring oneself for higher goals were a good excuse for portraying death by suicide, those higher goals are either not achieved in Hannah's case or are simply left out of the story. Once everyone agrees that everyone was shitty to her and it's their own fault she's dead, the goal of both the narrative and its main character is achieved and the story is over.

The thing about very cruel people is that they are excellent at getting you to feel what they're feeling. They often can't or won't tell you what's wrong, often because of a deeply held conviction that you should know without having to be told (certainly an essential feature of Hannah's way of relating to others). So they show you instead.

And in fact, the show never enters into Hannah's mental illness at all. Distressing things happen to her and she is accordingly distressed by them, but the dots of the thought process that leads her up to the point of death by suicide never get connected. The character portraying Hannah's mental distress is actually Clay, not Hannah. She successfully communicates her distress by instilling mental illness into Clay. At one point, he even starts hallucinating and then just as suddenly stops, with no inquiry or follow-up - as if hallucinations are an ordinary response to emotional distress instead of a sign of something much more serious.

Add to that the very graphic portrayals of two rapes, and the exact step-by-step portrayal of precisely how Hannah dies by suicide, how she obtains the means of death, how careful they are to show her cutting in the correct direction to ensure she bleeds out. Oh, we really NEED to see these things graphically portrayed to understand how bad they are? Really. That is exploitation, pure and simple. It's torture porn directed mainly at an audience - teenagers - that by definition is not mature enough to understand the manipulation.

This is the first place I've seen anyone use the word "banned". I do however wonder about the motives of Netflix and the show's producers for making a show like this at all. It took only a few seconds to Google the media guidelines I linked above, and there are many more like it. The idea that they "consulted experts" about this can only be disingenuous. I would argue that prosocial, responsible people would neither have produced this show nor broadcast it in the first place.

I mean what do they want? Do they *want* to provoke copycat suicides by screening this show? I doubt it, they probably just want eyeballs and controversy in the attention economy. I don't think they're so cynical as to be travelling hopefully in the matter of copycat suicides bringing attention to their show, because I doubt they're as actively sociopathic as that. So why else would they do it?

The show is told from within a teenage mentality - it would be, it's about teenagers - but a very disordered teenage mentality *and the authorial voice is the same as the main characters' voices*. It never steps outside the disordered teenage mentality to take another perspective on events. It makes me wonder if the show was written and/or produced by people who themselves have never fully grown up and thus can't see beyond the limited perspective of the American teen.
posted by tel3path at 4:38 AM on April 24, 2017 [10 favorites]

I work at a high school and have friends in others -- teachers are incensed about the irresponsibility of this show. Furious. Sickened.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Netflix done fucked up bad.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:30 AM on May 1, 2017

I LOVE this programme....I've heard the last episode is pretty grim. I'm preparing myself!
posted by SpiersEngineeringSafety at 6:54 AM on May 5, 2017

It is grim, yes. Just finished watching tonight and this series nearly broke me. Way, WAY too many things hit hard. I've never been suicidal, thank God, but I've lost people to suicide and have been through some of the things that Hannah dealt with. This was painful but powerful.

I don't want to address the irresponsibility of the depiction of suicide here because I don't feel I can get any kind of objective handle on it right now.

The music was well-done, but I wonder if it was all chosen by Gen-Xers. :) There were a couple of moments when the musical choices were so right they made me gasp aloud -- but maybe that is because I am a Gen-Xer and they are songs from my own youth. I wonder what current teenagers thought of the music.
posted by litlnemo at 10:09 PM on June 2, 2017

Very late to the party here, but I only got around to watching the second half of the show. I watched the first few episodes months ago, put it aside for various reasons, but ended up watching the remainder this week with someone who is more of a "completionist" than I would otherwise have been.

I do agree with others that it's a very well made show from a purely technical perspective. The photography and set decoration was better than I expected, for some reason. Certainly better than a lot of major-network stuff.

But ... yeah. I didn't like the show in the end. Maybe I went into it expecting too much, but the show does stake out some pretty significant ground, just in terms of the subject matter it deals with from the opening episode.

In particular, during the first few episodes, when Clay is working through the first few tapes, I thought that he was being slowly built up but was going to turn out to be the bullying asshole, deep down under the drippy Nice Suburban White Kid facade, and listening to the tapes and the remainder of the show would be his journey of understanding just how shitty a person he really was (with bonus denouement that even if he tried to repent his assholery, everyone would then know and the consequences would be inescapable; the after-school-special lesson would be that you can't go back and undo being a dick to people, and suicide isn't an effective engine for revenge). I think that would have been an interesting show, and bit of a pity they didn't go down that road. Instead, the characters seemed pretty much exactly what they said on the tin.

I dunno; I'm still mulling it over a bit, but I'm currently annoyed because it seems like the show really wound up like it was going to hit hard -- it's a pretty ballsy premise, doing a whole show about a teen's suicide and saying it's going to be done in a sensitive and meaningful way -- but then in the end it pulled the punch.

Maybe this is just me, but I think if you're going to play with themes as heavy as teen suicide and sexual assault, to include an on-screen rape, you have to be really going somewhere. You're asking for a hell of a lot of trust from your viewers, a sort of emotional benefit of the doubt, that you're doing something meaningful and not-gross. And while the show isn't the worst thing going on TV right now in terms of writing heavy-duty subject matter checks that it can't cash (lookin' at you, GoT), I think the finale left it in the red.

That there's apparently going to be a second season feels a little icky, somehow, too. It's like, well, they already had a suicide and two rapes in the first season as plot points, I wonder how they're going to up the ante for Round 2? I have some semi-horrifying theories.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:35 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

To me this is much worse than GoT because it’s aimed at teenagers and is striking the pose of a morality play.
posted by tel3path at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Even later to the party. I have very mixed feelings about the show, which I found myself watching compulsively a couple of months ago. It sucked me in so that I kept watching and wanting to know what happened - and yet I'm not sure I'm glad I did.

I couldn't stop yelling at the characters about hiding the whole thing from Hannah's parents. Multiple characters (Clay and Tony in particular, but really any of them) knew how much Hannah's parents were suffering and yet they kept this whole thing a secret? I know, I know, plot device, I get it already. But it just made me SO ANGRY.

On the other hand, I was glad that these were teenagers with complicated interior lives dealing with some real problems. I think adults sometimes forget how difficult life is as a teen, not just because hormones and emotions distort events to make them feel more dramatic and life-changing than they actually are, but sometimes because there really are life-changing things happening.

But every time I watched more of the show, it dragged me down. I am old enough to be one of these kid's parents and I have depression that is reasonably well-treated with meds and talk therapy. And yet every time I watched it, I found myself slipping into the depression-weasel spiral of "life is all shit, you try and try but everything winds up shit in the end; the only sane response is to nope out" and would have to make a conscious effort to get myself out of it. I am glad I did not run across the show when this post was first made, because I was then in the process of switching meds and my mental state was like that all too-often anyway. I can totally see how seeing this would encourage anyone even remotely inclined towards suicide to move even closer to an attempt. I don't think I will be watching Season 2.

I did, however, get some new music out of it thanks to the almighty power of Shazam. It really did have a kick-arse soundtrack.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:10 PM on January 28, 2018

Yes, I like that Lake Huron song "The Night We Met".

I am angry on your behalf that you were made to feel as bad as you did, Athanassiel. I really think this show's a menace, in the literal sense.
posted by tel3path at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2018

Watched the show this weekend, and full of VERY mixed reactions— the show is simultaneously wildly irresponsible and yet so careful in other ways that I find myself quite puzzled. The showrunners disregarded all of the advice they were given about not glamorizing suicide, but then included surprisingly nuanced takes on

-how easy it is for many teens to access firearms
-multiple depictions of PTSD in various manifestations
-how miserably school and justice systems tend to fail victims of sexual assault
-disparities in class/race within one community
-the tentacles of rape culture and how serial predators are protected
-how suicide contagion functions in peer networks

You could see the fingerprints of people deftly including very complex issues, and then it was all undercut by the larger structure of the show and Hannah’s final suicide scene. Very strange.

Also, JEFF, I loved him, I LOVED HIM, losing him after him quietly becoming one of the best background characters was awful. Jocks with hearts of gold who try to take care of their nerdy tutors are my fave.

(I also kept wondering “how many of Tony’s cute coffee dates with his dreamboat boyfriend is Clay going to interrupt before Clay figures this out?” and the answer was: Clay will never figure it out, how did someone who worked at a retro movie theater full of James Dean movies never catch on, come on Clay, this is getting embarrassing.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:04 AM on April 9, 2018

but then included surprisingly nuanced takes on [sensitive subjects]

I didn't put my finger on this until you mentioned it, but what I think about that is: they're not the first show ever to put out nuanced takes on this stuff, it's all pretty well-trod ground by now.

Given that 13RW is basically an exploitation show, I can't give them credit for writing those things well. Being well written some of the time, in this case, is like the abusive partner who is really nice some of the time. The nuanced writing/really niceness is part of the abuse - it's necessary in order to keep you watching/in the relationship.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2018

Release of '13 Reasons Why' associated with increase in youth suicide rates

Irresponsible garbage. Somewhat surprised it wasn't roundly condemned here. This was foreseeable.
posted by sylvanshine at 4:15 PM on April 29, 2019

« Older Podcast: Welcome to Night Vale...   |  FEUD: And The Winner Is… (The ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments