“Hey, it’s Hannah.”
If you haven’t watched the series, you should really watch it now. I promise you that it would be a rollercoaster of feels experience. More importantly, you would find yourself more concerned than ever about certain issues that needs to be addressed again and again, such as bullying, rape, and suicide. I read the book, by Jay Asher, back in 2014, when I was 15, and I remember myself hating it, because it was too much. It was too sad, raw, honest, painful and beautiful. It left a novel kind of unease in my heart. Now that it is translated into a series, I was brought back again to that familiar unease that I felt before, after I finish watching the series. I still hated it for being too much, but it was for the same reason that I loved it. Here are the 8 reasons why:
1. The characters are diverse.
The characters are of different ethnicities, and sexualities. And you can really see that they fit naturally with their environment. They don’t seem to be placed there, just to prove a point. I love that it represents a society where variety is normalized.
2. The soundtrack is beautiful.
Aside from the mystery and the general beauty of the story, the music was also one of the major reasons why I was lured into series. The songs and music tie perfectly with the scenes. You would never question the placement of the pieces used, because it was just perfect. The music helped the viewers understand how Hannah and the other characters are feeling in particular moments. The absence of music was also equally beautiful, because it elevated the mystery and tension.
Right after I finished watching it, I immediately downloaded the soundtrack, and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made this week. It was 3 am then, and good music was plugged into my ears. It was a scary experience, but peaceful at the same time. All songs in the album are great, but my favorites are the cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s song The Killing Moon by Roman Remains (it was the song used for the scene where Hannah is already preparing her suicide), Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division, and A 1000 Times – Hamilton Leithuster + Rostam.
“I had a dream that you are mine / I’ve had that dream / A thousand times”
– Lyrics from “A 1000 Times” by Hamilton Leithuster + Rostam
3. It was loyal to the book.
Although there were some little changes, the storyline was pretty much the same as the book. I think the changes contributed greatly to the story, in a positive manner, such as how Clay took so much time in listening to the tapes. In the book, it didn’t take him days to listen. I personally loved the way Clay visits the places that Hannah narrates, and how he imagined her being there. This strategy helps the viewer to take Hannah’s experience slowly, too, and to really think about the consequences of the experiences that happened to her to her spirit.
Another change was the insertion of social media. The book was published on 2007, and back then, social media wasn’t that huge as it is now. Rumors was passed on through notes, text messages, and whispers back then. Bullying was carried out through these, in the book. Now, gossip is more likely to be passed on to so many people through social media, and the series used this to explain how rumors about Hannah and the others characters are passed around so rapidly.
4. The characters are gray.
I love how they aren’t caged in the black and white, good and bad, dichotomy. They were portrayed as real human beings, capable of doing both good and evil things, capable of growing, and capable of changing. The people on the tapes aren’t portrayed as purely evil people, but people who made mistakes and recognizes these mistakes by exuding feelings of guilt and unease.
5. The script is brilliant.
It was not too melancholic, nor too angsty. It has just the right amount of humour, drama and mystery. It was very natural, and realistic.
6. The actors are brilliant.
Dylan Minnette did an excellent job as the quiet, introspective Clay. Watching Hannah’s experiences unfold partly became more intense for me, because of the quiet intensity that Dylan gives his character in following Hannah’s narration. Katherine Langfold is stellar as upbeat, and quick-witted Hannah. It’s amazing how she smoothly shifted this upbeat character into this hopeless and troubled girl, in the end. I cry every time Hannah cries, and I cringe every time she feels that she’s taken for granted. I stuck with Hannah throughout her rollercoaster, up until she cuts her wrists. I was a mess, and Katherine Langfold is responsible for this, because she made me stick with Hannah.
The other actors too are so naturally good, and subtle, and amazing.
7. Bullying, rape, and suicide are portrayed explicitly.
It was all so real. Bullying was present in bathroom doors, walls, notes, stalking, hot-or-not lists, whispers, pictures, Facebook posts, and physical & verbal abuse. The series showed how Hannah was bullied through some of these things. It also showed how the other kids at school were also bullied and how they tend to lean on the Bystander Effect, and Peer Pressure.
Jessica and Hannah’s rape scenes were shown explicitly. I cried at both scenes, because they were so hard to watch, especially Hannah’s in particular, because the camera was so close to Hannah’s face while Bryce was raping her. The scene was very painful, but it was real and necessary. The series showed how the rape affected Jessica and Hannah severely. Jessica started drinking too much alcohol, while Hannah’s soul is broken by the rape, because by this time, Hannah’s problem are already piling heavily on top of another, and most important parts of her are already so broken. Both of them are reluctant to talk and share their experience to other people, because it was too traumatizing for them.
It shocked me at first that they showed Hannah slitting her wrists, because I think that it was unnecessary, but I later realized that that particular scene was important for the viewers to understand the consequences of all the pain that Hannah has been through.
8. It stirs up the conversation on issues that matter.
On bullying: Many people experience bullying every day especially students, and it manifests not just in physical but in verbal forms as well. It manifests in stalking, popularity polls, hot-or-not lists, etc. Every bullying experience is nasty for everybody. Bullying makes us feel less of what we are actually worth. It makes us lose self-esteem and self-confidence. It makes us question our value. It makes us fear people that we shouldn’t be afraid of. It jeopardizes how we interact with people.
On rape: We always tend to blame the victim — how his/her clothes attracted so much attention, how s/he should’ve dressed “decently” to not get raped, how s/he should’ve shouted and cried for help, or how s/he should’ve said “no,” how s/he should’ve clarified that s/he’s not giving a consent. Instead of helping him/her, we always point our fingers to the victim, without understanding that it took so much courage for him/her to speak out, and talk about such a traumatic experience. It would be hard for him/her to speak, because of the constant fear of being judged, ignored, shamed, and dismissed as “slut/weak/attention-seeker”. Instead of encouraging him/her to explain or talk, and stand on his two feet, we tend to encourage them to “move on” from the experience. This just make them belittle themselves and their value as a human being.
On suicide: We usually don’t notice people who are in the verge of doing this, until they do it. There are no definite signs, because every suicide is unique to every individual, but it is not unknowable.
Final Rating: 10/10
× I’ve read an article online that says that 13 Reasons Why simplifies suicide and perpetuates the idea that suicide has someone to blame. This comment really bothers me, because really, “simplify suicide”? How can suicide be simple to anyone? And how does this show simplify suicide? Hannah was betrayed by her friends a lot of times, bullied, and raped. She tried to reach out to people but every time she does, they let her down. And then her issues start to pile up, one on top of another, that it was all too much to bear. And at last, she felt so empty already. People have different degrees of sensitivity. Some people aren’t as emotionally strong as some people are, and it saddens me that some people accuse her of being an “overacting bitch.” This is Hannah’s experience. She’s so young. And she’s also already mentally unstable, because of the abuses that she have experienced. Hannah’s story is just one of the many suicide cases/ stories in the world. Everybody has their own ‘reason’ of ending their life. There are so many other reasons. Sometimes it has no one to blame. Sometimes there is no reason at all. The show merely presented a small, but important fragment of a bigger issue, and I believe that they do not intend to perpetuate anything, rather than the idea that everything and everyone is connected and that we should be responsible and mindful on how our actions affect the lives of the people we interact with every day.
× If you have finished watching the series, and found yourself unconvinced with Hannah, her actions, and the show, in general, I suggest that you watch “Beyond the Reasons.” It is an episode where the producers, writers, creators, actors, and all the people behind the show explain the key points of the story.