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13 Reasons Why
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Television show information

Genre

Developed by

Brian Yorkey

Starring

Country of origin

United States

Original language(s)

English

Production

Distributor

Broadcast
Chronology

13 Reasons Why (stylized onscreen as Th1rteen R3asons Why) is an American drama-mystery web television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix.[1] The series revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and his friend, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances, brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.

Diana Son and Brian Yorkey serve as co-showrunners on the series. The first season consists of thirteen episodes.[2][3] The series is produced by July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content and Paramount Television. Originally conceived as a film set to be released by Universal Pictures with Selena Gomez in the lead role, the adaptation was picked up as a television series by Netflix in late 2015. Gomez serves as an executive producer. The first season, and the special 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons, were released worldwide on Netflix on March 31, 2017.

The series has received largely positive reviews from critics and audiences, who have praised its subject matter and casting, particularly the two leads, Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford.[4] It has attracted controversy from some over the series' graphic depiction of issues such as suicide and rape, along with other mature content. In May 2017, it was announced the series had been renewed for a second season, scheduled to premiere in 2018.[5]

Premise

Teenager Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box lying on his porch. Inside, he discovers seven double-sided cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and unrequited love, who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Her instructions are clear: each person who receives a package is one of the reasons why she killed herself, and after each person has completed listening to the tapes, they must pass the package on to the next person. If anyone decides to break the chain, a separate set of tapes will be released to the public. Each tape is addressed to a select person in her school and details their involvement in her inevitable suicide.

Cast

Main

Recurring

Episodes

Template:Episode table

Production

Universal Studios purchased film rights to the novel on February 8, 2011, with Selena Gomez cast to play the lead role of Hannah Baker.[8] On October 29, 2015, it was announced that Netflix would be making a television adaptation of the book with Gomez instead serving as an executive producer.[9] Tom McCarthy was hired to direct the first two episodes.[10] The series is produced by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television with Gomez, McCarthy, Joy Gorman, Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Mandy Teefey, and Kristel Laiblin serving as executive producers.[10]

Filming for the show took place in the Northern Californian towns of Vallejo, Benicia, San Rafael, Crockett and Sebastopol during the summer of 2016.[11][12] The first season and the special were released on Netflix on March 31, 2017.[13]

Therapy dogs were present on set for the actors because of the intense and emotional content of the series.[14]

On May 7, 2017 it was announced Netflix renewed the show for a second season. A short promo was released on the 13 Reasons Why Facebook account.[15]

Reception

Critical response

The show has received positive reviews from critics, with much of the praise for the show has been directed at the cast's performances, direction, story, visuals, improvements upon its source material, and mature approach to dark and adult subject matter.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 86% based on 42 reviews, with an average score of 7.28/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "13 Reasons Why complements its bestselling source material with a gripping look at adolescent grief whose narrative maturity belies its YA milieu."[4] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16]

Jesse Schedeen of IGN praised 13 Reasons Why, giving it a 9.2 out of 10, "Amazing", stating that the show is "a very powerful and hard-hitting series" and "ranks among the best high school dramas of the 21st century".[17] Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe gave a glowing review for the show, saying that "the drama is sensitive, consistently engaging, and, most importantly, unblinking".[18] Maureen Ryan of Variety asserts that the show "is undoubtedly sincere, but it's also, in many important ways, creatively successful" and called it "simply essential viewing".[19] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gave the entire season a score of B+, calling the show "a frank, authentically affecting portrait of what it feels like to be young, lost and too fragile for the world".[20] Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter also praised the show, calling it "a honorably mature piece of young-adult adaptation", calling its performances, direction, relevance and maturity as some of the show's strongest points.[21]

The cast's performances, particularly Katherine Langford as Hannah and Dylan Minnette as Clay, were frequently mentioned and widely lauded in several reviews. Schedeen of IGN praised the cast, particularly Minnette and Langford's performances, stating: "Langford shines in the lead role... [and] embodies that optimism and that profound sadness [of Hannah's] as well. Minnette's Clay is, by design, a much more stoic and reserved character... and does a fine job in what's often a difficult role."[17] Gilbert of The Boston Globe praised the chemistry of Langford and Minnette, saying that "watching these two young actors together is pure pleasure", while Schedeen of IGN also agreed, saying that they are "often at their best together, channeling just the right sort of warm but awkward chemistry you'd expect from two teens who can't quite admit to their feelings for one another." Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter also praises both actors: "Langford's heartbreaking openness makes you root for a fate you know isn't possible. The actress' performance is full of dynamic range, setting it against Minnette's often more complicated task in differentiating between moods that mostly go from uncomfortable to to gloomy to red-eyed, hygiene-starved despair."[21]

Ryan of Variety also gave praise to not only the two leads, but also the supporting cast of actors, particularly Kate Walsh's performance as Hannah's mother, whom Ryan describes as "career-best work".[19] Positive mentions from various critics, such as Ryan, Feinberg and Schedeen, were also given to the supporting cast of actors (most particularly Alisha Boe, Miles Heizer and Christian Navarro's respective performances of Jessica, Alex and Tony). Liz Shannon Miller of Indiewire, who enjoyed the show and gave it a glowing score of B+, gave praise to the racial, gender and complex diversity of its supporting cast of teens.[19][17][21][22]

Another aspect frequently mentioned within several reviews was the show's mature and emotional approach to dark and adult subject matter depicted in the show. This was positively reviewed by critics, such as Miller of Indiewire, who gave it a positive review of the season, particularly her mentions that "the adult edges to this story ring with honesty and truth", but also states that this makes the show difficult to watch at times.[22] Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter also states that the show is very difficult to watch at times,[21] while Schedeen of IGN states that the show is "an often depressing and even uncomfortable show to watch... a pretty emotionally draining experience, particularly towards the end as the pieces really start to fall into place."[17]

Numerous critics also praised several aspects of the show. Feinberg praised the show's directors, saying: "A Sundance-friendly gallery of directors including Tom McCarthy, Gregg Araki and Carl Franklin keeps the performances grounded and the extremes from feeling exploitative",[22] meanwhile Gilbert of The Boston Globe praises the storytelling: "The storytelling techniques are powerful... [as it] builds on the world established in the previous hour, as we continually encounter new facets of Hannah's life and new characters. The background on the show keeps getting deeper, richer."[18]

Conversely, the series has also received criticism over its portrayal of teen angst. Mike Hale of The New York Times wrote a critical review, writing, "the show doesn't make [Hannah's] downward progress convincing. It too often feels artificial, like a very long public service announcement." He also criticized the plot device that has Clay listening to the tapes one by one instead of all in one sitting like the other teens did, which Hale felt was unbelievable: "It makes no sense as anything but a plot device, and you'll find yourself, like Clay's antagonists, yelling at him to listen to the rest of tapes already."[23]

Writing for The Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson praised some aspects of the show, including the performances from Minnette and Walsh, but was troubled by much of the plot, writing, "a storyline that suggests the love of a sweet boy might have sorted all this out added to an uneasy feeling that stayed with me." Nicholson was skeptical that the show would appeal to older viewers, unlike other series set in high school such as Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life: "It lacks the crossover wit of its forebears... It's too tied up in conveying the message that terrible behaviour can have horrible consequences to deal in any subtleties or shades of feeling. It's largely one-note – and that note is horrifying. 'It has to get better,' implores one student towards the end, but given its fairly open ending, an apparent season two setup, it does not seem as if there's much chance of that happening."[24]

Washington Post television critic Hank Stuever wrote a negative review, finding 13 Reasons Why "contrived" and implausible: "There are 13 episodes lasting 13 super-sullen hours – a passive-aggressive, implausibly meandering, poorly written and awkwardly acted effort that is mainly about miscommunication, delivering no more wisdom or insight about depression, bullying and suicide than one of those old ABC Afterschool Specials people now mock for being so corny." He also wrote that he found Hannah's suicide tapes "a protracted example of the teenager who fantasizes how everyone will react when she's gone. The story ... strikes me as remarkably, even dangerously, naive in its understanding of suicide, up to and including a gruesome, penultimate scene of Hannah opening her wrists in a bathtub."[25]

David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the series a tepid review, saying that it was plagued by character inconsistencies, particularly Hannah. He praised Langford's "stunning performance" but noted, "There are times when we simply don't believe the characters, when what they do or say isn't consistent with who we've been led to believe they are... At times, [Hannah] is self-possessed and indifferent at best to the behavior of the popular kids. At other times, though, relatively minor misperceived slights seem to send her into an emotional tailspin. No doubt, teenagers embody a constant whirl of conflicting emotions, but the script pushes the bounds of credibility here and there." He noted that overall, the series worked: "The structure is gimmicky and the characters inconsistent, but there are still at least 13 Reasons Why the series is worthy."[26]

Social impact

The series has generated controversy over its portrayal of suicide and self-harm, causing Netflix to add strong advisory warnings prior to the first episode. School psychologists and educators have raised alarm about the series. The superintendent of Palm Beach County, Florida schools, reportedly told parents that their schools had seen an increase in suicidal and self-harm behavior from students, and that some of those students "have articulated associations of their at-risk behavior to the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series."[27]

The Australian youth mental health service for 12–25 year-olds, headspace, issued a warning in late April 2017 over the graphic content featured in the series due to the increased number of calls to the service following the show's release in the country.[28][29][30]

In Canada, an elementary school principal in Edmonton, Alberta sent a message to parents of Grade 6 pupils to advise their children not to discuss the program at school, citing concerns about its Mature rating, suicide theme, rape violence, gore, profanity, drug, alcohol use and smoking, and frightening and intense scenes.[31]

In response to the graphic nature of the show and New Zealand's high youth suicide rate, which was the highest among the 34[n 1] OECD countries during 2009 to 2012,[33][34] the Office of Film & Literature Classification in the country created a new rating, "RP18", allowing individuals aged 18 and over to watch the series alone and those below having to watch it with supervision from a parent or guardian.[35][36]

In response to the controversy, Gomez, one of the executive producers on 13 Reasons Why, defended the series. She stated: "We stayed very true to the book and that's initially what [author] Jay Asher created was a beautifully tragic, complicated yet suspenseful story and I think that's what we wanted to do," Gomez told Associated Press. "We wanted to do it justice and, yeah, [the backlash is] gonna come no matter what. It's not an easy subject to talk about, but I'm very fortunate with how it's doing."[37]

In April 2017, National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) released a statement regarding the series, saying: "Research shows that exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide."[38] The NASP sent a letter to school mental health professionals across the country about the series, reportedly a first for the NASP in response to a television show.[39]

In May 2017, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP) released a statement also noting how strongly the show may serve as a trigger for self-injury among vulnerable youth and lamented the depiction of mental health professionals as ineffective for youth who have experienced trauma and may have been considering suicide.[40] The statement implored Netflix to add a tag following each episode with mental health resources and a reminder that depression and suicide can be effectively treated by a qualified mental health professional such as a clinical child psychologist using evidence-based practice.

Similarly, clinical psychologists such as Daniel J. Reidenberg and Erika Martinez, as well as mental health advocate MollyKate Cline of Teen Vogue magazine, have expressed concerns regarding the risk of suicide contagion.[41][42][43] However, Eric Beeson, a counselor at The Family Institute at Northwestern University noted that "it's unlikely that one show alone could trigger someone to attempt suicide".[38]

Mental health professionals have also criticized the series' depiction of suicide itself, much of which violates widely promulgated recommendations for reporting on actual suicides or depicting them in fiction in order to not encourage copycat suicides.[44] The season finale, which depicts Hannah's suicide in graphic detail, has been particularly criticized in this regard.[45] Nic Sheff, a writer for the show, has defended it as intended to dispel the myth that suicides "quietly drift off", and recalled how he himself was deterred from a suicide attempt by recalling a survivor's account of how painful and horrifying it was.[46]

The NASP statement also criticizes the show's suggestion that bullying alone led Hannah to take her life, noting that while it may be a contributing factor, suicidal ideations far more often result from the bullied person having a treatable mental illness without adequate coping mechanisms. Alex Moen, a school counselor in Minneapolis, took issue with the show's entire plotline as "essentially a fantasy of what someone who is considering suicide might have—that once you commit suicide, you can still communicate with your loved ones, and people will suddenly realize everything that you were going through and the depth of your pain ... That the cute, sensitive boy will fall in love with you and seek justice for you, and you'll be able to orchestrate it, and in so doing kind of still be able to live."[45]

Other counselors criticized the depiction of Hannah's attempt to reach out to Mr. Porter as dangerously misleading, since not only does he miss obvious signs of her suicidal ideations, but says he cannot report her sexual assault to the police without her identifying the assailant. School counselors are often portrayed as ineffective or clueless in popular culture, Moen says, but Porter's behavior in the series goes beyond that to being unethical and possibly illegal. "It's ridiculous! Counselors are not police. We don’t have to launch an investigation. We bring whatever information we do have to the police", she told Slate.[45]

In May 2017, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) along with the Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) released a statement of similar concerns to the ones raised by the NASP. The CMHA is concerned that the series may glamorize suicide, and that some content may lead to distress in viewers, and, particularly, in younger viewers. Furthermore, the portrayal of Hannah's suicide does not follow the media guidelines as set out by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) and the American Association of Suicidology. While the CMHA and CASP praised the show for raising awareness about "this preventable health concern", they added that: "raising awareness needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner. A large and growing body of Canadian and international research has found clear links between increases in suicide rates and harmful media portrayals of suicide." Ways in which the portrayals of suicide may cause harm, according to the CMHA and CASP, include the following: "They may simplify suicide, such as, by suggesting that bullying alone is the cause; they may make suicide seem romantic, such as, by putting it in the context of a Hollywood plot line; they may portray suicide as a logical or viable option; they may display graphic representations of suicide which may be harmful to viewers, especially young ones; and/or they may advance the false notion that suicides are a way to teach others a lesson."[47][48]

Notes

  1. While there are 35 OECD countries, figures for 2009–2012 exclude Latvia, which became a member country on July 1, 2016.[32]

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See also

  • Heathers, a 1988 film which deals with similar subject matter

References

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  48. National Association of School Psychologists. (2017). 13 Reasons Why Netflix series: Considerations for educators (handout). Bethesda, MD: Author. at nasponline.org Accessed May 8, 2017

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External links

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Resources

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