The CUI Arts section’s weekly column NetPix sees CUI staff write about their favorite shows to binge-watch on every college student’s most beloved streaming service.
On March 31, Netflix released the newest binge-able series, 13 Reasons Why, which follows teenager Clay Jensen as he discovers the reasons behind his friend’s suicide. Based on the novel by Jay Asher, it’s become an instant hit since it’s release and has become one of the most discussed topics on social media.
13 Reasons Why addresses themes of suicide, depression, rape and bullying while providing a heart-wrenching and captivating story. The first episode opens on a busy high school hallway with a memorial to a girl. You learn later that her name was Hannah Baker. Later in the episode, the main character, Clay Jensen, receives a package on his porch containing 13 cassette tapes.
Each tape is directed at one of Hannah’s classmates and contains a recording of her detailing how their actions led to her suicide. The tapes are passed around between the 13 teenagers on the tapes, with instructions to pass them onto the next person after they finish listening to all 13.
The following 12 episodes follow Clay as he listens to the explicit details of the crimes committed against his friend and longtime crush. Clay becomes further emotionally involved as each tape plays on, while his love for his dead friend remains. Each episode contains flashbacks from Hannah’s point of view. Clay spends most of the episodes in a somewhat psychotic state awaiting to hear his tape and seeking revenge on those who wronged Hannah.
The show has love, drama, humor and a surprising level of relatability for anyone who has ever been in high school. When watching the show, I fell in love with Hannah and Clay and began to hate those who mistreated her. I felt an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and grief as the tragic events continued to happen to Hannah and those around her. That extreme emotional connection is what makes the show so incredibly binge-able and entertaining.
The next paragraph contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Clay struggles with survivor’s guilt and the possibility that he could be responsible for the death of someone he loved. “Your name does not belong on this list … You’re different, you’re good and kind and decent and I didn’t deserve to be with someone like you,” Hannah said about Clay on his tape. “I would’ve ruined you. It was me and everything that’s happened to me.” The prior ten episodes hinted at the show’s central message but with this finale it comes full circle: being kind can save a life.
This is where other critics of the show and multitudes of social media users voice their opinions of how the show addresses such difficult themes. Many critics argue that while the show discusses suicide and depression it doesn’t hit the realities of such serious and common issues. There is much more that a bystander needs to do than simply be kind to help someone with depression.
The show contains multiple trigger warnings from aggressive rape scenes to a graphic scene of Hannah’s suicide that is forewarned at the beginning of each episode. This is a difficult show to watch but with its brilliant writing and acting it is even more difficult to stop watching.
In my opinion, the show deals with important realities that many people face every day. Not everyone’s experience with suicide, depression, rape or bullying will be the same, but the success of a show that brings these issues into popular culture is a victory we all share.
13 Reasons Why gets a 9/10.
Contact CU Independent Arts writer Charlotte Spaeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.