With all the debate surrounding the Netflix hit series, '13 Reasons Why,' many viewers have become reluctant to support the show. However, I think it's time to put aside the controversial topics and acknowledge something truly remarkable about the show: its diversity. Think what you want about the subject matters of the show, but there's no denying deliberate alternative casting decisions.
To start, the fact that no one is talking about the black cheerleaders or the Asian athlete proves just how much the show is normalizing diversity. Not only does the cast include characters of a variety of races, but some of the most popular students at Liberty High are of minority groups.
Picture a classic high school film. Its characters might include some pretty cheerleaders, popular jocks, over-achievers, science nerds and the rest of the stereotypical list. When you imagine of the captain of the cheerleading squad, is she white, blonde, and the Homecoming Queen? Yeah, that's what I assumed too. Until now.
Jessica Davis and Sheri Holland, two women of color on the show, are two of the prettiest and most popular cheerleaders at the school. Varying from a typical high school setting, there is no blonde head cheerleader doubling as the queen bee. Rather, the squad consists of all different types of girls, including two Black girls at the top of the pyramid.
Before Jessica endured her traumatic event in Season 1, she was dating her male classmate, Justin Foley. Before his personal downfall, Justin portrayed the typical jock in any high school setting. He was white, popular, and a hot commodity on the dating market. Of course, these attributes are past tense now that Season 2 follows Justin's drug-induced fall from popularity. Nevertheless, his dating Jessica, her first of two interracial relationships on the show, is incredibly progressive and significant.
Tony Padilla, one of my personal favorite characters, breaks all expectations of a gay man. While most shows go for the standard well-dressed, overly-feminine personality, '13 Reasons Why' proves that not all homosexual characters have to fit the cliché. By making Tony a well-built fella who regularly hits the gym, the character breaks the typical graceful stereotype. Oh, and he starts dating his equally muscular, male, boxing coach. So yeah, that's cool too.
Zach Dempsey, another favorite of mine, breaks the "Asian nerd" stereotype as he depicts another one of the popular athletes on the show. Never do you hear his mom pressure him into studying or doing well in school, rather Mrs. Dempsey encourages Zach to pursue his talent in basketball despite the assumption of their perceived heritage.
Alex Standall is scrawny, yet he dates Jessica.
Class president Marcus Cole commits to attend Harvard and is friends with the jocks. He's also Black.
Courtney Crimsen is lesbian. She's also Asian.
We have a long way to go before high school stereotypes are completely abolished, but '13 Reasons Why' is certainly doing its part to move society in the right direction.