High school. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Although Charles Dickens eloquently strung those words in “A Tale of Two Cities,” the realities of these statements often perpetuate in high school. Why do you think that is? My theory is that we live in the moment too much during this period and we do not regard the repercussions of our decisions. What happens when those choices were not even yours to begin with? In high school, we often feel the 'worst of times'. Hannah Baker felt the consequences of her peers’ decisions in the book “13 Reasons Why,” which ultimately led to her suicide.
Netflix has added yet again a true young adult experience as narrated through the words of young, dead girl and the eyes of normal present-day teenagers. The story follows Baker, who shares her experiences leading to her death. Intriguingly, it involves 13 people who supposedly killed her. High school is already rough with reputations to maintain, hormones to cope with, and academic standing to decently maintain. Mix that in with terrible rumors based on a first kiss, slut shaming and sexual assault; these experiences can lead a person that much closer to death. For this current generation, this is an important story to tell. Here are 13 reasons why you should watch this masterful piece of art.
1. One kiss can turn into a nightmare.
Without spoiling too much of the storyline, it is important to understand how much status is regarded by people. Unfortunately, this can start from a simple kiss. The important take away is how much of a butterfly effect your life can be. One decision can create a domino effect and it can improve or exacerbate your life. While we cannot spend our entire lives contemplating everything, it is important to understand the decisions we are making. This choice ruined Hannah Baker’s life; do not let it ruin your too.
2. The casting was just right.
Recognize anyone in that picture? If not, that is good. There is something special about the cast that made the story telling more unique. You could feel the struggles faced by these characters because you did not recognize the actors. The interactions seem real and familiar, but also have a way of evoking genuine feelings for the character rather than actors who simply portray them.
3. You know every character’s background.
In the original book, it is primarily Hannah’s narrative, but in the show, you get more insight into the ways some of the characters in the book interacted. For example, how would the cocky basketball player ever interact with the shy nice kid? In the show, we find out how these characters are interconnected.
4. It makes you questions, “are people usually what they say they are?”
As humans, we temporarily wear our masks to keep our appearances up. Unfortunately, this does not end in high school. What people do not understand is how these masks can often times hurt others in addition to hurting yourself. Are people who they really say they are? Well, here is your chance to find out.
5. Depression is NOT a form of expression.
According to the 2015 National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 3 million adolescents (12.3 percent of all adolescents) had one major depressive episode in the past year. While some of the most crucial years, it is definitely scary being a teenager. With the already challenging rage of hormones, it is difficult to distinguish depression. Nonetheless, it is important to address. Depression can arise from a series of exogenous and endogenous events, but it is important to seek help in the most effective. Hannah tried, but somehow no one would listen to her until she died. This type of conversation is a two-way street. This lesson is just as important for adults to address and take more seriously.
6. Male Bravado or a double-standard tornado?
Once you watch the show, it is truly your call for they way our social structure is set up. Should there be alpha males? How can we break this barrier? What do we need to do bring a sisterhood? Some of these questions were heavily inspected in the show. If it were up to me, there is definitely something wrong with distinct stratifications and means of unnecessary order in schools. In my opinion, this social sphere should not exist.
7. Do not wait until it is too late.
I do not mean this in light of viewing the show but also this being the central theme. Do not wait until it is too late to help anyone or realize what you have done. The opportunity of a new relationship or new hope can pass if you do not take a chance. There was a beautiful montage depicting the “what if?” situation between main character, Clay and Hannah. The “what could have been” can sometimes be beyond expectations, but you will never know until you try.
8. Emotions are heightened.
If you are an emotionally driven person, then this show is for you. We often hear the word “angst” be associated with the word “teen”. This is because we seem to be more in tune with our emotions. When faced with adversities of appearances and being well received by peers comes into the equation, the real gasoline spills over. You light a match and start a fire, incinerating everyone with yourself.
9. Tapes are back.
Remember those little box-like things with the thin film on top and what looks to be gear-like centers? This is known as a tape. You do not realize how rapidly technology has changed when just yesterday you were listening to tapes on a stereo to now using your phones as your own song shuffler. Though tapes were not used as long time ago, this was the perfect medium to convey Hannah’s chilling voice.
10. Sexual Assault is addressed.
Females from ages 16-19 are four times more likely for sexual assault than the general population of rape victims according to the RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization. With instances of rape cases on college campuses, the way that many victims silently suffer is just as heartbreaking. We see two different victims of sexual assault in this show. In either case, no preventative measures were taken and the characters lost control in either scenario. One can say that there should always be interventions during moments of rape, but there are so many people who witness or experience it. They are so shocked by the act that they freeze up and do not step in. These are some of the same experiences you see in this installment.
11. During times of turbulence, there are some parts that are not as tainted.
Although the show had its share of dark moment, there was some light. Hannah was a normal girl who had an amazing friend and family in the midst of the treachery she faced. Even more so, she acknowledged that one person who made her feel normal in her life. However, he could not save her. Although measures can be taken to protect our friends, it may not be enough. They may be drowning and you would never know, and sometimes there is no way to stop it.
12. If these reasons are not enough, then know that Selena Gomez was the executive producer to the show.
If the former reasons were not enough, I am here to inform you that this will be treat for all Selena Gomez fans. According to the documentary that followed after the Netflix show, Selena mentioned how much she wanted this book to be adapted. In fact she has wanted this project for years and fought for its development rights along with her mother. Not only did she feel that it was important story to share, but this was her way of connecting with her fans and herself on a more emotional level. Of course, this should not be the sole reason to watch the show, but know that she did have hand in its development.
13. The overall aesthetic takes all the way. There was no holding back.
We very rarely see young adults movies or shows adapt a raw depiction of life. The general mise-en-scène including writing, the editing, and the acting made for such a blood curdling and heartbreaking experience. High school is not only the best of times, but also the worst of times, which are often overcast by our general media platform. That changes in this show because we see teenagers completely destroy each other through social media, modern-day technology, and lastly the high school social hierarchy. Emotions are heightened, and for many characters, it felt like “do or die.”
High school is unfortunately not the end. These emotions pursue and exist through college and beyond, but the truth of young adulthood is finally prevailed in its authentic form. I am not here to advertise this show in a superficial way. It is dark and heavy, but there are important messages that should give many a wake-up call.