13 Thoughts about 13ReasonsWhy (Contains Spoilers)

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If you're on social media much, you'd have definitely seen people talking about (or meme-ing about) this Netflix original series. I've never posted about a TV series before, as it normally takes me a while to get round to watching them, but I was interested to see how they covered such a controversial topic.

In short, the series is about 17 year old Hannah Baker, who is in her Junior year at High School. She ends her own life, and leaves behind a set of cassette tapes explaining her 13 reasons why she committed suicide.

This post will contain spoilers, inevitably so, as I discuss some of the potential ideas and messages behind the show. Of course, these are my own interpretion and there's clearly many more meanings and messages that I haven't seen.

Colour Palettes:


The first thing I noticed about the series, was the clever use of colour palettes between the past and present. Present day, as people are dealing with the loss of Hannah Baker, is depicted as much more bleak, with use of blues and greys, whereas the past is shown with golds and yellows - much warmer colours. This, along with the cut on Clay's forehead, helps differentiate the past from the present day. Towards the end of the season, the present day is shown briefly with the warm colours - everything's solved, until news of Alex Standalls 'suicide' (is it suicide?) reaches Mr Porter and present day is bleak once more. - either hinting at a second season, or just leaving us with a powerful message that Hannah Baker's suicide was not a one-off.

The Tapes:


Each episode is named after the tape number and side (A/B), I've never seen a series use episode titles like this before, it's effective. Each tape focuses on a certain person and ultimately how they affected Hannah's choice to end her own life, I thought this was really effective way to tie in a lot of characters in what, otherwise, could've been quite a hard to follow series.

It keeps you in the dark:


What compelled me to keep watching was the want to know more, I suppose that's the reason why the character's would've kept listening to the tapes despite how hard they must've been to listen to. Both you and Clay are in the dark throughout the series, learning more and more each episode. Again, it's well done, and a good way of portraying the premise. All the characters had no idea why she had done it, until they listened to the tape...echoing how in real life, no one really knows what anyone else is going through.

It tears you up:


You really don't know what to think, who to feel bad for, who to side with, it's one complex web of contradictive emotion. On the one hand, Hannah didn't deserve a lot the treatment she received. However, the premise of the tapes, in my opinion, was quite manipulative - she wanted to get back at those who had hurt her in the worst way possible; the blame game. Though, the pain she must've been in to go through with such an elaborate, well thought out scheme only becomes apparent in the last couple of tapes - where you're suddenly completely on her side.

The context is relatable:


The series is, as I've said, set in a high school, 14-18 year olds, and covers the known all too well high school drama that many people my age grew up watching on shows like Lizzie Macquire, That's So Raven, Zoey 101, so even if you haven't been to a High School - you'll know what it's all about. There are also a lot of themes that leak through to any Teenager's experience round about this age - from rumours to relationships, popularity to sexuality, home life to social life - and the classic house party - and some unpleasantness.

Hot Chocolate Friends:


I really liked this phrase, it's up there with 'honeyed words' (Skyrim) on my favourite metaphorical phrases list. (I have them all written down on a sheet of A4) But I loved both the literal sense of the phrase, in how they were going for hot chocolate and coffee with one another, and in the sense that it meant their friendships were seasonal. They were there to get them through the cold months, to pick them up when they were down, but inevitably, there came a time when they didn't need Hannah Baker anymore...they were doing just fine.

Social Communications class:


Some of what is said in the social communications class, really serves as a point driver in the series. They use the classroom, and lesson scenes, to explain more about people's behaviour. e.g. "We all learn, pick things up, from one another." The compliment bags were an interesting idea too, obviously showing a phone screen with people commenting on their selfies, posting statuses etc. could've cheapened the series a lot, and caused a lot of unnecessary lengthy screen time, so the compliment bags served their purpose in how everyone needs validation from each other - they were all so gutted when they had nothing in their compliment bags.

It could've been anyone:


Everyone included in the tapes was experiencing some sort of hardship - Clay is socially awkward and struggles to understand a lot of things, Justin has an awful home life, Courtney hates the fact she's a lesbian, Jessica is struggling after something happens to her, Alex really wants to fit in and Tyler goes unnoticed. I think the point being put across here was that a) everyone struggles behind closed doors b) everything affects everything. Any one of these people could've ended their own life, it's repeated throughout the series 'she wasn't going through anything different to anyone else', and maybe that's to make a statement of how the social culture in High Schools (and other countries equivalents) needs to change.


Each character stands for something:

A couple of episodes in, I began looking deeper into the characters to try and work out their significance in the overall meaning of the series. It seems that each character represents a different issue that can affect or challenge today's youth - Alex desperately wants to fit in, Clay is socially awkward and doesn't really understand a lot, which leads me onto Tony who is almost 'all-knowing' and above the petty drama of the school. Maybe because he's the only character in the show that truly accepts himself? Courtney is ashamed that she's a lesbian, causing her to act like a dickhead, Tyler is a complete outcast who is bullied regularly, leading him to stalk and photograph everyone, rather than try to make any sort of friendship. Ryan cares a lot about his college applications, leading him to publish a very personal poem of Hannah's without her permission (it was a very good poem). Mr Porter represents the failings of schools to notice the warning signs and to notice bullying, despite their 'Zero Tolerance to Bullying', and he'll do anything to protect his job and the school's reputation in such matters. Mr & Mrs Baker are the average hard-working parents, who sadly didn't notice anything 'up' with their daughter because of their own life stresses. You see throughout the series that they're having problems with their rent, their customers are leaving etc. (Screw you Walplex). 

Why didn't Justin do anything?


Why didn't Justin do anything when Jessica was getting raped by Bryce? This is something that annoyed me - surely he'd bash the door down or alert the others? It's his girlfriend! Yet, we see him collapse to the floor and begin to cry. Possibly because, like all of his mother's boyfriends, Bryce has shown his true colours and Justin is scared and feeling hopeless as the one person he looked up to and received support from in times of need, doesn't really care about him - or Jessica for that matter.

The Narration:


The only indication of how Hannah really felt prior to her death, other than her reactions in some of the flashbacks, is through the narration of the tapes overlaying in the scenes. You can tell by the way she speaks - such a matter of fact way, using knowledge she'd learned from her studies to back up what she doing, like the butterfly effect example, and how these various events had had such an effect on her.

The Truth:

There are a couple of occasions where Hannah's account of things, e.g, when Zach supposedly screwed up a letter she wrote, that weren't entirely true. Zach still had the letter perfectly intact. At one point Tony mentions that these tapes are 'her truth' and it may be different from everyone else's truth. I have a feeling this may've been to show that everyone's perception is different and people take things in different ways. It might be a warning, a statement, to be more careful about what you say and do around people

Season 2:

Social media is hitting up with people wanting another season, and whilst that's an option - there are a lot of questions left unanswered. Is Alex okay? What is Tyler planning with all those guns? Has he shot Alex? I could really see a second season based around what Tyler might do, centralised around photographs rather than tapes. We could hopefully see Bryce go to jail (or his money bail him out), and see some justice for Hannah's parents. There are a lot of loose ends that could easily carry over to another season, but at the same time I think leaving it as just the one season would keep it more powerful in its messages.


Final Note: I realise this is a heavy series, and some people may interpret it as glorifying such a deed, but when you peel it back, there's a lot more there than just Jocks and Cheerleaders and social outcasts. Some people have been mentioning on social media that they didn't really cover anything to do with mental illness, there's no mention of the word 'depression' and I think that's been deliberately done as the message of the show isn't about mental illness, but about what can cause these feelings of 'empty'. If the show had included mental illness, Hannah's story may've been much more easily dismissed because of the stigma surrounding it. 


Those were my 13 thoughts on 13 reasons why, I feel like there's still a lot more depth to this show that I've only really scratched the surface at, but those were my interpretations of things - hope you liked it. I definitely enjoyed writing this and I now want to peel apart more TV shows and movies. We'll just see how this post fares in the blogosphere first.

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4 comments

  1. I don't usually like American shows but when I heard all the hype around this I started to watch and I was hooked, I watched the entire show in 24 hours! I actually started to watch a second time I enjoyed it so much. It was distressing and hard to watch at times but the message is so important.

    Alice | alicemaysnell

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    1. I know what you mean, the whole jock/cheerleader thing has been done so many times, but I think this show used it to their advantage because everyone knows about it, I agree it was distressing at times, I had to turn away.

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  2. Omg I loved 13 reasons why and I think I know exactly what you meant about how it's showing how people have different perceaptions of things!

    Jessica | growchangeaccept.co.uk

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  3. Thank you for the insightful comments. I've also tried to answer some of the lingering questions I had from watching the show, and after reading a lot of reviews, both positive and negative. If you're curious, you can peek into my brain a little bit here: http://horch.org/?p=29

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