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13 Reasons Why: Welcome To Your Tape

Skyler Genelly and Karina King

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Netflix Original’s latest rapidly rising hit “13 Reasons Why” reveals the traumatic experiences and betrayals which ultimately result in main character, Hannah Baker, ending her own life in a drastic manner. The roller coaster-like ups and downs of the thirteen episodes (each specifying a reason or character that has wronged Hannah and contributed to her demise) are filled to the brim with drama and emotions. The tear-jerking series has been applauded for its raw, real feel, as well as for addressing issues that are prevalent, but often ignored, in society today. Adapted from the young adult novel by Jay Asher, the show is a close depiction to the book besides a few subtle differences which actually add to both character development and audience connectivity.

In the novel, protagonist Clay Jensen binge-listens to all of the cassette tapes in a single night, whereas the show carries out his graphic struggle over a long period of weeks — Clay experiences lucid hallucinations regarding Hannah’s death during this time. This leads to somewhat of a rough start in terms of the pace of the show, but rest assured, after the third episode viewers will definitely be hooked. There are other small variations that have more to do with an update in setting and added background context to certain characters (Tyler has no violent intentions, Alex doesn’t attempt suicide, etc.). Aside from these contrasts, the most crucial to the storyline would have to be the fashion in which Hannah commits suicide — in the novel, she overdoses on a handful of pills, whereas the show depicts a bloody scene in which a distraught Hannah slits her wrists and bleeds to death in her bathtub.

The show itself is a dark progression — each tape heightens in severity as the actions of the characters become more cynical and deep secrets are revealed. Repeated rape and car crashes are only two of the traumatizing scenes depicted by the series. The authentic quality of the footage, partnered with obscene language, and relatable characters provides a factual image of high school today.

 For Bay Area viewers, many of the places used for filming are familiar. Analy High School transformed into the hectic Liberty High School. Vallejo’s 410 Virginia Street became the sentimental Monet’s Cafe, 333 Georgia Street the movie theater, and 431 Georgie Street the Baker’s Drugstore. Petaluma’s bridge was highlighted in a transition scene, and Friedman’s hardware store was Walplex. All of these details certainly provide a close-to-home feel and recognizing them while watching can act as a light-hearted break from the otherwise intense spectacles.  

While the series is an addicting exhilaration, it has somewhat of a mixed critical response in terms of romanticizing suicide. The goal of the show, as told by its producers, is to show both Hannah’s struggle and the resounding permanence of suicide — Hannah may not have been able to reach a resolution, but you can. The National Youth Mental Health Foundation headspace in Australia has released a warning to teen viewers, as they are the most vulnerable to this sort of distressful content. Teen suicide, and suicide in general, has concrete effects on their communities.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” is a wake-up call for people to take initiative in helping susceptible people and for getting help themselves. If you or anyone you know is in danger of harming themselves or others, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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13 Reasons Why: Welcome To Your Tape