Series Review: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why (1-5)

13 Reasons Why is a new series on Netflix. It has 13 episodes and I just finished the fifth one (within the same day, as this is not a series one can easily let go). Needless to say, I will be doing a speedy watching of this series. As the series is quite powerful it deserves two blog posts, as I am not sure I could capture everything in one blog after I finish watching the series.

The series portrays a life of a high school girl Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) who committed a suicide. Hannah experienced some of the things that many teenagers experience, i.e. false rumours, bullying, betrayal, and public shaming. What is distinctive about this series is that Hannah makes a series of cassettes before she dies. The cassettes are aimed at all of her high school peers who hurt her feelings and made her commit a suicide. Each cassette and each side of the cassette feature one person and their impact on her wellbeing, and Hannah orders peers to pass cassettes to the next peer as each peer completes listening. She made it clear that a trusted person has copies and if peers fail to comply and listen to cassettes as well as pass them on, all cassettes will be made public.

This is not the only thing that is distinctive about this series. The series portrays Hannah’s life as the cassettes are played and we watch reality of her friend Clay (Dylan Minnette) who is the current peer listening to cassettes and his thoughts and feelings about them, but we also watch Hannah’s life as the series goes from present to the past.

However, some of the things Hannah says in the series really give food for thought, i.e. that we are now a society of stalkers and thus all guilty for everything that is happening because we all stalk each other. Indeed, majority of millenials currently state they would rather loose their sense of smell than their mobile phones, and the obsession with social media is indeed skyrocketing. It is enough to look at the statistics below to see the impact of social media on everyday lives.

This series also made me ask myself whether the world would be a better place if we did not interconnect to a current level. I still remember the world before digitalisation very well. While I would not want to live without some aspects of digitalisation such as Google because I see its brilliant benefits (e.g. googling for information when writing my academic papers), online version of newspapers (because I can read all newspapers now without having to spend to buy them all) and  online TV such as Netflix (the number of blogs on Netflix’s programme speaks for itself), I do wonder if we needed social media.

It is the social media that took bullying among teenagers to a new level. As Hannah narrates in this series, it is not only rumours that spread around the school (like it would be in the old times when that is all that would happen), it was also a photo and mean statuses on social media.

Hannah had an innocent first kiss with Justin (Brandon Flynn) and he took a photo of her on the swing, which was showing her underwear and made it look as if they had sex in the public. Justin’s obnoxious friend Bryce (Justin Prentice) sends the photo around after Justin falsely bragged to him and a group of other guys. The photo spread around and this is how a bad reputation and bullying started. As it often happens, Hannah became an easy target for bullying afterwards. If there were no smart phones and the social media, the rumour could have possibly be forgotten and it would be Justin’s world against Hannah’s. But as a popular say has it, what happens in Vegas stays on Facebook.

As we know, social media is to blame for many issues teenagers are experiencing. Netflix’s film on rape in school is showing that well, with other peers taking to social media to spread rumours and continue bullying of rape victims, which went to such an extent that victims had to move. And even after they moved, bullies continued to look for them on social media.

Nobody helped Audrie and Daisy, just like nobody helped Hannah in the new series. As a society we are indeed failing to address bullying even though filmmakers and producers are telling us to do so for decades. It would be impossible to name all films that address bullying in schools and the devastating effect bullying has on teenagers.

However, unlikely for majority of films that address the issue with a happy end, this series shows that sometimes there is no happy end. It also goes a step further from other films and gives details on how each thing that happened and each bad word directed to Hannah made an impact on her. Through her narration, Hannah sends a call for help in the name of all bullied teenagers for many people indeed take kindness for weakness, and there are indeed consequences of these actions. Yes, every bad word, every lame excuse and a lack of sincere regret for what has been said and done can have a devastating impact. And words sometimes do hurt more than beating, especially if words are directed to lonely people feeling abandoned and betrayed by former friends and the society as a whole.

At the end of episode five of this brilliant series we learn that Clay’s mother will be representing the school against parents who filed a lawsuit. In that, Hannah’s parents will be claiming she died as a result of bullying while Clay’s mother will be claiming that the school knew nothing about it. It will be interesting to see how this case will be dealt with, and the portrayal of how society reacts when bullying happens…

Thank you for reading.

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