13 Reasons Why (Initial Thoughts)

April 3, 2017     erinthebooknut     Page to Screen

This is a feature I’ve wanted to start for a while. I have often reviewed movie adaptations of books but rarely TV ones. This feature will cover both. Keep in mind that there will be spoilers.

The first show I want to talk about came out via Netflix on March 31, 2017. Like another show I will cover later it is a Netflix original. Now i’ve noticed a couple things about these Netflix shows: a lot of effort has been put into then and they do not take the easy way out.

Especially today’s show.

I’m of course talking about 13 Reasons Why.

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide. Rape. Bullying. General high school awfulness.

The original book was…ok. I liked the plot but I found the writing style very difficult to get through and Hannah very unpleasant to listen to. I couldn’t find her relatable at all but I devoured the book anyway on plot alone. It was compelling stuff.

The show fixes almost everything I had issues with in the book, and of course that means there are a lot of changes.

  • It doesn’t take place in a single night.
  • Hannah’s parents sue the school.
  • The other kids on the tapes don’t want them passed on.
  • Graphic depictions of both rape and the suicide itself.
  • Many of the characters are more sympathetic with back stories of their own.

So here’s the biggest thing about this show: it is not entertaining. By that I don’t mean it’s bad. Quiet the contrary I thought the show was incredible. But it’s not something you can enjoy watching. It’s dark, its intense, its harsh and unpleasant sometimes. There are actually points while watching that I felt physically sick. It is not a show for the faint of heart nor anyone who would be easily triggered by any of the warnings above.

Hannah’s story is not entertainment but it is important and it does have meaning.

I’m just not sure I would let my teenager watch this show if I were a parent. See, unless they’re emotionally mature and not in a place where they would be triggered by such things I’m not sure many of them could handle it. But really thats up to the individual parent. I’m a 24 year old adult and I was emotionally wrecked by this show. Not a “OH THE FEELS” situation, an “Oh my god, this is hard to watch” situation.

When I say graphic rape I mean on screen, camera in the victim’s face kind of thing. Twice. When I say depictions of suicide I mean girl screaming as the camera stays on her while she cuts into herself. It is harsh, it is intense, and it is incredibly difficult to see on screen.

And maybe some people would consider that done for shock value, I can see where that might be the impression. But I don’t think so. I didn’t take it that way. It’s real, it’s done in such a way that you feel every moment this girl is going through. You hurt with her, you hurt for her. For once Hannah is relatable and her pain is overwhelming. No it’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. It really shouldn’t be. We’re talking serious topics with real consequences. You want to reach out to the screen and do something, you should!

I can’t say all the changes made were good but I understand why they were made. This show isn’t simple entertainment, it means something. It has a purpose. It’s not a simple matter of shock value. Certainly the show isn’t for everyone. I would never expect someone who doesn’t handle these triggers well to watch. In fact I encourage them not to.

However I got a lot out of the show, I think a lot of good can come from it. But entertainment? No, this show is not entertainment and it shouldn’t be regarded as such.


What did you think of 13 Reasons Why? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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