Quote: “Everything…affects everything.” –Jay Asher
Song: Hannah Baker’s Tapes
Location: Los Angeles, CA
It’s been 10 months since I last blogged. Blogging all of a sudden became trendy and I was like nooo. That’s not why I started this. Plus I got way too busy working as an actor. BUT…something has made me come out of my blogging shadows…13 Reasons Why. A show that I assumed everyone would love, became one of Netflix’s most controversial shows. I read the book in high school (That’s right…a much ignored fact is this is based off of a BOOK) and fell in love with it. Jay Asher, the author, told the story in such an exquisite way, that you felt like you were right there with the characters. When I heard the book was going to be made into a television show, not even a movie, but a television show, I was very very worried. Rarely does TV do books justice. Rarely does film even do books justice. BUT…I have to hand it to Netflix, after recently finally watching, still scared, I have to give them full props. They completely nailed the series. So, here are 13 Reason Why I think 13 Reasons Why deserves way more credit than the internet haters are giving it.
- It was based off of a book.
I’m starting off with my biggest grievance in all the complaints. “How could Netflix create a show like this?” Well…they didn’t create the show. They produced the show. Jay Asher technically is the one to THANK (or blame) because this series is BASED OFF OF A BOOK. A really fantastic book that you should probably read. I have yet to meet one person who read the book first, that doesn’t like the series. So far it seems that everyone who hates it, walked in not knowing what was going to happen therefore became very hateful.
So no, Netflix did not create anything. They produced. BUT…they deserve an A+ for producing this, and adapting it at times. The book is over a decade old so some things had to be updated for the times, mainly the use of social media. Netflix worked well with Jay Asher plus the man at the helm of the Netflix adaptation, Brian Yorkey (who is known for multiple Broadway gems such as Next to Normal and If/Then). Although they do not follow the book completely the same, none of their changes really bothered me too much. They definitely dramatized and exaggerated from the book, but that’s what TV does. At the end, they DID stay true to their story. (Unlike HBO’s Big Little Lies, who completely ruined their adaptation of the book…and it’s not getting a Season 2 now. Surprise Surprise. It didn’t deserve one. They couldn’t even tell the first story right.) Even with all the dramatizations, fans of the book are able to essentially see their story. The biggest difference is that there are a few untied ends, allowing them to create a Season 2.
Here is a link for all of the main differences, in case you’re interested: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/tv/a9224403/13-reasons-why-book-vs-show/
- The Cast.
I want to give an incredible shout out to the cast, along with the casting director. The show was cast perfectly. Also, almost all of the young actors are under the age of 22. There’s only about 3-4 who are over 23. This is a young cast with almost no big time experience, going into an incredibly difficult and touchy subject and storyline. And each and every one of them handles it so so well. There may have been a few spots where you can tell the acting is a little cheesy and forced, BUT…none of those moments happen in the scenes where it counts. The scenes where they could have shied away. I think this cast has a lot to be proud of. Not only for what they personally brought to the screen, but also what they had the courage to bring to the screen. The story, the vulnerability, the perspective, and the truth.
- Selena Gomez was not Hannah Baker.
Here is a little unknown fact, or at least not widely known. Selena Gomez was supposed to play Hannah Baker. I want to personally thank Selena for being so true to herself and this show, that she said, “No. I can’t play this.” Not because she didn’t want to, but because she realized the part wasn’t for her. She was way too big of a celebrity. It wouldn’t have been about Hannah Baker. It would have been about “Selena Gomez playing Hannah, lead role in new Netflix show.” So this reason I will keep short and sweet, but whether you’re a fan of Selena Gomez or not, you have to respect her for making this decision. She gave away a role, so she could make the project better. (She was a producer on the show.) Thank you Selena for being a much bigger part of this than anyone can think, by simply moving to the sidelines. And thank you for producing such a great series.
- Clay Jensen.
Since we’re talking about the cast, and actors, let’s zoom in on Clay Jensen and the actor who portrays him, Dylan Minnette. There were so many times I just wanted to punch him in the face, so, that means he did a really good job of playing Clay; The nerdy student who was in love with Hannah but was just too awkward to do anything about it. At times Hannah was giving him neon signs to make a move and he’d just let it slip by. And then when he did make a move, she freaked out and he got scared. (Rightfully he got scared.) Dylan Minnette had to play someone who was almost emotionless, yet, had too many emotions to deal with. He was playing 2 opposites that were hitting him at once always and I think he did a brilliant job. And CLAY JENSEN’S EXIST. I can think of one right now. It makes me wonder if I were to die, how many people would wish they had said something, like Clay wishing he had told her he loved her. Dylan Minnette will have a very bright future (he has already worked some big time shows), especially if he continues to power out roles like this.
- The addition of Jeff Atkins.
This was a big difference from the book and the show that I only liked because the actor pulled it off. In the book, the student who dies in the car accident caused by Jenny (in the show her name is Sheri), is unknown to most of the students. But in the show, it ends up being Clay’s unlikely best friend. This could have been a plot line change that was deeply hated because it then causes the reason for Clay to be mad at Hannah when she needed him most. BUT…watching the show with this “new character” panned out because Jeff Atkins was AWESOME. He was AMAZING. He was the best guy on the show. He was so nice to Clay (who was actually his tutor) and tried to help Clay out with the ladies, especially with Hannah. He told Clay he wasn’t drunk before driving, and ended up dying because Sheri had actually hit and knocked over the stop sign. But Clay didn’t know that until the tapes, so he had been mad at Jeff for “dying like that.” When Hannah came to Clay crying (because she had been with Sheri when the sign was knocked over), he thought she was trying to make his death about her, that’s when their friendship started to fall apart. Clay was in mourning. ALL of that…is new in the series. But thanks to the actor who played Jeff, Brandon Larracuente, it all paid off. (Brandon is also an actor on Netflix’s other big hit, Bloodline.) Everyone liked Jeff. Who wouldn’t? Plays sports, is funny, AND NICE? A winner guy that we unfortunately lost in this fictional world. And, since Hannah knew he was one of Clay’s few friends, his death weighed even more on her. Great addition to the storyline for sure!
- The Cinematography
The shooting of the series is beautiful for sure. It was shot in Northern California, which is already a beautiful place. But sometimes the shooting goes from beautiful to uncomfortable. In the best way possible. Like when we watch Hannah’s face as she’s being raped. The camera just sits there and doesn’t move. Or when we literally watch her slitting her wrists. It’s not implied. We see it. And the camera again, does not move.
In Beyond the Reasons, a short documentary where the producers and actors talk about the making of the show, they say that the director said to leave the camera on so long that it becomes uncomfortable for the audience. And then leave it longer still. Brian Yorkey himself said that they had to do justice for people who are watching this show and have suffered from what they’re seeing. If they were to gloss by it, that would be undermining what they went through. They were showing it- the events, the pain, the turmoil- full out. Which does not usually happen in cinema media. This decision is a huge part of why they received so much controversy. But it’s a decision that, I believe, obviously I believe, was the right one.
- They took Chances.
- They add the teenage perspective on social media.
In Beyond the Reasons, I believe it was Brian Yorkey (but could be wrong, I was trying to write the quote down) so let’s just say, someone says, “Social media is curated. Even with all that and all the updates….you still really don’t know what’s happening in [one’s] life.” Exactly. Social media is not an accurate portrayal of life. It’s the life we want people to know about. The one that makes our parents feel fine at home after we’ve moved away. The one that makes people jealous of us. The one that helps us pretend we’re happy all the time. I have been out of high school for 5 years now, and already social media has become more relevant that when even I was in school. Social Media deserves a lot more credit than older generations give it. We are always plugged in, whether we like it or not. It’s like passing a note in the hallway, except now it can be passed to 5000 people in less than a millisecond. And on top of that, it can never be thrown into the trash. It will exist forever.
Although some may say Hannah didn’t really need to commit suicide, that things weren’t that bad….I say how do you know that? Teenagers, and children in general, even young adults, don’t have this wide perspective. They have the perspective of the tiny little hole in the world they see every day. School. And then social media added on top of that? So you can be mocked even away from school? Forever?
I love that this show brought in social media. And since so many viewers saw that as “not so bad”, it shows there is still a problem with the different generations understanding what social media can actually do to a person. It can, yes, it CAN, utterly destroy someone.
- Clay’s Parents. Hannah’s Parents.
Both parents dynamics were very interesting. Let’s start with Clay’s parents: The overbearing mother who was genuinely worried her son was showing suicidal signs too. She was doing her job to the best of her ability and I liked how honest they were with it (even though her reactions were a little relaxed at times.) But that may because of Clay’s dad, who I really liked. He continued to ration Clay’s behavior as a typical teenager which I thought was so interesting. Most parents just assume they’re child is going psycho and react as such. But his dad was steady and patient, realizing his son was going through something, but also realizing he knew him enough to know he wasn’t a drug addict, etc. There’s something to be said about his confidence in his child and how he was raised. I really liked that.
Hannah’s Parents: Just amazing acting. They both portrayed so well just the emptiness and questions they were suffering from. Also, big props to the make-up and hair team, who definitely added to the quality of their performances. All I wanted to do was hug both of them. They did an amazing portrayal.
- The show wasn’t meant for parents. It was meant for teenagers. Period.
One thing I really like, after reflecting on this show, is that it wasn’t made for parents. It was made for teenagers and young adults. Most youth shows have factors in them that allow parents to watch and also be entertained. Although parents may watch this and be “entertained”, they may not understand it like someone in their teens would. And that’s because the show doesn’t try to cater to parents because it’s not for parents. It’s for those who have/are experiencing what Hannah, Clay, Justin, Jessica, etc. all experienced. That’s integrity on the producers and writers parts. That’s the integrity Netflix allows their original shows to create.
- Netflix does reach out to those who may be feeling suicidal.
A huge knock against this show was that it was triggering. I really hate that word. It’s so overused. At this point, everything can be “triggering”. Watch Reality TV then. BUT…the people who complain that this show is triggering, are the same people who complain that TV doesn’t show anything important anymore. So yes, this show does conjure up many events that may throw people into horrible memories. BUT…they give fair warning. You don’t jump into this show blind. Not only does the summary already let you know what’s about to take place, but Netflix actually added warnings before certain episodes that may be “triggering.” Especially if they are about to show graphic pictures, like the rape and suicide itself, they give huge warnings on the screen before the opening credits even role. These warnings also include a phone number to the suicide hotline number. They did the best they could. They were portraying an adaptation of a book, but made sure they were warning and giving advice, as best as they could, to those who might suffer from watching it, being reminded, or anything else that may not even be related to the show. They did what they could without interrupting the message of the story. This brings me to #12.
- Netflix produced it.
Netflix is one of those dream production companies because they give so much leeway to their artists. That’s how they wind up with absolutely brilliant shows like The OA, Sense8, and Bloodline. They do not squeeze their artists with restrictions like network television does. Netflix holds the reins very very loosely. This is the only reason 13 Reasons Why was able to be as powerful (controversial or not…it was powerful) as it was. They did not need to sugar coat anything. They let everything play out, very very raw. This, THIS, we have to thank Netflix for. Thank you for allowing this show to be raw and not sugary. Because in real life, this is not sugary at all.
- They’re truthful. They really are.
Continuing from above, the show is raw. It is truthful. One of the arguments I’ve hated the most other than “Netflix created this story”, is that “This isn’t what suicidal people do in real life.” Excuse me? How do you know? Not ALL of them go through this, yes. But I guarantee many do. In fact, the idea of leaving noteS, rather than a note, is very truthful. Especially when you are a creative writer, like Hannah was. The show caused me to really think about suicide and what it would be like to feel like you’re out of options completely. I am a person who leaves sticky notes in my friends cupboards or cars, for them to find later. I love leaving clues for something bigger. So yeah, actually, this show is very accurate. Because I could see myself doing something in a similar fashion with the way she left her notes. And if I see that, that means many people see that. She wasn’t necessarily out for revenge; she just wanted to finally be heard and able to say her piece without interruptions.
So, my blog probably isn’t going to change your mind about whether you like the show or not, but I REALLY needed to stick up for one of my favorite books. Because this show did the book justice. (Unlike Big Little Lies….still bitter.) I don’t know how I’m going to feel about Season 2. I really wish they would have just wrapped this all up to create a mini-series. But, if Season 2 has Jay Asher and Brian Yorkey involved, I have hope that it will be great. (Still worried though…I think it may get melodramatic with Tyler’s chest we see at the end of Season 1.)
As Clay says near the end, we all just need to be way nicer to each other, don’t we? If this show teaches us anything, it’s that YES. Every. Little. Thing. Matters. It does.