by Molly Barnes
I was merging onto the interstate on my way home from work when I saw red brake lights. I thought, “Aw, man, it’s going to take me at least an extra ten minutes to get home.” But as I continued driving, I saw that the wreck was actually on the other side of the interstate. Why did my side slow down? Because people wanted to see what happened, they were curious.
I think the same can be said for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. In a conversation with one of my students about the series, I asked this thirteen-year-old girl if she had watched it. She said, “I hated it. Don’t watch it.” I then asked her, “Did you finish it?” And she replied, “Yes. I had to. I had to know what happened.”
I watched the first season when it came on Netflix. I couldn’t believe how dark it was and how people were able to stream it so easily and freely (after paying your monthly Netflix fee, of course). What’s more is that I couldn’t believe Netflix said they were coming out with a second season. Spoiler alert: Hannah does commit suicide at the end of season 1. What more can they say? But you see, there’s a wreck on the other side of the road, and we want to slow down and watch it unfold.
Here are thirteen reasons why I think the show is coming back for a second season.
1. Audience to character connection
I think teens are watching this series because they can identify with at least one of the characters. The show definitely doesn’t shy away from hard topics. It’s raw with an intense realness to their struggles that you can’t ignore.
2. Social media presence
This show does a good job of portraying what it’s like to be a teen in a social media world. Just like teens in real life, those in 13 Reasons Why can never escape the constant comparison games, cyberbullying, and pressures of social media. Hannah’s reputation totally changes after a picture circulates around the whole school.
Our society is becoming increasingly more self-focused. Hannah is a product of a narcissistic culture. Her trauma and pain are real. I don’t want to downplay that, but it’s her reaction to those things that turns to narcissism. She blames thirteen people for her suicide when only she is responsible in the end. There were people in her life who truly cared about her like her parents and Clay, but she wasn’t satisfied with that. She wanted people to pay for what they did or didn’t do. As she leaves the counselor’s office in the last episode she says, “Some of you cared. None of you cared enough.”
4. It’s creative
The story is told in a very creative way. Honestly, that was a big pull for me to continue watching. There are thirteen episodes in the season, each one designating a person and a reason why Hannah Baker decides to commit suicide. It flips between flashbacks of Hannah to present day in the aftermath of her suicide. These continual switches force you to pay attention. You want to watch the next episode because you have to know the next piece of the puzzle. What happened that got Hannah to the end of herself?
5. Culturally relevant
You’ve got teens struggling with same sex attraction, anxiety, depression, suicide, rape, drug use, and sending sexually explicit text messages.
After the series was released on Netflix, there were reports of copycat suicides. School counselors were on high alert with the increase of suicides. In the 30-minute documentary 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons (also on Netflix), the series’ executive producer Bryan Yorkey says (in reference to Hannah’s suicide), “We wanted to make it painful to watch. Because there is nothing worthwhile about suicide.” While that may have been their intention, this show broke the rules on how the media displays suicide. They sensationalized it and graphically depicted it.
7. Story lines were left open
Will Alex survive? Will Bryce be brought to justice? What is Tyler going to do with those guns in his closet? We want to know more.
8. People are watching
That one sounds too obvious, but from a business standpoint, it makes sense. Netflix is making money when people watch their shows. If people are watching, they have more subscribers and more money coming in.
9. It makes us feel better about ourselves
I’ve talked to students who have watched the series and one said, “It’s so dramatic. I don’t know why they act like that.” My students might think the characters are dumb or made bad decisions…but they still watched the show. Another student said she enjoyed watching people live out things that she wants to do, but she gets to see the consequences of their actions without having to experience the consequences herself. We can convince ourselves that we’re not as bad as those people.
10. Conversation starter
Have you watched the TV show Lost? Or the movie Inception? If you have, you probably have an opinion about what happened after those credits started to roll. My students definitely have FOMO. Some of them watched just because they didn’t want to miss out on what everyone else was talking about.
I think teens can identify with the pressures the characters face. In addition to academic pressures, the driving force in a lot of their actions and decisions is social pressure.
12. Clay is a real teenager
This is the first teen show that I’ve seen in a long time where the characters actually seem like real teenagers. One of my favorite teen shows is One Tree Hill, but those characters never felt like teenagers. They were always able to communicate what they were feeling in their perfectly scripted world. In 13 Reasons Why there’s a scene where Clay is crying in the shower. His parents have asked him what’s happening and have told him that he can talk to them, but he says he’s fine and remains silent. I don’t think he knows how to get the words out. I remember feeling like that when I was a teenager.
We want redemption. It’s engrained in our DNA. We’re looking for hope. Even unbelievers are searching for a world with no more pain or tears. At the end of the final episode Clay says, “It has to get better. The way we treat each other. It has to get better somehow.”
What are the reasons why you want to watch season 2?
© Reformed Youth Ministries