In 2007, Jay Asher wrote the novel Thirteen Reasons Why and Netflix’s own, Brian Yorkey, turned it into an original series that many people are following. What is it about the writing and screenwriting of Thirteen Reasons Why that people just can’t seem to get enough of?
First and foremost, the controversy of it all is what seems to be sucking people in, episode by episode. If you are not aware, the drama follows tapes that a suicidal teen left behind for her high school peers to unravel all of the psychological factors that caused her to take her own life.
Most people have been talking on social media in regards to how Thirteen Reasons Why is not an accurate depiction of mental health while others have been saying that aside from the bad reputation it gives to those who suffer, the drama of the storyline is worth investing in.
The power behind the suicide is indeed a dangerous message to send out to the audience no matter if it was meant to say, be kind to all of those around you. In a USA Today editorial, the writer, Jaclyn Grimm makes note that the storyline blames all of the other characters instead of Hanna Baker for what has happened.
Now, as a fictional writer, I can tell you that one of the most essential elements of a good story is writing a main character who makes the dumbest decisions ever in order to have a nice snowball effect by the end of the story. I don’t agree with this kind of writing at all. Having the main character point to other characters for their decisions creates a sense of false entitlement is like saying, “And you were the problem, and you didn’t do this right, and I never did anything wrong.” Ha! How true is that? What happened to self-accountability?
But, don’t get me wrong, I’m only critiquing the writer, Jay Asher’s, choice of how to depict a fictional world. The world of fiction itself is an inherently subjective world, and we all have our opinions about what makes a good story. Amazingly, he managed to make this story work for himself, and I’m sure he’s enjoying the backlash to a degree. This kind of controversy is just the thing that we subconsciously want, but to what extent? Are we willing to talk about suicide or does there have to be parameters around what we define as “dramatic” and “cliche?”
A great example of a movie that depicts reality without the extra theatrics is Amazon’s Original Movie, The Florida Project. Now, there isn’t anyone who commits suicide, but it is an accurate depiction of reality that shows just how bad one’s situation can occur that leads to more bad decisions and how people react to emotional responses. In my opinion, the lack of glamorization is a reason this movie isn’t talked about as much as Thirteen Reasons Why. The situation, just as bad (if not worse) shows how hard life can be without the cliche lines and well-rehearsed emotions.
I ask myself, just what is it that has this show, Thirteen Reasons Why, in the media so much? Is it the notion of suicide, is it the acting, the lines, the controversy? And, why did the screenwriter feel as if season one wasn’t enough, there had to be a season two?