I know that the title was a bit cheesy, but when there’s a number in the name of a show you gotta put it to good use. Maybe I’ll do a post called 101 reasons I loved Zoey 101. Just kidding, I’m not. I haven’t watched that show since I was eight and that would take way too much time.
I think the first ever show on Netflix I binged watch was 13 Reasons Why. I was only 12, fresh into middle school watching a show that thrust suicide, depression, and sexual abuse down the viewer's throat. It taught me a lot about high school before I even stepped into it and I’ve grown such an emotional connection while watching it for the last three years. It feels like I went through high school with Clay, Justin, Jess, Alex, and the whole lot even though I’m only a freshman. As they’ve graduated from Liberty High, I suppose I’ve graduated from living through their friendship simultaneously.
13 Reasons Why presented it’s fourth and final season on Netflix last week. The show has dredged up many controversies because it talks about suicide amongst a lot of other difficult subjects in a way no other show has quite done before. Suicide is a very heavy topic and mental health is extremely different for everyone. In the early days of the show, reviewers said 13 Reasons Why would spark up copycat behavior, it didn’t show how people can help prevent suicide and it does not completely examine the psychology of someone with suicidal thoughts. I do agree with middle school teacher Elizabeth Peyton who wrote in Psychology Today that suicide is not “the ultimate “eff you’ to all the people you leave behind.” The way that Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) left a total of 13 tapes, one for each person who hurt her, does make it seem that way. However, I admire 13 Reasons Why bravery for taking on a topic that no other high school show likes to touch upon.
Reality check. Not everyone is popular, going to parties every weekend, has the dream girl/boyfriend, and has the world at their fingertip; shows like All American and Gossip Girl glorify. Most teens struggle with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and 13 Reasons Why does not back away from talking about that. Frequently while I watched the show I would slip into a depressive funk because well after I finished an episode, 13 Reasons Why message still sunk into my skin. In 7th grade, I had to stop watching because it was beginning to be too much. There is no denying that 13 Reasons Why has a lot of triggers within and if you are battling suicidal thoughts, sexual abuse, or more it is probably not the best thing to watch at the moment. But, it is beyond helpful and comforting to see real issues being portrayed on screen and I know so many other teens feel the same way that the media isn’t avoiding mental health anymore.
So I hereby present my list of why I love 13 Reasons Why, my little guilty pleasure and a show I miss watching already.
1. It’s a well-crafted mystery
13 Reasons Why could be categorized as a drama, a thriller, a mystery, or all of the above. Every show of course has mysterious elements; a goal is always trying to be solved no matter how big or how small. But what I love about 13 Reasons Why is how this one event of Hannah committing suicide stretches out into a vast amount of conflicts/ mysteries to be solved and it never gets old. However, this should not get confused with 13 Reasons Why trying to make suicide seem "fun" and "interesting". To me, the writers of the show don’t do that at all and keep it real. Suicide is not just a thing to sweep under the rug and throughout the show, we see how important it is to check on the ones you care about because you never know what they’re struggling with. That being said since it is a tv show writers still want to keep writers interested and they have nailed that on the head. I can confidently say there is one main ”mystery” of each season. Season 1: What pushed Hannah over the edge to kill herself? Season 2: Will Hannah’s mom win the lawsuit against Liberty High? Season 3: Who killed Bryce? Season 4: Will anyone get caught for killing Bryce and framing Monty? And what is everyone going to do now that high school is over? Some people complain that the show has been dragged on but there are so many twists and turns, that argument can quickly be debunked.
2. Liberty High feels like a normal high school
High school can suck. A lot of the time. It is this hub of a mass amount of kids who are trying to figure out what they want to be in the world, while still trying to fit in and have fun. The main “group” of the show, Clay, Justin, Ani, Tyler, Zach, Jessica (aka Jess) , Alex, Tony, and Charlie, are all SO different and I can probably name someone from my school who acts like each of them. While all the main characters do hang out with each other a lot, they don’t feel like this overwhelming clique. High school isn’t as cliquish as Mean Girls or other films and tv shows make it seem. I’ve seen Jess talk to random extras and Ani talk to other people, which is exactly like real life! I mean, of course, I have my main girls that I hang out with but I socialize with other people too.13 Reasons Why also highlights the problems with the adults who make up the school itself. A lot of times it feels like the students vs the principal/ faculty when it comes to important issues and this show doesn’t back away from that. For example, there were many scenes were Jess as a student body president would confront Principal Bolan about his behavior of ignoring the sexual abuse culture in the school. In episode six, there is a school shooter lockdown. Kids were crying, having panic attacks, planning for the worst scenario possible. After the school shooting in Parkville High School, lockdowns like this have become common in American high schools all over the country. As well as in Season Four, episode 8, when the whole school participates in a walkout in response to excessive force by the school police officers. The students are all tired of feeling like criminals in their school and are not afraid to speak up to the adults who think they know everything. My school went on a walkout last December as well, hoping to get the faculty to listen and change the racism that takes place within our walls. This generation of high schoolers are brave and not afraid to speak up. 13 Reasons Why gets that.
3. I love Clay Jensen.
Mr. Clay Jensen. Played by the amazing Dylan Minette, whose picture on my wall is staring at me while I write this. As much as I love his acting, I love his music from his band Wallows even more, and wish Corona hadn’t happened so I could have seen him in concert this month. He has made 13 Reasons Why what it is and I can argue that he’s always been the star of this show, not Hannah. Clay does act a little cray-cray at times. He went through a lot of ups and downs in Season 4. His mental health was declining rapidly and you could see his anxiety and depression piercing right through him. His frequent outbursts, the time when he stole a gun from a school police officer, the incident at the frat house are just snippets of all the endeavors we saw him go through this season. I always asked myself, why has he not gone to therapy yet? And finally this season he did indeed go to therapy and his sessions with Dr. Ellman (Gary Sinis) were pretty deep. Clay Jensen never deserved to be on Hanah’s tapes and at the end of Season 1 Hannah’s recording states, “Your name does not belong on this list. But you need to be here if I’m going to tell my story. If I’m going to explain why I did what I did. Because you aren’t every other guy. You’re different. '' Clay always cared about Hannah, more than anyone else ever did. He was the one who found her body all alone in the bathtub and beat himself up inside for he never showed how much he loved her while she was still here. Throughout the season Clay has always been there for his friends, no matter what trouble it lands him in, because he doesn’t want to lose anyone else like how he lost Hannah. He is a great example of a dynamic character who just tugs at your heartstrings. What boys might call a “simp” now of days, I bet none of them know how to care for someone as deeply as Caly does, so they can hush. Everyone truly deserves a Clay in their lives. And I hope I can meet Dylan one day ;)
4. Justin Foley’s storyline.
Besides having a huge crush on Brandon Flynn ever since Season 2, I must say Brandon plays the performance of Justin Foley impeccably. Justin’s storyline has been interesting from the get-go. At the beginning of the series, we see that Justin lives in a rough part of town where he is surrounded by drug addicts, most notably his mother who is addicted to heroin. Ever since Justin’s dad left his mom she has had a revolving door of ex-boyfriends who have abused Justin without his mother caring much. Justin struggled with a heroin addiction of his own and at the beginning of Season 4, he returns to the Jensen house after some weeks in rehab. His character has always been one I have held close to my heart. Justin has gone through so much throughout his life and out of all of his friends he is still the one who tries to keep it together and look on the brighter side of things. He is a respectful guy and never wants to feel like a burden to anyone. After season 2 when the Jensen's adopted Justin it was amazing to see Justin and Clay’s friendship and now brotherhood blossom into something so sweet. Even when Clay said some messed up stuff to Justin, Justin never stepped on Clay’s toes because he knew Clay was the Jensen's son first and wanted to respect that. Clay did act like a prick towards Justin especially in season 4. In the House Party episode, Justin went after Clay to find him at the party their parents had banned them from going to. He sees Clay smoking weed with some kids at the party and says, “Clay, I know I’m the last guy to tell you not to do drugs, but what the fuck are you trying to prove ?” In which Clay responds, “It’s not like I’m shooting heroin in a fucking alley in Oakland.” Way to be supportive of your brother who is only a couple weeks sober Clay! But even when his friends suck sometimes Justin always rides it out for the ones he loves. That’s why it was unbelievably devastating when he died in the last episode. After the huge cliffhanger episode 9 left us with the final scene of Justin passed out on the prom dance floor, in the next episode we learn he has AIDS and lung disease so severe that he dies midway through the episode. Justin had a bright future ahead of him, he got into a good college, he had a healthy relationship with the Jensen's, and when he died all of that was completely washed away. To me, Justin is a living example that you do not have to be what your parents were. He is living proof that change is possible no matter what. Why oh why did he have to go. It could have been Ani, Zach, anyone but mo it had to be Justin. I suppose it wouldn’t have hurt as much to see the others go, but still come on.
5. There are never more than 13 episodes to a season
All of the seasons have exactly 1 episode except Season Four which only has ten. What a way to mess up the order, I wouldn’t have minded three extra episodes. But yes 13 Reasons Why is perfectly short and concise. I don’t watch tv all that much because I am very impatient and a twenty episode series feels all too daunting for me. When I do get into a series they normally have similar formats like this show. My favorite show Breaking Bad has about thirteen, 45-minute episodes per season. Therefore my short attention span says thank you to the director of 13 Reasons why :)
6. Justin and Jess’s relationship !!
Justin and Jess are the definition of endgame. You can feel Brandon Flynn and Alisha Boe’s chemistry through the screen. Jess and Justin have been through so much with each other and while their relationship is on and off throughout the show they always have each other’s back. Jess is always there to knock sense into Justin when he’s thinking about doing something stupid and does not stand for his self deprecating comments. Jess is always patient with him and whenever he talks about not being good enough for her, she lets him know that he’s the only guy she’s always felt a hundred percent comfortable with. Jess is a badass and Justin doesn’t make corny jokes about her being a feminist like most of the other guys on the football team has. He simply respects her. In the school lockdown episode Justin left the locker room unsure if there was an actual school shooter on the loose just to check up on Jess. He couldn’t imagine dying without saying goodbye to the love of his life first and when someone is willing to die for you man love doesn't get any better than that. I was on the verge of tears in the last scene of Jess and Justin together as well. Jess next to Justin in the hospital bed, watching this guy she loved so much inch closer to death, all of his aspirations dwindling to dust. Alisha and Brandon are amazing actors, their relationship feels so real and to no surprise, they are super close in real life as well. In an Instagram post for Alisha’s birthday, Brandon wrote, “Thank you for being the best screen girlfriend a gay boy could ask for.” Ugh and that right there is best friend goals.
7. The lighting is symbolic
Lighting is very important to tv shows and films and I love it when it is used to add creative elements into the plot. In Season 1 of the show, the scenes where Hannah was alive are always shot in warm tones and the scenes after she dies are always in cooler dark blue and grey tones. Lighting does play an effect on the viewers' psyche and for the most part after Season 1 the entire show is shot in these ominous dark blue and grey tones. So every time I watch the show I immediately feel the sense of heaviness that weighs upon the characters and the seriousness because of the way the lighting is. It makes you feel solemn and depressed like it should. Sometimes I forgot the show takes place in California because I imagine California as this bright, sunny, dreamland type place where high schoolers go to the beach every day. And nope not once in this show did they go to the beach, like ever.
8. 13 Reasons Why is inclusive of all types of love.
First and foremost, happy pride month to everyone in the LGTBQ + community! I love you all. 13 Reasons Why shows so many different types of relationships and it never feels like they stick a gay couple in the show just to be “inclusive,” they care. Ever since Season 1, we have seen characters struggle with their sexuality and become confident with being who they are. Hannah had a little thing going on with Courtney in the first season. Next, in all of the seasons, Alex Standall (Miles Heizer) has struggled with his sexuality. He dated Jess for a period of time, he kissed Zach, played by Ross Butler, and much more. But in season four he identified as gay and started dating Charlie St. George (Tyler Barnhardt), the cute junior on the football team. Let me just say Alex and Charlie’s relationship was too cute. I really wish we got to delve into it more, the promposal Charlie made for Alex was simply adorable. In the prom episode of this last season, Alex and Charlie were nominated and won for Prom King and King. Earlier in the episode, Jess says something along the lines of whoever the football team votes for prom king/queen always wins. And guess what all of Charlie’s football teammates voted for him and Alex, so Liberty High had their first-ever two kings for prom. We love seeing toxic masculinity being erased slowly but surely! Tony Padilla (Christian Navarro) is another character a part of the LGTBQ + community and on the show, he lives with his boyfriend Caleb (RJ Brown). Caleb looks so much older than a high schooler but it was nice how he was there for Tony after his parents got deported and finally convinced him to accept the boxing deal at the college in Nevada.
9. The writers listen.
13 Reasons Why was first a book written by Jay Asher and published in 2007. Brian Yorkey is the main writer of the show along with a team of other writers who work on certain episodes. A big reason why I loved season 4 was since the former narrator of the show, Ani Anchola (Grace Saif) was no longer in the spotlight. In season 3 Ani came waltzing into Liberty High as the new girl because her mother had just been hired as the home healthcare professional for Bryce Walker's grandfather. Ani lived in Bryce Walker’s home with the grandad, Bryce, and his mother and even had sex with Bryce despite knowing all the horrible accusations against his name. There is a laundry list of reasons that I hate Ani which I will not get into but mainly no viewer ever likes a character who is a plot filler. Someone who does everything right and doesn’t feel like a flawed individual whatsoever. How in the heck did Ani know everyone’s secrets when she had just arrived at Liberty High and why was she trying to shove her nose into everyone’s business? The only time we got a peek of who the real Ani occurred in her college interview in episode seven of the last season. Her interviewer asks her simply how her friends would describe her. She goes on to say, “The truth is, I don’t think my friends would have any idea how to describe me. When they look at me, they only see what I want them to see, just like you’re only seeing what I want you to see. Which, frankly, isn’t the real me at all.” Finally, a peek of some insecurity or flaws in this girl.
The writers noticed the fans' uproar against Ani’s character in season 3. Grace was subjected to such brutal bullying that she had to delete many of her social media accounts. There has been an issue in the fanbase of this show not distinguishing the actor from the character they play and her castmates never seemed to defend her much either. But the writers scaled back on Ani’s importance, she was absent from the show for a full two episodes because her mom was sick and the narrator's role was finally handed back to Clay. Ani took a seat in the back row and I couldn’t be happier.
10. The costumes are affective.
It feels weird to call what the characters wear in this show costumes because the clothes they wear are normal clothes that any teenager would put on. But the actors most likely don’t come to the set dressed up in those clothes so the word “costume” must stick. Anna Prisekin is the head of the costume and wardrobe department and there is a pretty big list of other workers involved in that department as well. So much goes into making a tv show, it is incredible. The reason that I like the costumes in the show is that they are clothes teenagers would wear in today’s time. They are simple but clean and always match the depressing mood of the show. I would have been utterly confused if there had ever been an episode of Clay in a banana yellow colored shirt. Sometimes I watch shows and I look at the costumes and scoff because no teenager would be caught dead in some of these cringe-worthy shirts the actors wear. Truth be told, I would not mind stealing an outfit or two from Jessica Davis’ closet.
11. Monet’s café looks like a cool place to hang out.
I think every teen drama has one coveted spot where all the main characters go to in times of crisis or as a hangout spot. In the case of 13 Reasons Why, Monet’s café does the job. Monet's has been around since the very first episode. Hannah, Alex, and Jess form their little “trio” amongst the round wooden tables at Monet and make it a challenge to try a new drink on the menu every time they come to the café. Throughout the show, the characters frequently come to Monet’s, whether it’s to study, to view a photo exhibit Tyler (Devin Druid) created of everyone who helped him after his school shooting incident (that scene was so heartwarming !!) or create plans on how they’ll get away with murder. Instead of coffee, the deepest secrets have been spilled within the walls of Monet’s. Justin even begins working there during Season 3 in that cute brown shirt serving lattes to his lads. Monet’s looks like a cooler Starbucks, it seems so big and bright and I prefer a mom and pop coffee shop over a franchised establishment every day. The things I would do to sit in Monet’s drink hot cocoa, eat a muffin, and talk about life with my best friends. Unfortunately, Monet’s is not an actual cafe in real life but a girl can dream.
12. The chemistry in the cast is amazing + it is super diverse !
We love to see it. Friend groups composed of all different types of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The chemistry between the main characters of the show makes you believe you are watching a teen group of friends and their ups and downs through high school. Barbara Fiorentino was the casting director of the show and all I can say is she did a great job in finding people who mix so well together. Most of the cast are best friends in real life too which makes me very happy to hear. I love when I scroll through Instagram and see them commenting heart eyes or other supportive comments on each other’s post. The castmate love is real and no wonder why it feels so natural to viewers, they probably act this way around each other all the time. Clay, Jess, Ani, Justin, Tony, Zach, Alex, Tyler, and Charlie are all so different from one another in the show but that makes it so interesting. I’m sure there are Buzzfeed quizzes on "Which character of 13 reasons Why are you ?" because each character could be a blueprint for each role in a friend group. Clay as the loyal one, Ani as the smart one, and so on. I think I would be more of an Alex type of friend in the group and when I took the Buzzfeed quiz I found out my theory was correct :) But regardless I love every single member of this show so much (besides Ani and Zach sorry) and like I said I’m sad I won’t get to live through their friendship simultaneously anymore.
13. This song.
If you clicked on this Youtube video and got chills as I did, you are my type of person. The Night We Met by Lord Huron sends shivers through my body from the first “ooh” of the song and usually I am a full-on crumpled and crying mess by the last guitar pluck. Watching the video all over again made me emotional and I’m going to miss this show so much. I never re-watch tv series much and if I do rewatch this again I got to give it some time because the emotional journey it puts you through is A LOT. I don’t think I’ll ever watch another show as emotionally moving as 13 Reasons Why and as Huron sings, “I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Haunted by the ghost of you. Take me back to the night we met,” and the Youtube video plays on my laptop, similar to Clay’s flashbacks of Hannah I see flashbacks of myself watching the show. The first time I pressed play on episode one in sixth grade, the nights of staying up to finish an episode at 1 am, the little poster I made saying “I heart Justin Foley and Zach Demspey” in 7th grade and finally watching the last episode on Sceener with one my friends.
Thank you so much 13 Reasons Why for moving me in every human way possible and I don't think I will ever forget the way you made me feel. Ever.