Why everyone is talking about Netflix's 13 Reasons Why

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Jasmine Andersson
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Ever since it was released, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has been making headlines – not to mention generated a lot of conversation on social media. So what’s the show really about?

Here’s everything you need to know about the most talked about show on social media.

1) It’s based on a cult book

The highly-anticipated televised adaptation of Jay Asher’s young adult novel, it begins as a teenage schoolboy Clay (Dylan Minnette) finds a mysterious box on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) – his classmate and crush – who tragically committed suicide just just two weeks earlier.

On the tapes, which are mailed with instructions to pass along from one student to another, Hannah explains to thirteen peers how they each played a role in her death, by giving thirteen reasons explaining why she took her life. It’s her story, in her own words – and it’s every bit as emotional, harrowing, and thought-provoking as you’d expect.

2) Some have slammed the show for being ‘irresponsible’

Despite being regarded as a success for Netflix, 13 Reasons Why has also attracted widespread criticism for its vivid depictions of sexual assault and suicide.

Actor Shannon Purser, best known for her role as Barb in Stranger Things, advised fans to consider their mental health before watching the potentially “triggering” show.

“There are lots of really good things about the show and I have no doubts that it is important and could be helpful to some. Just be careful,” Purser posted on Twitter.

“I would advise against watching 13 Reasons Why if you currently struggle with suicidal thoughts or self harm/have undergone sexual assault.”

Mental health charity Headspace has also warned against the show, saying: “It's not like car crashes or cancer, irresponsible reporting of suicide can lead to further death. We need to talk more about youth suicide, but there’s a way of doing that and a way we can raise those concerns and have a range of awareness.

“But we need to steer clear of really dangerous things like method, or oversimplifying it to one thing like bullying.”

3) Reviews have been, on the whole, positive

Despite being criticised for its handling of sensitive subject matter, 13 Reasons Why has garnered a cool 91% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many praising it for its captivating insight into some of the grimmer realities of growing up as part of Generation Z. The show’s young cast members – for many of whom this show was their big debut – have also been warmly received by viewers.

4) It is one of the first big blockbusters to tackle being cyber-bullying

From private photos going viral, to social media trolling, the show is one of the first major blockbuster hits to examine cyber-bullying and its effects. 

5) The show’s original ending was very different

Originally, Hannah Baker, the protagonist of the show, was not going to die. Instead, she was going to recover from her suicide attempt and return to school. 

Speaking to Entertainment WeeklyAsher said: “Out of seriousness for the issue, we realised we can't go there... No matter that there were missed opportunities for her. Those opportunities aren't there if you do this.

“Once I realised that the message of the story would be stronger and that it would definitely be more of a cautionary tale, I felt that was definitely the way to go.”

6) Selena Gomez was supposed to play Hannah in the show

When Gomez and her mother snapped up the rights to the TV series after reading Asher’s novel, the pair initially planned to put Gomez in the spotlight as Hannah. 

But, despite relating to Hannah’s “quiet strength”, Gomez believed that the role would be better in the hands of Langford. 

“I see myself as Hannah so much,” she said. “Seven years ago I did and even more so today, which I think is funny because it’s backwards. The older I get the more insecure I get, which is odd. But that’s something a lot of people can relate to. Her personality is a quiet strength.

“A book is frightening for me because I know the cult following it has, which is the reason why I didn’t want to be in it.”

7) The show’s writer had a reason for including those graphic suicide scenes

Nic Sheff, who penned the series, has defended the show’s depiction of Hannah’s suicide in a Vanity Fair guest column, saying that it is important for viewers to “face the reality”. 

“[W]hen it came time to discuss the portrayal of the protagonist’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why, I of course immediately flashed on my own experience,” said the writer, who has previously attempted suicide.

“It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like - to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens when you jump from a burning building into something much, much worse.”

8) Producers provided the cast with therapy dogs to help them through the show’s more difficult moments

In order to help the actors manage themselves through the more difficult parts of the shoot, the crew were given access to therapy puppies on set.

Minnette told PopSugar: “I know there was one scene, I wasn't around, but they had therapy dogs on set...

“There was a puppy per hour. They really tried to help out. The puppies helped.”

9) 13 Reasons Why officially broke Twitter

The Netflix series is officially the most talked about show on social media.

A record 3.5 million tweets were posted on the networking site about the series, the highest ever number about a TV program to date.

10) There could be a second series

Asher hasn’t written a follow-up to the bestselling young adult novel, but is open to the idea of writing a second book.

"I'm curious as well," the writer said to Entertainment Weekly.

“What happens to Clay? How do people react to what Alex did at the very end? What’s going to happen to Mr. Porter? I’d thought of a sequel at some point. I’d brainstormed it, but decided I wasn’t going to write it. So I’d love to see it.”

Images: Rex Features and Netflix


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Jasmine Andersson

When she isn't talking about her emotional attachment to meal deals or serenading unfortunate individuals with David Bowie power solos in karaoke booths, Jasmine writes about gender, politics and culture as a freelance journalist. She wastes her days tweeting @the__chez