Wednesday, 12 April 2017

13 Reasons Why: Book vs Netflix

Since I recently started talking about my mental problems, openly, it felt like a good idea to discuss this book and TV series as well. For the purpose of this review, I thought it might be a good idea to include my initial review on the book from November 2014. But before I do that, I want to briefly introduce you to the concept of 13 Reasons Why  by Jay Asher. It is about Hannah Baker and Clay Jenkins (mostly). Hannah Baker has killed herself, but before doing so she made 13 audiotapes, on which she explains her 13 reasons why. Each tape is about a specific person or event that happened in her life that evidently 'caused' her to kill herself. She has set a plan in place. Starting with the first tape/person. Each person included has to listen to all 13 tapes and then pass them on to the next person, on the next tape. Until it finally gets to Clay, our protagonist, who is/was in love with Hannah. This is what it comes down to in both the book and the Netflix Series. My initial review on the book goes as follows:

Clay is number 8 on this list. 7 people have heard her talk before him. While going through the tapes and the reasons, he keeps wondering why he is on this list. He doesn’t feel like he ever did her any harm. I hated Hannah for putting him through this. This boy, you learn to know as such a sweet guy. I couldn’t imagine that he, like the other people she talks about, did something horrible to her.

I thought I was going to have a hard time while reading this book, but that didn’t happen. The actual event is not mentioned in the book because by that point she is gone and she can no longer tell Clay, or the others, about it. The book consisted of hate and anger. She blamed everything and everyone for what had happened to her. She was somewhat right on most points. It is the circumstances and what people did/do to you, talk about behind your back, but we let it influence us. In a way that we let it beat us down, but also in the way that we listen to what people say about others. Clay was scared of approaching Hannah and telling her how he felt because he thought the rumours might be true. Even though he knew her better than that, he knew the real Hannah.

I think the writer means to teach the reader about consequences. That we don’t always realise what our actions and words do to others and mostly that is true. We sometimes don't consider what someone else might be going through when we say things to them and vice versa. Like bullies who have a hard time at home and therefore lash out at someone else. We all have our reasons. We all have issues and hard times. Why does she give up? I don’t know. I guess she lost hope.

In the Netflix series, things are a bit different because the other characters get a lot more screen time. We get to know the other characters, their lives, their stories. But also we get to see Hannah, what happened and what she did (quite vividly I might add). It's quite heavy and the way I look at it, it really took its time with this story. The cinematography was amazing, the music was good, as was the acting. However, they sometimes sat on one thing for far too long. I understand why they did it the way they did, 13 episodes for 13 tapes, but at that point it took longer to watch the series than it did to read the actual book (because each episode was between 50 and 60 minutes). It got frustrating at times.

At this point it seems as though they might want to do a season 2. There are a lot of things left unfinished. I hope they do, because the ending ... pfff. Nevertheless, I really appreciate that this is out there now. That people are talking about 13 Reasons Why. It's an important issue. Very important. It's a big problem, that is often not taken seriously, as also shown in the series. I could have gone without some of the visuals, but I guess they need to be there. It's a serious issue and that's really emphasised by all of this. Also, I think sometimes our society only really pays attention when things are shocking or extreme. But that might be too much of a generalisation. Of course I hope that others will also read or watch this story. However I do want to warn anyone who is thinking about watching it: it's really honest, and with it quite rough. 

There has been a lot of critique on the story, how it romanticises mental illness and suicide. How it is an insult to people who have mental problems. I saw an article that said "Suicide isn't cause by other people", "suicide is caused by mental illness, not bullying" and "a real-life Hannah Baker would not commit suicide - because Hannah Baker is not mentally ill" (Serena Smith in "13 Reasons Why is an insult to anyone with mental health issues"). I strongly disagree. Every single case is different. I'm still on anti-depressants and I never even considered this show or book, to be an insult, not even a little bit. And really, bullying is not a factor? Do some research before you make a statement like that. Some cases of bullying are so intense and severe that yes, it may have caused suicide for some people. Especially if the bullying goes hand in hand with sexual assault. And can you then still say that it's not caused by other people? I don't think so... bullying is a big problem. That being said, stating that "we all killed Hannah Baker" goes too far. She made the choice to kill herself. She may have felt that way, but there are two sides to every story.

Mental illness and suicide do go hand in hand sometimes, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen when mental illness isn't recognised. We see the story through other people. Just because Clay did not pick up on the signs does not mean they weren't there. Hannah clearly went through some difficulties. The reason it so difficult to recognise is because each and every single case is slightly different. Sure there are a few key symptoms, but what works for one person does not work for another. I think saying that 13 Reasons Why is an insult, is more of an insult than the actual book or series. It's just the tip of the iceberg. What helps me on a day to day basis, still, is the following: suicide does not solve the problem, it just passes the problem on to someone else. And I think that's very vividly shown in this series. So I appreciate it. Even if it's not perfect, but then again, who/what is?

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! My friend Heather at Heather's Reading Hideaway did a post about the book and the show. Here's the link if you want to check it out. http://heathersreadinghideaway.blogspot.com/2017/04/book-review-tv-show-discussion-thirteen-reasons-why.html#more

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