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Netflix's '13 Reasons Why" examines serious issues facing teens

"13 Reasons Why," the new Netflix drama produced by Selena Gomez, seems to be the talk of high school students everywhere since its release earlier this month.

The show, which stars Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford, focuses on the issues of teen suicide and depression. Viewers not only experience a moving story about love and pain, but also gain a deeper understanding of how a single person’s actions can affect someone else.

"13 Reasons Why" follows Clay Jensen (Minnette) as he listens to 13 tapes that were recorded by his friend Hannah Baker (Langford) before she committed suicide. The series is narrated by Hannah and often includes flashbacks to moments before her death.

Each tape tells the story of a person who caused Hannah pain and led her to kill herself. Therefore, each tape is depicting a "reason why," as the title suggests.

"13 Reasons Why" was a highly anticipated show after the book of the same name, written by Jay Asher, gained much acclaim and a big following.

The TV show, however, gives viewers a more in-depth knowledge of each character’s past, allowing for a more-developed plot.

The book mainly follows Clay as he struggles with the suicide of his good friend. The TV show follows Clay and the other characters who affected Hannah and her decision to commit suicide.

Due to the length of each episode and the number of episodes in this series, the show can describe how each character is feeling as they struggle with the fallout from Hannah’s death.

With this background, viewers gain a new perspective on many high school struggles.

This story gives a new meaning and understanding to suicide, as it is studied up close. Viewers see just how hard high school was for Hannah Baker. She was mocked and bullied and left alone with nowhere to turn.

The plot perfectly seizes the common hardships for high school students and puts a face on those who experience bullying.

More than that, however, it exemplifies how adults see high school students. Hannah did cry out for help, but neither teachers nor parents seemed to realize just how hurt she was.

After her death, the adults in Hannah’s life were not only grief-stricken, but also shocked because most had no idea that Hannah was sad enough to commit suicide.

The show also manages to perfectly capture the pain of teenage rape. One character, Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe), suffers with the knowledge that she was raped while unconscious at a party. She refuses to accept what happened for most of the season, only to admit the abuse after taking on drinking for a short time.

This plot line not only adds to the discussion of high school pain, but also opens a new discussion about rape and how students handle the issue.

Jessica feels that she can’t talk about her abuse, and instead tries to bury it. This shame only leads to more issues for her and the people around her, as counselors and lawyers begin asking questions about the causes of Hannah’s suicide.

The actors and actresses who portray these pained characters seem to do so almost flawlessly. The performances are not gaudy or showy, which greatly adds to the story and the discussion behind it. Even the a main antagonist in the story, Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice), isn’t played out to an obnoxious degree. Each individual performance seems to accomplish the goal of telling this impossibly painful story without mocking the often played-out high school experience.

"13 Reasons Why" manages to take on many issues and show them in a new light. The show forces viewers to consider new struggles and consequences. But perhaps most importantly, it shows viewers how one person’s actions affect the life of another.

Sarah Crawford is a freshman at Nardin Academy.

 

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