13 reasons why maybe yeah nah

Review: 13 Reasons Why, currently available on Netflix

Why not?

  1. Because most of it’s pretty boring. It’s an American high school drama, and it looks like one: teens in jeans, cruising in cars, beer bongs by the pool. In terms of the stylistic look and feel there’s nothing new here (although narratively there is something quite tricky, see point 6 below under “Why?”)
  2. Eps 3 – 10 felt like like a real slog through the same narrative set up, swapped out for different characters. Hannah Baker meets someone interesting, they develop a friendship, the friendship goes wrong, Hannah Baker inches ever closer to her tragic demise. It’s not bad. It’s just repetitive.
  3. There is almost no positive role modelling (other than some good casting for diversity). You get to see a lot of people making a lot of bad decisions, culminating in a suicide, which is very bad.
  4. In the context of so many people making bad decisions, I found Hannah’s suicide hard to accept. If that’s the point, it’s the wrong one. The writers had a chance to demystify something important and difficult. Instead, they perpetuate a mystery. I don’t think that’s in the least bit helpful.
  5. There are some hopelessly unrealistic story lines. One adult character is faced with a doozie conflict of interests, but the writers never make her deal with it: she just blithely carries on causing untold misery and confusion. I found myself rolling my eyes quite a lot at that point.


  1.  Because New Zealand has far too much suicide especially among youth, and anything that’s prepared to talk about it deserves to be taken seriously at least for starters.
  2. It models some really bad behaviour in front of a young audience who might be influenced to reproduce some of it, so I figured good parenting would probably involve getting to grips with it.
  3. In fact, the bad behaviour is really what it’s all about. Bullying. That’s the conversation you’ll have with the young person in your life who wants to watch it.
  4. The show does diversity very well, with complex relationships between people of different colours, ages, sexes and sexual orientations driving the narrative in every episode.
  5. It’s good at busting stereotypes. It spends a lot of time on the strange moody kids on the fringes, without idealising them, or anyone else.
  6. If narrative trickery is your thing, you’ll love this. Each episode is based on one of Hannah’s audio recordings on one side of a cassette tape. Hannah’s would-be boyfriend gets through 13 sides of seven tapes over the course of the season. Our motivation to watch is sutured in perfect unity to his motivation to reach the end: we both have 13 reasons to watch! This doesn’t so much extend the art of stories-within-stories, as turn that practice inside out and upside down.
  7. Also of note is the fact that it has a sad ending. This is an unusual thing in mainstream screen culture. But I’ve noticed that it is also an emerging trend in Netflix lately. A Series of Unfortunate Events is the same in this regard. Why is this? Is it some sign that we’ve finally reached the dystopian future foretold by fictionalists for the last century? Or what?
  8. I don’t know. I had to make this one up. I don’t actually have 13 reasons. Sorry.

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