It was a good two weeks before finishing Netflix’s latest and arguably most popular original series, I3 Reasons Why, and for good reason. Most will point to the bingeworthy format of the series which sees high school student Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) retrace the steps via cassette tapes of why classmate and love interest Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) made the decision to take her own life. Herein lies the problem- a) indulging in the misery of a girl’s final moments and b) establishing that suicide is a linear progression comprised of 13 single reasons. Sure, there are plenty of factors, and they all play a part in some way-slut-shaming, being ‘outed,’ sexual assault, hyper-masculinity and the out-of-touch parents and the athletes who are in a class of their own. Each issue is treated with complexity and in nuanced detail, and each perpetrator listed on the tapes is held accountable for what they did or did not do.
As dictated by Hannah, they must listen to the tapes in sequential order and then pass them on when they are done. Clay is especially frustrating when he demands to know answers from the moral high ground embodied in Tony (Christian Navarro), all the while refusing to listen to the elusive advice that ‘the worst is yet to come.’ If by worst they mean an anti-climatic ending, then they are right.
Any discussion on the often tabooed suicide may be considered progressive, yet at the same time no mention of mental illness or depression by any parent, teacher or classmate is problematic when it has already gained such a large following to impressionable teens. While it can be seen as a cautionary tale, it places Clay as the only teen with enough decency to examine his actions and look out for those around him, while the basketball stars and student councillors offer pseudo support but become trapped in their own egos and desperation to cover up their secrets as distraught parents Olivia (Kate Walsh) and Andy (Brian d’Arcy James) prepare for litigation. We should learn from this tale, but the subliminal message is that we should immerse ourselves in guilt and blame, which is dangerous by-product of suicide and that the onus lies on the friends and family.
Hannah’s classmates’ actions establish them as selfish, bratty and entitled, but as to why they are scared of going to jail (with the exception of one nasty basketballer) is puzzling, since individually they have not done enough outside of bullying to be incriminated.
Our own pick in terms of who to watch is Jeff Atkins, (Brandon Larracuente), who has already gained traction on social media for his treatment in the series. Seemingly, the message resounds that good kids are few and far between at Liberty High.
Praise must go to the strength of the ensemble’s acting, and the boldness of the show in addressing such complex actions. Katherine Langford has an amazing ability to convey much of her sadness through non-verbal cues.
Maybe if there weren’t so many tragedies layered over and over each other, we would not feel so numb to the story.
There are reasons, but no rhyme.
A Netflix Original Series