Six Problems With “Thirteen Reasons Why”

Unless you`re older than twenty one, there’s a chance everyone you know has been talking about Netflix’s new show, “Thirteen Reasons Why”. The show is an adaption of the 2007 book by the same name, and revolves around a high school student listening through thirteen tape recordings of why his classmate took her own life.

The show has seen quite a lot of praise by fans and critics alike, but it also have been subject to quite a bit controversy, especially in the season’s finale.


I found the show to be absolutely lackluster and overrated. Sure the cast and acting was good, the story could get very heart-aching for the viewer, but overall, it was short of being something profound. Here are the six problems with Thirteen Reasons Why.

1) The Tapes Make Zero Sense

Before Hannah Baker commits suicide, she records audio notes about why she’s doing it; one cassette for every reason and every person. While I have more issues about this that I will get to later, my first major complaint is that it’s a stupid plot device and makes no logical sense.

The tapes are supposed to be the plot device that narrates every traumatic event that caused Hannah to kill herself. You would think Clay would listen to the tapes all at once but nope! He conveniently listens to the tapes one episode at a time, instead of just doing what any normal person would have done.

Also, what century is this movie taking place in? Hannah decides to record her notes on cassette tapes and for some reason, everyone who has received the tapes somehow has a cassette player or a Walkman.

Which brings me to a third point, why did she not give out the tapes individually? For some reason, she decides that everyone who did her wrong ought to hear what everyone else did wrong as well. Which begs the question, why not just release the tapes publicly to the whole world if we’re gonna share information?

Also, why did no one who received the tapes before Clay decide to hide their tape… They risked a lot by hoping nothing about them would be revealed if they just passed on theirs. The teenagers in this show are inexplicably irrational.

This has just always annoyed me in the beginning of the first episode. It would have been much more exciting if Clay had only received his tape (or a better, yet a flash drive or Soundcloud link, we’re in 2017 guys) and went on a hunt looking for who had the others. It would given this show’s mystery a good crime drama element instead of an impatient kid who can’t spend a small portion of a day listening to audio messages.

2) The Narrative is so Unorganized

This is just me ranting more about Clay and the tapes. Looking past the cheap plot device of one tape per episode, Clay still listens to them infrequently during most of them.

Sometimes Clay is listening to the tape and then he’s not. Other times we’re in a flashback but Clay isn’t listening to the tape so we’re left confused of whether what we are watching is just a random flashback to try to clarify what’s going to the audience, or if Clay is listening to the tapes.

Does Clay know what we just saw? When will he find out? What does it have to do with the present moment? It’s all just incoherent and confusing.

3) No Character Development

A good story is like a roller-coaster. The protagonist faces a challenge, he climbs his way up, suddenly a tragic event throws him into doubt, makes a comeback, ends with a new changed man. You don’t see any of that in Thirteen Reasons, Clay’s character is basically a plateau.

He starts out as the nice guy who really cares about Hannah. He’s the most virtuous one who has a strong bond with her. But later he randomly just turns around acts as a total jerk.

Case in point, when Jeff died the night after the party. The two had fallen in love for a moment and were about to have sex until Hannah’s PTSD from when she got raped overwhelms her and she asks Clay to leave.

Clay isn’t mad, he doesn’t question it and does what he was told. He showed dignity and respect. When Jeff dies in the car accident, Hannah goes to apologize for his tragic loss and what happened between them last night, but he gets mad at her and accuses of her having one of her drama moments. Which makes no sense because he just does this to her out of nowhere. It’s not the Clay we know. And I understand “he just lost somebody close, anger is a stage of grief people go through,” that may be true, but it doesn’t make sense why Clay would be angry instead any of the other 4 choices.

Up until now he was one who truly showed empathy towards other people. He is kindhearted and cares about the well being of those around him. He’s the guy who wants to be there for people when they need him, and the story did not go in a way to justify that bad behavior.

So why does he reject people who try to come to him in those similar moments? He should be more depressed and open than angry and isolated.

It just seems like Clay started out as the good guy, lost his way, then came back to where he originally was. He didn’t really grow as a person, he just found redemption.

4) More Reasons why the Tapes are Dumb

This is the last time I’m ranting about the tapes, but just goes to show how bad this idea was. Anyways, this show was meant to raise suicide awareness and hopefully push young people away from such a horrible decision. But the use of tapes does more to glorify suicide than denounce it.

It fantasizes a girl leaving behind audio notes to get retribution at those who did her wrong. The whole time you’re watching the show, you hate the people who could and should have done more than what she did. It makes you feel as if Hannah was doing the right thing by getting back at them like this.

In his review, Hank Suever rightfully states that, “it’s an unbelievable and selfish conceit, a protracted example of the teenager who fantasizes how everyone will react when she’s gone.”

But Netflix tries to fix this by reminding the viewer of the ugliness of suicide…

5) The Suicide Scene Could have been Better

This is may be just me but I’m actually glad that they did include this graphic scene. Many critics will say it should have never been shown, but it was necessary to include it to remind us of the gruesome reality of suicide. But it could have been done slightly differently.

There were two feelings that everyone must of felt while watching it: pity and disgust. The problem is it was too much of the latter. It was so grotesque and real with raw emotion that it made it uncomfortable to watch.

If it was up to me, the scene would have been mute (aside from the parts of Clay speaking to the guidance counselor) what was going on in the bathroom. The focus would be on the visual and emotional pain of Hannah and her parents.

I think doing it like this would have been made it more bearable without taking away the dourness. But overall, this is a very minor critique, it was a good call by the directors in the end.

6) The Ending is Disappointing

The ending really pissed me off because it just goes to show Netflix will milk the cow out of social problems adolescents go through. “Hey let’s turn this show from teen suicide to one about school shootings.
The story should of been over but they throw us a bunch of cliffhangers to makes watch season 2.

Is Alex gonna die from the gunshot wound? Will Hannah’s parents win the lawsuit against the school? Is Tyler gonna shoot up the school?

This really just ruins the whole thing. The story was originally one about uncovering the reasons an angst teenager decided to take her own life. But now that’s been resolved, we are left with all this other stuff so that the creators make a season 2. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it because it just gonna be one big epilogue.

2 thoughts on “Six Problems With “Thirteen Reasons Why”

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