Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why - Book vs. TV show


I must admit, this actually
beats the book cover.
So as you may know, I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher a month back, and a week ago or so, I finished watching the Netflix show that has gotten very popular since it was made. Why? I wish I knew. It really wasn't too good. If you're super into watching it in the future, some of this could be considered a spoiler, but I won't spoil anything too major (in my opinion at least).

In short, Thirteen Reasons Why is a story in which Hannah Baker makes thirteen tapes on the thirteen reasons (and people) which drove her to kill herself. The main character, Clay Jensen, had a crush on Hannah, and receives these tapes one day, meaning he's one of the reasons.

In the book, it goes like this:
*Clay receives tapes*
*Clay listens to the tapes*
*Clay sends the tapes to the next person*

It's nice and simple. The book is under 350 fairly tightly paced pages and takes place over one night, during which Clay has minimum interaction with other people and listens to Hannah's story with little to no distractions.

That's not what happens in the TV show. And that's not a surprise or anything - it's 13 episodes long, with each episode over 50 minutes. I'm sure just adapting the book would amount to under half of that. And while I get that making thirteen episodes each named in the style of Tape 1 Side A and so on is all cute and quirky, it's just so drawn out. I couldn't count how many times I felt like punching the TV because Clay kept having conversations and asking people questions that would have all been solved if he just listened to the tapes. This made the show incredibly, incredibly tedious for me to watch

The TV show also includes all these extra plot lines (that no one asked for):

  • Hannah's parents are suing the school
  • Clay's mum is defending the school but feels bad about it and such drama
  • Everyone on the tapes has a vendetta against Clay
  • Clay is super rude to Hannah during crucial moments, why would they even add that into this?
  • Jessica doesn't remember what happened and can Hannah be trusted or no?!
  • Tyler is acting super weird and stuff what in the world is he collecting [spoiler] for?!
  • Clay is hallucinating all the time because suspense! Is anything real anymore?!
  • Clay wants revenge! and justice! and makes tape number 14 because he's so badass or whatever
  • Explicit suicide/rape/sex scenes because surely that's what this story needed
  • Let's end it in a couple of cliffhangers just to make sure we can milk more money from it!
All of the aforementioned things just add into the convoluted feel of the show. It's less Hannah's story and more the story of the consequences, which really, really takes it away from the original idea of a guy who has a crush on a girl hearing why she decided to kill herself and gaining closure through getting to know her better, even if it's too late for her. And in the book, the ending (which I obviously won't spoil) goes to show that Clay actually seems to grow from this experience in his own way. It was empowering. This was not.

Naturally, the explicit suicide and rape scenes are just the worst thing to happen to TV perhaps ever. I understand how they're shocking and make you feel strong emotions, but on the flip side of the coin it's what it says on the tin - making these very sensitive subjects entertainment. In the book, it was enough to say 'swallowed a bottle of pills' and 'he touched her', but the show just had to make these things into shocking scenes. And of course, they didn't let Hannah die but just swallowing some pills (that wouldn't be dramatic enough, would it?). Nah, it's way bloodier than that.

Tony is the hero this show doesn't deserve at all
If I had to name two good (or decent) things about this show, they would be Tony and Alex. Alex didn't come across as too likeable in the book but he's decent here, while Tony is the only pure thing in this show that just doesn't deserve him. Seriously, he was pretty much the only thing making it worth watching sometimes. He had a really nice personality and I would've liked this show so much more if Clay had just forgotten about Hannah and his stupid vendetta and dated this perfect creampuff instead. Seriously.

Obviously no one should think that Thirteen Reasons Why is a good idea or that Hannah Baker is a role model of any sort. Online discussion is largely focused on whether the show is portraying suicide and a suicide note as a good way to ultimately 'one-up' bullies or if the show makes suicide seem less final than it actually is. I won't go into more discussion one whether the show portrays these things in the wrong light, but maybe if you're less invested than I am in this mess, you would like to know. I'm just contrasting these two things and letting you make your own decisions based on that.

In short, I would not recommend the TV show. The book, yes, so long as you're not suicidal or anything, but definitely not the show. It's drawn out and annoying and most of the things that happen have nothing to do with what the book is about - why Hannah Baker killed herself.

Season two is coming whether anyone wants it or not. My best guess is that each episode will have Clay (under a lame super hero name like The Helmet Boy or something) attack each bully in turn with Tony as his sidekick. No but really, I don't know how one continues a story like this anymore, and I wish they didn't need to. But I suppose one always makes whatever makes money.

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