(Original Release: 4/4/18)
Thirteen Reasons Why is a fine book. It’s solidly written, has good characters and tackles some seriously dark material. By all respects, it’s a solid piece of literature, and one that I’d strongly recommend everyone read. It’s relatable, depressing, and powerful.
So why does the Netflix show suck so bad?
If there ever were a terrible adaptation, this fucking show would be it. It takes everything that made the book so good and throws it out the window for a typical teenage drama. Safe to say, I fucking hated it. But recently, I started asking a familiar question: why?
With that in mind, I decided to make a list of thirteen reasons why I hated the show.
Thematic, I know.
Warning: spoilers for both the book and the show ahead. And be warned, this is easily my longest post yet, so I hope you’ve got some time on your hands.
The book was a pretty short and light read. Sure, that ‘light’ feels more like a fifty ton weight, but it’s still pretty light in terms of content. Hell, the entire story takes place in the span of one night as the main character, Clay, listens to Hannah’s stories that lead her to suicide. I’d argue that it’s short length made it so much more powerful.
So naturally, it makes sense for the show to have thirteen fifty-minute episodes, right?
The show is so painfully padded that it makes the Hobbit movies look like a perfect adaptation. Instead of taking place during one long, emotional and painful night, the story is dragged out for multiple days, even weeks!
And the worst part is that this is an easy fix! If you shaved the run time down to twenty-thirty minutes an episode, you could have fixed so many pacing issues! Hell, you could’ve saved on budget as well! So why is it so fucking long?
Oh, and I’m just getting started.
Part of why the book was so emotionally painful and relatable was because there was no clear cut villain. Sure, all the kids (except Clay) were pretty awful to Hannah, but that’s just teenagers being stupid teenagers. No one was being inherently evil. They felt more human that way, and because of that, you could see yourself in their shoes and making the same mistakes. The story felt so much more real because of that.
The show, however, decides to make all the kids so over the top evil or just straight up emo that they feel like mustache twirling psychopaths. Every episode has at least three clips of the other kids asking ‘Why hasn’t Clay finished them yet?’ or ‘Don’t worry, he’ll work with us by the end!’ so on and so on. What purpose does this serve? All it does is pad out the run time and suck out the humanity! It does nothing but hurt the story!
Clay was, on a technical level, the protagonist of the story. But he wasn’t the central focus, nor should he have been. Clay was an effective protagonist because he served as an audience surrogate: he didn’t know why Hannah killed herself, he doesn’t know why he’s on these tapes, and he explains as much as he does know to the reader via his memories and recalling rumors. He was simple, relatable, and human. Because of this, we got attached to him without needing to know a whole lot about his character. In the grand scheme of things, Clay was unimportant. But we connected to him emotionally more because of it.
The show seems to have this false sense of importance for Clay. All the ‘villains’ are constantly talking about him, he shouts at everyone at school like he has some sort of importance later, people actively try to kill him by running him over for some reason, and all the other people on the tapes will never leave him alone, like the time they make him buy a bottle of booze and then force him to chug the whole thing. Why? How does this connect to Hannah’s suicide? How will this make us connect to him, or care?
It doesn’t. If anything, it hurts our chances of relating to or liking Clay. It just… it just sucks.
Oh god, I’ve got another ten after this one.
4: Hannah and Clay’s ‘Friendship’
In the book (yeah, get ready for a lot of that) Clay and Hannah barely knew each other. They’d talked just enough to be attracted to each other, they hung out at a party, made out, and that’s it. Part of Clay’s character is the regret of not getting to know Hannah better before she killed herself. It’s a driving aspect of the story in that Clay doesn’t know why he’s on the tapes, because he barely even spoke to Hannah.
So of course, in the show, we should make them best friends and give them so much chemistry that you’d think you’re doing science in the classroom! That’ll sure add to the mystery and tension of the story as the tapes slowly wind down to the last few without his story appearing! This’ll only help the story!
God, I can’t even try being sarcastic without getting angry at this shit.
5: ‘Why haven’t you finished them yet?’ Conversations
There are so many of these god damn scenes in the show that it makes me want to cry.
Seriously, in every god damn episode from two onward, someone asks Clay why he hasn’t finished the tapes yet, or they ask how far he is, so on and so forth. Once again, it’s pointless fluff that doesn’t add to the story in any way.
In fact, it only reminds us that the plot is going nowhere faster than my writing career!
In the book, we get to see Clay slowly spiral more and more into his emotions as he listens to the tapes. He gets angry, horrified, and grows to understand Hannah more and more with each number. Then, when he gets to his own, he is emotionally shattered. He cries his eyes out, throws up, and breaks down in every possible way. Every time we see something like this, we find ourselves connecting more and more to him, and we feel his heartbreak, his rage, so on and so on. That connection sucks you into the story and keeps you reading.
Shame you get almost none of that in the show. After all, they had to make more room for villainous monologue scenes.
7: ‘Villain’ Backstories
The book was very good about respecting the reader’s time. It knew that every scene, at it’s core, was about Hannah. Because of that, it only focused on how each tape’s subject affected her as a person. For the sake of the story, that’s all we needed. Again, they were just teenagers who made stupid mistakes and were mistakenly cruel. They felt like people.
So naturally, in the show, we have to get detailed backstories and scenes of them dealing with their own issues, like dysfunctional relationships, drug addictions and daddy issues, right? We gotta fill up that run time, so let’s further flesh out the stories antagonists in a way that won’t affect the overall plot in any way.
It’s not like the story is exclusively about why a certain character committed suicide.
8: Hannah’s Parents
In the book, we don’t ever see Hannah’s parents. We hear about them, but they never really appear in the story. That’s because they had no place in it. Sure, they were the parents of the story’s main focus, but aside from a scene where they cry, they’re incapable of adding anything.
But surely the show did something unique, interesting and relevant with them, right? Nope. This is Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, there’s no such thing as unique, nor is there interesting. Just pointless fluff. Surely the audience wants to see Hannah’s mom snap unnecessarily at random students and teachers, right?
This helped how?
Tony’s character was simple. He was Clay’s best friend, as well as the one carrying out Hannah’s wishes. If someone tried to ditch the tapes, he was to let them out to the world. He was a simple character and made for a good twist near the end of the book.
Damn shame they make the reveal for that at the end of the first episode.
Yep. No joke. No buildup, no mystery, no tension as to who is watching them and owns the other set of tapes. Just… bam! It’s Tony! Forget anything that’ll keep you invested, fuck you!
This was one of the most important characters in the entire plot. While she herself had little character outside of ‘depressed goth’, she did serve the purpose of completing Clay’s arc as a character. After listening to Hannah’s story, Clay decides to try harder and help people like her, and he starts with Skye. It’s a powerful ending that delivers the stories message with one final slap.
And it was made more effective by the fact that, while the two did have history, they only spoke one time in the story. That went even further to enforce the themes and parallels within the story.
But in the show? All gone. The characters speak constantly, and the sudden urgency Clay feels in the ending is all but evaporated. Essentially, they eradicated his character arc by making her a much more constant presence in the story.
11: Clay’s Parents
In the book, there was a fantastic scene where Clay’s mom comes to see him midway his journey with Hannah’s tapes. We see him struggle to maintain his composure to her, as well as the lie that he told about doing homework, and only gets out thanks to Tony’s help. It’s a great scene that develops both of their characters.
Part of why it’s so powerful is because, up to this point, we’ve only spoken to his mother once. We got a very weak sense of her character, but here, it’s flushed out to a far greater degree.
But you get the pattern by now. Clay’s mom has a constant place in the story, thus removing a good eighty percent of the power the diner scene in the book had. Now, it just feels like another scene. Because it’s not like it’s one of the most important scenes in the story.
12: The Ending
The ending in the book was nigh perfect. Clay approaches Skye in the hall, says her name, and bang. It’s over. No solid conclusion. We don’t know if he succeeds. We don’t know if he ever really got over Hannah’s death. It leaves a sense of ambiguity, urgency, and leaves the reader open to think. Which makes for the best endings! Endings that provoke thought, action, so on and so on. That gives the consumer something to come back to in order to think about.
Guess what? Guess what the show did? Guess.
They left it open. For a season 2. Which has been green-lit.
Now, I know that this will come across as childish. However, I have no way to communicate the idea of shouting without using caps-lock. I’ll try to keep it brief.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! A SECOND SEASON?! REALLY?! WHAT THE FUCK IS THE POINT?! THE WHOLE FUCKING STORY WAS ABOUT HANNAH BAKER AND WHY SHE KILLED HERSELF!! WHERE DO YOU GO FROM THERE?! ARE YOU GONNA GO ON TO ANOTHER GIRL?! DOES HANNAH STILL HAVE MORE TAPES?! ARE YOU GONNA GO ON TO FOCUS ON THE ‘VILLAINS’ OF THE STORY?! YOU’VE GOT NOWHERE TO GO WITH THIS STORY!! IT’S FUCKING OVER!! JUST LEAVE IT ALONE, YOU’VE HURT IT ENOUGH!!
Okay. Okay, I’m done. Well, except for the final point.
13: The Suicide Scene
Quick warning: this one will be a bit graphic.
This is easily the most important scene. At least, in the show. In the book, we don’t actually see or hear about Hannah’s suicide. However, we do get to hear her talk about how she’s going to do it. She goes through all her options, tossing aside each one until she makes her decision. Through this, we get to learn a bit more about her character. We learn that she’s still very considerate, given that she avoided anything messy in order to avoid creating a cleanup for her parents. It’s a very heartbreaking but still kind of sweet moment.
Guess. Take a guess as to how the fuck it up. I’ll give you a minute. Go ahead and guess.
She slits her wrists in the bathtub.
All the emotion? Gone. All the character we got? Gone. The consideration she showed for her poor parents? All gone. Why? Because they wanted to have an uncomfortable and shocking scene where she slits her wrists.
Yep. All gone for some fucking shock value.
And that’s a perfect summary for this entire fucking show. All the heart, sucked away. All the emotion, destroyed! All replaced by a typical fucking teenage high school story! Everything that made the book unique, interesting and heartbreaking, is destroyed!
This show sucks. It is the worst possible adaptation this book could’ve had. It had the potential to be so much more, to be something truly amazing that people could come back to for year, but no. It’s all gone. Everything unique has been replaced by generic teenage drama. All the heart and soul has been sucked away.
Hang on, caps lock again.
FUCK THIS SHOW!!
Okay. I’m done. If I keep talking about this trash, I’ll probably burst a blood vessel.
That was thirteen reasons why I hate Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thanks for reading, and as always, have a lovely day.