Tags Posts tagged with "Shows"


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Kamrin Baker

Published in 2007, the novel “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher found its young adult audience quickly and viscerally. Asher told the story of Hannah Baker, a young woman who died by suicide during high school. Instead of the oh-so-advertised and Hollywood-glamorized suicide note, Hannah left 13 tapes for 13 of her classmates, describing the painful and raw decision to end her own life.

The story switches points of view between Hannah and her classmate and crush, Clay Jensen, who is the current owner of the tapes, and the kindest voice Asher could give to such an unkind story.

After 10 years, the book has been adapted to a Netflix original, produced by Selena Gomez and her mother, Mandy Teefey. Gomez has a history of speaking up about mental illness, and this show is her most actionable headline to date.

Premiering on the streaming site the last day of March, “13 Reasons Why” took over social media—it’s a show that maybe shouldn’t be binged because of its heavy nature—but definitely was.

The show is certainly triggering for people—especially those who have a history with mental illness. Scenes depict rape and sexual assault, depressive episodes, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide itself. In the 13 episodes, three feature trigger warnings prior to the opening credits, and rightfully so. However, individuals should be notified the kind of performances they’re about to see before clicking on the new title.

Criticisms are circling online that the characters in the show are not good examples of what young people should do in the event of a mental health crisis or suicide, but in its defense, the story was never meant to be a PSA. “13 Reasons” is a realistic, ugly, stick-to-your-ribs story about the effects of mental illness. It’s painfully sad, tear inducing and heart-breaking, but shown through the pretty faces of young actors.

The Baker family is where I found the greatest breakout performances; with Kate Walsh nailing the role of a mother whose new sole purpose in life is figuring out why her only child decided to end her life. Walsh as Olivia Baker is poignant and beautifully calamitous, especially in a scene where her husband brings her home a dozen roses. Walsh goes to the kitchen to fill up a vase for the bouquet, and in the middle of the menial task, freezes, as the water pours and pours, the vase overflowing in the sink. While the writing of this one moment so purely depicts grief and depression, Walsh performs with such ease and vulnerability, the audience can’t help but wonder how she will ever find relief.

Newcomer Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker also puts on a wonderful performance. The emotion she provokes in audiences and fellow cast mates is simultaneously thrilling and chilling, as she teeters on the existence of alive and dead. Her voiceovers echo long after the episodes end, and the simplicity and courage in her performance is all I could pay attention to; the perfect emblem of character development—or really, character degeneration.

The innerworkings of the high school where this story takes place is very telling of the climate in which the audience is also living. After Hannah’s death, the student council puts up memorials and informative posters all around the halls, but rather than feel safer and more accepted, students lash out against this. They find it embarrassing, weak and unnecessary, but in reality, young adults silently crying out for and are almost devoid of real, helpful resources in their high schools.

According to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, one in six high school students has reported considering suicide, and although “13 Reasons Why” doesn’t necessarily show young people exactly how to avoid these feelings, it shows us exactly why we must teach our children in real life.

All high schools and universities differ in their counseling avenues, but the general resources across the country are undoubtedly lacking. “13 Reasons” is the first successful show on Netflix to break through in its nitty-gritty, uncomfortable, harrowing truth to hold a mirror up to parents and young adults.

The show holds potential to continue with a sequel season but would reach beyond the scope of the novel to achieve this. While I would love to spend more time in Monet’s Café, and my life would be much more fulfilled knowing a certain someone was rotting in ictional prison, what I want to see more than a part two is a change in our own society. “13 Reasons Why” shows us the stories of the stigmas we face everyday, and without fear, stands under a spotlight no one has been willing to turn on before.

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Photo Courtesy of joe.co.uk
Photo Courtesy of joe.co.uk

Jeff Turner

“Black Mirror” is one of the most original television ideas to come out in recent history. It is not quite horror or satire. The average viewer cannot pin it down.

Creator Charlie Brooker describes it as “the area between delight and discomfort” in regards to the evolution of our modern world. Brooker is well known for his snarky, cynical humor.

Brooker himself is quite a guy, his credits include: writing for The Guardian in entertainment journalism (this later evolved into his series “Screen Wipe”), and he eventually jumped into TV, writing a miniseries called “Dead Set,” which is about “Big Brother” contestants who are filming just as a zombie apocalypse is starting to break out.

Another series that got the green-light, a documentary series, was dubbed “How TV Ruined Your Life,” and it highlights Brooker’s voice as a writer, with a cynical, biting, often holier-than-thou approach. It, however, never sacrifices attention to detail, Brooker breaks down his points to succinct, digestible bite sized pieces. The fascinating part about this particular series is the internal contradiction, a TV series dictating how TV ruined your life. It seems arrogant, and is for the most part, intentional by Brooker.

“Black Mirror” has a “Twilight Zone” setup. The episodes tell their own individual stories with nothing connecting them. Each offers dark setups, and often will crescendo with a humorous, provocative payoff. The pilot is amongst the most experimental of all of them. The plot follows a national crisis as the princess of the Royal Family is kidnapped by an unnamed terrorist. The terrorist’s demands are simple: The Prime Minister is required to have sex with a pig on national television.

They go through every scenario, and eventually give up. They have him go on TV, and he eventually does it. It turns out the princess goes free, and the guy was obsessed with proving a point above all else. It feels wild and experimental, as though Brooker wanted to test the waters and see just how far the show could go.

Season 3 focuses more on technology and our evolution towards the future. The first episode, “Downfall” is a great thesis for the season. It is not necessarily an indictment of technology, but rather how we use it. “Downfall” deals with social structures and dissects how we interact with each other. The point of the episode is not necessarily that the evolution of technology has caused the social structure to be eroded, but rather that it has always been like this.

There are a lot of elements to “Downfall”: the use of online ratings to determine a person’s merit along with what privileges that person is allowed access. This is merely a shifting of the gears of the social structures we see now. A person who is not seen as liked or who does not behave in a specific way does not acquire friends, and if they don’t acquire friends they don’t get invited to social events. It doesn’t start to sound that different after a while.

Bryce Dallas Howard is the centerpiece of the action, as simple mishaps result in her overall rating going well beneath what she had been building up. This is all happening as she gets invited to an old friend’s wedding, where she sees a major opportunity to get upvoted. Her friend sees it as the same way. This reminds one of a normal social situation like that, how many people don’t prepare scripts at a wedding for the sake of approval? Howard almost plays this role like a Carrie of sorts, she builds up and up until she inevitably implodes. Howard is a brilliant talent and deserves to be well used like this far more often.

Black Mirror seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix.