real life

Why everyone is obsessed with a TV show about teen suicide.

From Heathers, to The Virgin Suicides, to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, story lines of youth suicide have long been a staple of the teen drama genre.

It seems that despite the tragedy that rests at the plot line’s core, the formula of beautiful young women dying more often than not has the power to hold audience attention.

Listen to The Binge to find out why everyone is obsessed with a TV show about teen suicide.

Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why takes the theme of young death and breathes new life into its morally grey bones.

The series, based on Jay Asher’s 2007 novel of the same name, opens on the death of young teen Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford).

Baker has taken her own life and weeks after her death, sends out a mysterious package to the people she left behind, with 13 reasons why she made that decision. Each reason has been immortalised in a recording Baker has made and stored on a vintage tape.

The tapes, placed in a shoe box, are passed from one perpetrator of the events to the next. As they listen to the tape, they learn of the part they played in her tragic death.

Where other texts have romanticised suicide (The Virgin Suicides is especially guilty of this), 13 Reasons Why presents it as an ugly loss.

It is a series that appeals to parents as much as it does their children. (Source: Netflix.)

At the end of the series, the audience is presented not with 13 reasons why she should have died but 13 reasons why it wasn't necessary.

The series is as compassionate as it is compelling, sexy as it is anti-sex - the story line of a leaked nude proves a strong lesson in 'what not to do'.

It may possess all the shallow elements of the teen drama, sex, schooling and unrequited love, but it uses them to entice audiences into consuming a much meatier message.

ADVERTISEMENT

It is a stern father's lecture in a teen drama's clothing.

Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker. (Source: Netflix.)

The series, which was originally meant to be feature film, is conveniently split into thirteen episodes.

The Binge host Tiffany Dunk told listeners the episodic nature of the series allows for ultimate viewer consumption.

"It's perfectly made for binge viewing," she said.

Dunk also commented on the widespread appeal of the series, despite the predominately young cast.

"It appeals not just the teen demographic who mainly populate the story... but there's a lot you can take out of it as an adult viewer," she said.

A scene that deals with an all too familiar problem of today's youth. (Source: Netflix.)
ADVERTISEMENT

The Binge host Laura Brodnik explained why the series never made it to the silver screen.

"It was supposed to be a big screen, splashy movie, starring Selena Gomez," she said.

"But it got stuck in development hell for a while. By the time they were ready to make it, Selena Gomez made the decision that she was too big of a star now and she wasn't the right person to embody the main character of Hannah."

"It was meant to be this movie that was a star vehicle for her but when they looked back at the material, when it was time to make the project, they were like, well, this is actually very meaty, important material, it should be a TV show."

Dylan Minnette as Clay. (Source: Netflix.)

Laura went on to discuss the moments of the series that highlight its merit compared to similar works.

"There's a part in the show where they've named her 'the best ass' in the school and 'the best body' and that sort of stuff," she said.

"And instead of using the camera to pan over her body... and show her as a sexualised being, they centre the camera on her face and you see that heartbreak in her eyes as that's happening."

"That's the choice that makes it not just a teen show but a good drama."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Hungry for more? Listen to the latest episode of The Binge for all the biggest TV news of the week. 

You can buy any book mentioned on our podcasts from iBooks at apple.co/mamamia, where you can also subscribe to all our other shows in one place.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???