It feels like everyone I’ve talked to and every website I’ve visited in the past week has a post about 13 Reasons Why, the mini-series on Netflix based on the book by Jay Asher. And rightfully so. The buzz on this series is pretty well deserved—and I feel like that’s a big compliment coming from someone who overly critical about book to screen adaptations.
If you’re like me, you watch all of these adaptations of books you read, just to cut them down and pick them apart. We become defensive over the words we held so closely, and wonder how people are watching this without having first read the book. It’s rare that we find an adaptation that we like, let alone love. So when one breaks that barrier, it takes us back, makes us need to catch our breath.
That’s how I felt when I watched 13 Reasons Why.
Okay, so can we really be a YA lit mag and not talk about 13 Reasons Why? Yeah, I didn’t think so. What else is there to say? The differences between the show and the book? Why is a mini-series arguably the best form to do a screen adaptation of a book? Why Jeff Atkins deserves better? Why are the graphic scenes necessary?
No. All of these have been said before, and I think we are really missing a big conversation here.
Tony. Is. The. Best. Character.
I know, I know people love Jeff. Jeff didn’t deserve what happened to him. But you guys, just hear me out.
Let’s talk shallow things first as they are the easiest to digest, and then we’ll move to the deeper things.
There’s his super cool car. Like, there are a lot of cool cars out there, but there is something about his mustang that is not just cool but not jerky. There is no part of me that thinks he could be a jerk because he drives an old mustang as opposed to like a brand new mustang.
He listens to old media unironically. Do you know how rare it is to find someone who listens to cassette tapes unironically? He isn’t listening to them to be hipster or cool. As someone who still has a cassette deck in my car, and listens to the occasional cassette, I find this super refreshing.
He’s athletic but in a causal way. Like, he doesn’t try at gym like the jocks, but can casually scale a cliff in jeans without any gear.
Like every good teen drama, there is a cool brooding guy. And that is Tony. He wears his leather jacket, his hair is perfect, and he just can convey so much with one look. But unlike most brooding characters on teen dramas, he does so much more than brood. He doesn’t fight just because. He shares his thoughts and feelings with Clay and is pretty patient and down to earth. He might just be the coolest brooding guy on television.
And then we find out he’s gay. Why is this important? It’s 2017 for god’s sake. You know why? Because he breaks stereotypes and gender roles. Him being gay just gives him more depth as a character.
He is the voice of reason. Maybe he seems so wise because the actor that plays Tony looks like he is 35. Or maybe because he is the keeper of the tapes. But he just seems like he is on a totally different level than most of the other high school kids.
Every character has flaws, that’s what makes them believable. Most of the characters on these tapes have some pretty serious flaws, to be completely honest, a lot of them are pretty unlikeable. And I get that that’s why the internet is all about Jeff. In the couple of scenes we see of him, he is nothing but a nice guy—that’s why his death seems so unfair. But do we really know Jeff? We only see him a handful of times, can we really know him as a character? That being said, Tony isn’t the main character either, but we see so much more about him during the course of the series. He’s more than just a nice guy. Sure, he has his flaws, but that’s what makes him more real.