Netflix Rec | 13 REASONS WHY

I heard a lot about 13 Reasons Why before I actually sat down to watch it, both positive and negative.  I read the book when it was published in 2007, and I remember liking it and feeling impacted by it.  Ten years later, though, I couldn’t remember enough of the details to decide whether the story glorified suicide or not.  Now that I’ve binged all thirteen episodes, I feel sure that, despite those few people who will misunderstand its message, this show is incredibly necessary.

13 Reasons Why is the story of a young woman who commits suicide after years of objectification, bullying, and rape.  She leaves behind cassette tapes that are passed among thirteen people who she blames for her action.  Sensationalistic?  A little.  But the series refuses to take a simplistic viewpoint, allowing characters to argue about whether or not it was their responsibility to help Hannah Baker.  Some think she wouldn’t have killed herself if they could have done more, and others believe it was simply her bad decision.

What complicates matters is that we get to see below the surface of every person that Hannah blames for her suicide.  The series does a phenomenal job of finding the deeper motivations for each character.  With one possible exception, we see that the bullies were also bullied, that home lives encouraged or tolerated violent behavior, that each teenager is doing their best to survive the hell that is high school in the technological age.  With this perspective, this Netflix series reveals the true villain of the story:  not Hannah or the people she blames, but the culture in which she lives.

In the end, there’s no use arguing about whether she should have been stronger or if her friends and family should have done something more to reach her.  What’s worth talking about is the cruel hierarchy of high school and how violence, assault, and looking the other way create a climate that some young women and men find impossible to endure.

This is not an easy show to watch, which, according to the “Beyond the Reasons” episode by showrunners at the end of the series, was very much intentional.  Viewers are asked to endure scenes of rape and suicide, scenes that are not gratuitous but are also almost unbearable to watch.  But by doing so, issues that are normally glossed over demand our attention, and hopefully, will inspire preventative actions so that similar scenes will never occur again.

[For more detailed reviews, I suggest you read two very well-written posts:  one positive and one negative.]

Netflix Rec: What I Watched in March


What’s Your Number?
Rated R

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt are a celebrity dream couple (and their few scenes together in this movie are hilarious), but I’ve been largely unfamiliar with Faris’s movies.  I’m so glad I gave What’s Your Number? a try!  It’s relatable (am I too old to find someone? too slutty? too picky?) and genuinely affirming.  Instead of being a romantic comedy that preaches the misleading promise that you should find someone you “deserve” who will make you the Best You….it teaches a really heartwarming lesson that you should be with someone who loves you for who you are, weird art habits and impulsive trespassing included.  And if that person just so happens to be Chris Evans…?  So much the better!

BONUS:  Because Faris is going through her list of ex’s, we get some really phenomenal cameos with famous Hollywood hunks, like Zachary Quinto, Joel McHale, Anthony Mackie, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, and the aforementioned Chris Pratt.


The Road to El Dorado  
Rated PG Continue reading

Netflix Rec: What I Watched in October


Jane the Virgin
2014 – current
1 Season on Netflix (22 episodes)

Jane is a 23-year-old virgin, determined to save sex for marriage.  When her gynecologist accidentally inseminates her with the sperm of an attractive hotel owner that she works for (and that she kissed five years ago) who cannot have any other children because of cancer, how will she break the news to her fiancee?  And that’s just, like, the first ten minutes of the first episode.

I am forever indebted to my new Memphis friend Jenna for introducing me to Jane the Virgin.  It is over-the-top dramatic in the best way possible.  Based on a telenovela, everyone’s relationships are convoluted and the plot twists are ridiculous.  But the narrator’s voice breaks the tension with snide remarks that allow you to feel above the drama even though you’re totally digging the hilarious twists and turns.


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
1 Season on Netflix (13 episodes)

Kimmy Schmidt is one of four Indiana Mole Women who were kidnapped by a cult preacher and grew up in an underground bunker to wait out the apocalypse until they were rescued and realized their whole life was a lie.  Kimmy vows to start over in New York City, making absurd friends and empowering people to live fabulous and free lives.

The theme song is one of the best in existence (“Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! Females are strong as hell.”) and the show boasts some of the quickest jokes in existence.  Titus Andromedon is a true comedic talent who will make you cry with laughter (“But I’ve already done something today!”)  This is definitely for fans of absurdist comedies like 30 Rock, and everyone else will think it’s super weird.  Which it is, but that’s what makes it awesome.


The Great British Bake Off
1 Season on Netflix (10 episodes)

Ten contestants compete in a series of baking competitions to discover who is Britain’s best amateur baker.  I’m not usually much of a cooking show fan, but I loved this show!  After some self-reflection, I came up with three reasons.  One, it’s British, and everyone has British accents: automatic plus.  Two, the people in the show are normal-looking people.  Even the hostesses where schlumpy jeans, and the contestants look like average people from real towns.  It’s so refreshing!  Three, for a reality show, it is decidedly straightforward.  There isn’t annoying recaps of what you’ve been watching before and after commercial breaks, and they announce the winner and loser without reliving the previous 45 minutes and with very little fanfare.  I would watch so much more reality TV if this were always the case!


Human Planet
1 Season on Netflix (8 episodes)

Made by the people who created Planet Earth, this show focuses on the various people groups who live on our beautiful planet.  Like it’s nature-based predecessor, each episode focuses on a different climate (desert, arctic, mountain, etc) and the people who live there.  It’s a fascinating look at the ways people adapt to their surroundings and create really stunning things despite limited technology (the 30-foot tall treehouses in the Jungles episode is especially impressive).

That’s what I watched on Netflix in October!  What about you?  Leave a comment and give me some recommendations!

Netflix Rec: What I Watched in September


Hector and the Search for Happiness

It’s impossible for me to talk about this movie without comparing it to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is unfortunate, because Hector loses every time.  Although it’s a  perfectly fine movie about a man locked into his normal life finding broader purpose and encouragement through travel so that the can return home more appreciative of what he has, it’s….just not great.  Partly I was annoyed because one of the very first things Hector does on his search for international happiness is sleep with a woman other than his girlfriend.  I wanted to throw myself around, moaning, “UGH men, is this SERIOUSLY their first impulse?”  But primarily, it just felt like it was missing the gentle magic of Walter Mitty (although I REALLY liked the scene when he’s first flying away from home bedecked in every article of travel clothing imaginable).


Welcome to Me

I adore Kristen Wiig in dramatic comedies, and Welcome to Me continues her pattern of slipping into complex roles of mentally disabled women who feel both fascinatingly strange and oddly normal.  Alice Klieg has borderline personality disorder, one of the more difficult disorders to describe and understand (at least for me in my Abnormal Psychology class).  The movie should be shown to all budding psychologists and counselors; Wiig portrays the emotional manipulation, narcissism, and mood swings with subtlety but honestly.  Not to say this is a made-for-school movie.  I LOVED it, and I loved that Alice’s disorder is clearly shown as something that needs medication and counseling to manage, but without ever devaluing Alice herself as a person with desires, relationships, and fears.  I loved it.   Continue reading

Netflix Rec: What I Watched in August


Wet Hot American Summer

I’d heard about this weird movie that starred a lot of current comedian gods and goddesses, but never really had the motivation to watch it.  When I heard about Netflix’s sequel (prequel), I figured I’d give it a shot.  You should too!  Wet Hot American Summer is absurd humor at its finest.  And it is so enjoyable to see Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper and many more familiar faces having the time of their lives.


Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

This 8-episode “prequel” is even weirder than the movie that inspired it!  I adored every single self-aware reference to the fact that men and women in their 40s were playing teenagers.  The jokes get stretched further, the characters are more hilarious than ever, and the famous faces grow in number.  I’m guessing a lot of actors were fans of the movie and begged to be in the show; especially noteworthy are Chris Pine, Jon Hamm, and Kristen Wiig.  I’m not in the cult deep enough to know if this is a popular opinion or not, but I think I liked First Day of Camp even better than Wet Hot American Summer.   Continue reading