The second season of 13 Reasons Why may have only come out a couple of weeks ago, but fans are already eager for more episodes. Season 2 is just as addictive, thrilling and shocking as the previous one, and it’s tempting to binge-watch all 13 episodes in just a couple of days. If, like me, you’ve already completed both seasons of 13 Reasons Why, chances are you’re looking for a new TV show or film to obsess over / keep you distracted until Season 3 comes out next year (okay, yes, it’s not confirmed yet, but it’s definitely happening – they can’t leave us hanging like that, right?!). Like 13 Reasons Why, the films and shows I have included deal with the topics of blackmail, bullying, rape, drugs and mental illness. Read on to find out my top 13 (see what I did there?!) recommendations:
1. Degrassi: Next Class
Numerous people have compared 13 Reasons Why to Degrassi, and it’s not surprising. Like 13 Reasons Why, Degrassi centres on a high school (although this one is located in Canada) and tackles real-life issues faced by modern teenagers, such as alcohol abuse, cyberbullying (particularly in Degrassi: Next Class), assault, coming out and racism. There’s also underage pregnancy, suicide, vandalism, love triangles and child abuse (which is briefly touched upon in 13 Reasons Why and could explain Monty’s violent behaviour). Unfortunately, the original series of Degrassi doesn’t seem to be available anywhere in the UK, but luckily Netflix picked up the current generation. There are currently 4 seasons of Degrassi: Next Class available on Netflix, and the fifth season should be out in the next couple of months.
Skins was the height of controversy when it first came out, just like 13 Reasons Why. While Skins covers most of the same issues as 13 Reasons Why (such as drug abuse, self-abuse and partying), it does so in a less graphic and heartbreaking way. Each episode also focuses on a different character and the show renews its cast every two seasons.
3. My Mad Fat Diary
My Mad Fat Diary is one of the best TV series that centres on mental health. It’s a bit like Skins and tells the story of Rae (Sharon Rooney), a girl who reenters the real world after being cooped up in a mental health ward. It’s such a shame that My Mad Fat Diary was cancelled because it’s an honest portrayal of what it’s like to live with a mental illness (and has a brill soundtrack).
If you enjoyed the mystery element of 13 Reasons Why, be sure to check out Tagged. Sadly, Tagged isn’t very well-known, but it’s very addictive and only has twenty 20-minute episodes thus far so you can easily binge-watch it over the weekend. It’s about a group of girls who are tormented by the mysterious ‘Monkeyman’ (who is a bit like ‘A’ in PLL or the ‘Black Hood’ in Riverdale, but much more terrifying). Oh, and Tagged also stars the gorgeous Timothy Granaderos, who plays the infamous Montgomery de la Cruz in 13 Reasons Why. But his character is a LOT more pleasant in this series, trust me. If you’re in the UK, you can watch Tagged online at ITV.
5. The Edge of Seventeen
One of the reasons why I love 13 Reasons Why is how realistic it is about teenagers, and that’s exactly why I love The Edge of Seventeen. Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a teenager who is devastated when her bestie starts dating her older brother. Nadine is hilarious, sarcastic and self-destructive, just like a lot of the characters in 13 Reasons Why.
6. Odd Girl Out*
Odd Girl Out is a film that shows just how horrible teen girls can be. Vanessa (Alexa Vega) becomes a victim of bullying after she exchanges conversation with her friend’s crush. Nikki (Elizabeth Rice) is jealous of Vanessa and Stacey’s friendship and sets out to ruin it, isolating Vanessa in the process. Nikki even goes as far as creating a website with her friends to torment Vanessa. As with Hannah in 13 Reasons Why, these events lead Vanessa to have a mental breakdown and cut off most of her hair. Fortunately, Vanessa befriends the quiet Emily (Shari Dyon Perry) and eventually learns to stand up to her bullies. If only Hannah had done the same…
7. Surviving Summer*
Surviving Summer (or According to Greta in some countries) is a hidden gem that stars Hilary Duff as a self-destructive teenager called Greta who is forced to spend the summer with her grandparents. Like Hannah, Greta has a list, only it’s about ways to kill herself and is in a notebook rather than in the form of tapes. Surviving Summer is Hilary Duff’s most serious role to date, and she captures Greta’s angst and rebellious nature so perfectly.
8. A Girl Like Her*
In this documentary-style film, Jessica (Lexi Ainsworth) is a high schooler who attempts suicide after being bullied by her former friends Avery (Hunter King). With the help of her closest friend Brian (Jimmy Bennett), Jessica uses a hidden camera to expose Avery’s threats. As with 13 Reasons Why, A Girl Like Her really gets under your skin and makes you reconsider the way in which you behave towards other people.
9. Audrie & Daisy*
Audrie & Daisy is a Netflix documentary that focuses on two female victims of sexual assault. As with Jessica and Chloe in 13 Reasons Why, these two girls were under the influence of alcohol when boys took advantage of them. They also faced bullying from other students, both online and in real life.
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, another film that was based on a bestselling YA novel, the main character Charlie is haunted by a death and blames himself for it, just like Clay in 13 Reasons Why. Oh, and tapes feature in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, only they’re mixtapes rather than the reasons why someone died. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller are the main stars of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but you might also recognise Kate Walsh (who played Hannah’s mum in 13 Reasons Why), Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey, Mae Whitman and Joan Cusack (yep, I had absolutely no idea there were these many famous people in the film until I watched it a couple of days ago!).
Speak focuses on a girl who is haunted by a rape at a party, much like 13 Reasons Why‘s Hannah and Jessica. Melinda (Kristen Stewart) is unable to talk after being raped and is ostracised by her classmates, who have no idea what happened to Melinda at the party.
12. The DUFF
Love the drama of 13 Reasons Why but fancy something a little less gloomy? The DUFF is a hilarious comedy about a girl who decides to reinvent herself after finding out that her peers refer to her as the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Bianca (Mae Whitman) enlists the help of neighbour & jock Wesley and realises that maybe being the DUFF isn’t so bad after all.
Carrie is a horror that examines how bullying can send the victim over the edge. There are a number of versions of Carrie, but the most notable ones were released in 1976 and 2013. It centres on Carrie, a teenage girl who is an outsider at school due to her overprotective mother. When Carrie is humiliated in front of all of her classmates, one of the popular girls asks her boyfriend to take Carrie to prom out of sympathy. Unbeknownst to the pair, a few other classmates are planning a horrible prank that’ll result in chaos and destruction.
If you’ve watched all of these and fancy something else that focuses on bullying/blackmail/real-life teen issues, check out Awkward, Mean Girls, Heathers, Easy A, Cyberbully*, Elephant*, Wonder, Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars (the latter two are about a group of teens who have to deal with lies, backstabbing and blackmail, as well as trying to solve the mystery of a death).
Did you watch Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why? What did you think of it? Are there any films or TV shows about bullying and mental illness you’d recommend?
If you are thinking about suicide, please contact Samaritans on 116 123. All calls are free and will be answered in confidence. If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
*These films are quite heavy, so I’d avoid watching them straight after 13 Reasons Why.