Be ready to analyse the transmedia universe of 13 Reasons Why, a new series on Netflix and, whether you like it or not, one of the most viral series at the moment, thanks to its success amongst the young audience. Hardly surprising, as it is based on a best-seller.
We gave it a chance and it didn´t let us down. But when we really fell in love was at the time we discovered the narrative universe behind the series. First of all, we need to make clear that it is not the expansion of the series, as the Transmedia Narrative has its origins in the book.
Th1rteen r3asons why is Jay Asher´s novel published in 2007, (yes, a decade ago) in the United States. A pretty tough story about “the need of a sincere friendship”, although it ended up being much more than that.
The book had its own transmedia, a website where readers could make comments and a recreation of the audios referred in the narration.
It was such a success that it was recommended by The New York Times, a huge achievement taking into account that the genre is young-adult and that it is an auto-conclusive story and not a saga. Furthermore, a new edition has been published including extra content and an alternative ending to the story.
Nevertheless, after it was published in Spain in 2009, the novel has been discretely enjoyed by the youngsters. Until now, that thanks to the TV adaptation, the books are running out in the libraries and it is an Amazon best-seller.
Spoiler! Novel synopsis
You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen comes home from school to find outside his front door a mysterious box with his name on it. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did – and Clay is one of them. If he listens, Clay will find out how he got on the list – what he hears will change his life forever.
Amongst the transmedia content of the book, we would like to highlight the audios that can be found on this platform. A recreation of the tapes recorded by the main character. A multimedia content that, even though optional, widens the narrative perspective.
It is important to mention that the publication of the audios was done through video (simulating the tapes reproduction) uploaded in a specific YouTube channel by the name of Hannahsfriend13, instead of in a promotional channel like the editorial´s. In addition, the descriptions of the videos follow the same narrative as they are written by the character who uploads them.
Spoiler! First Tape
Descripción: “The last time anyone heard this voice was when Hannah Baker was alive. I wont divulge my reasons for posting these tapes and letting Hannahs story be heard by the whole world…yet. But those of you who are on her list can probably guess why Im doing this and thats all that matters. For those of you who havent had your tape posted yet…stay tuned.”
Although the first plan was a film adaption of the book, finally Netflix accepted the challenge to adapt Jay Asher´s novel in a series of 13 one- hour chapters. The series has as many fans as haters but we warn you, don´t judge before watching, including the transmedia content.
Spoiler! TRAILER. A spoiler in its own, if you are decided to watch the series, do not press play.
Normally book adaptations are done staying close to the text, respecting the fandom, usually we speak about crossmedia here.
Nevertheless, this adaptation offers different character´s points of view, like Hannah´s or her parents, whilst the book is written in the first person (Clay). As a transmedia content, it expands the storytelling and can be consumed independently.
Other main differences are: a change in the setting, a decade into the future, including new technologies where situations are even more evident.
In regards to the original narrative, the order of the story events and when we discover them also changes, favourable to the thriller genre, and some characters are even combined,
13 Reasons Why’ Cast on the red carpet.
13 Reason´s showrunners are Brian Yorkey (‘Next to Normal’) and Diana Son (‘American Crime’). First episode´s director is Tom McCarthy, script Oscar winner with ‘Spotlight’.
Cast: Katherine Langford, Dylan Minnette (‘Lost’) Brandon Flynn, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe (‘Ray Donovan’), Justin Prentice (‘Malibu Country’), Devin Druid, Miles Heizer (‘Parenthood’) y Ross Butler.
– FYI: Selena Gómez is the executive producer. Probably one of the keys to its success.
To keep talking about Selena, she is one of the interviewees in the Netflix special about the series. A 30-minute documentary which includes interviews of the technical team, the cast and several specialists in the topics questioned in the narrative with the aim of helping the audience and give information about delicate issues.
User generated content is one the best ways to measure the success of a transmedia universe. Like Scolari states in his book “Transmedia Narrative: when all media count.”:
“When we analyse the transmedia world of the main literary sagas like Harry Potter, Twilight and Lord Of The Rings, the most interesting facts are discovered aside, where prosumers introduce their favourite characters and insert them in new narrative programs.”
13 Reasons Why has awoken the creativity of the readers who have produced boundless booktrailerson YouTube including fanfictions recreated in alternative universes and utopic relations like Clannah´s. (Clay❤Hannah).
We can´t forget the official Wikia of the story, compiling information of both the book and the series.
Since the first rumours of taking the series to the big screen, until the success of the series, the number of fanarts continues growing, including memes on social media.
Finally, we share a content that even though it attempts to be a transmedia content it is more a promotional one. Netflix´s promotional videosuse the context and narrative of the series as a promo that is at the same time useful and sharable, for instance:
Hopefully you have enjoyed this profound analysis, see you soon with more stories to tell!