The Life is Strange Show Shouldn’t Aspire to 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why is not what high school stories should aspire to.

I completely forgot a Life is Strange TV series was in the works, but the project is back in the news cycle as pop star Shawn Mendes is overseeing the show’s music. Which doesn’t stir much of any emotional reaction in me, as I’ve not really heard much of his music. But the news that Anonymous Content, one of the production companies behind Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, does give me mixed feelings as we head into whatever Life is Strange’s TV debut entails.

The Hollywood Reporter says Mendes, along with Andrew Gertler, will oversee the music as part of Permanent Content, while Joy Gorman Wettels and Zack Hayden will act as executive producers for Anonymous.  Wettels was also an executive producer of 13 Reasons Why, which was an extended adaptation of the book of the same name. The Life is Strange series’ focus on high school students makes the pairing seem like a perfect match, but the directions 13 Reasons Why went in its latter seasons have me more concerned about how the show might handle some of Life is Strange’s more delicate topics.

General spoilers for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why follow, and content warning for suicide, addiction, sexual assault:

For those that don’t know, 13 Reasons Why starts off about a high school student named Hannah Baker, who has committed suicide, leaving behind tapes addressed to people from her school explaining the 13 reasons why she did it. These tapes recounted bullying, broken friendships, and one tape involves her being raped by one of the popular boys at the school. Because Netflix obviously asks “why would you make one season when you can make more,” the show deviates from the book and ends up having multiple seasons that would cover the ensuing court case against the school for neglect, and the sexual assault case against the jock that raped Hannah, as well as other characters. After that, it extrapolates further into discussions about sexual assault, violent, internalized homophobia, school shootings, and even tries to redeem a rapist along the way.

My issue with 13 Reasons Why was never that it “pushed the limits” of what I thought was acceptable, it was that it prioritized shock value over how it might affect those it was ostensibly looking to help by having those conversations. This started as early as the first season, which initially showed Hannah’s suicide in a flashback, which was advised against by consultants. Netflix removed the scene ahead of the third season premiere in hopes that it wouldn’t deter newcomers from watching the show further. But even that was an omen for several questionable decisions the series made on the grounds of authenticity.

Life is Strange as a series has dealt with some weighty topics over the years, from sexual assault, teen suicide, murder, racism, and more. While the dialogue writing of the series has been inconsistent, Dontnod and Deck Nine have at least shown a level of care for these topics that 13 Reasons Why seldom did. So I hope that understanding is still present in the show.

Beyond these new names, Legendary Television and AC Studios are acting as co-studios on the Life is Strange show. There’s been no information on just what the series will focus on. Whether that be series staples like Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, or the Diaz brothers from Life is Strange 2. Given that the franchise deals with player choice and multiple endings, it would probably be better for everyone involved if the show focused on original characters instead of picking up where any of the games left off.

In other Life is Strange news, the next game in the series, Life is Strange: True Colors is out on September 10 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. A Switch version is also in the works, but has been delayed until later this year. A remaster of the first two games, Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm is in the works, but has been delayed until 2022.

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