Thirteen Reasons Why

10 May

Watching Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix isn’t fun. A teenage girl, Hannah Baker has killed herself (spoiler alert), and she’s left behind a series of thirteen audio recordings, each telling the tale of another person who contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

Overall, I think that the series was a success, for what it was. It was an interesting look at a downward spiral. At times, it was a brutal, sad, or painful series to watch. At one point, it also made me gag a little, which is weird because I’m not usually one to react to Hollywood gore. However, by that point, I was invested in this character, and no amount of knowing that she was going to kill herself could make that scene any less difficult to watch.

Rather than go through the entire series and write a normal review, I’m going to give my thoughts as they relate to certain criticisms that I’ve seen of the series. I’m not associated with the series in any way, and these are just my “top of the brain” responses. Make of them what you will:

The characters aren’t realistic –

Possibly true. Each character seems to represent a different side of the high school experience. A lot of what we see is from Hannah’s point of view, but not all of it. While I found the characters interesting enough as characters, the point of this story is to tell us how actions and mindsets contribute to the overall problem. So, yeah, there are quite a lot of classic “bad high school experiences” that seem to happen within Hannah’s circle, but they serve a purpose to the story and the overall message (or whatever you want to call it). I didn’t find them to be cartoonish caricatures, and they didn’t take the show into a comedic realm by mistake. I didn’t have a problem with them.

The show glorifies suicide –

I don’t think this series glorifies suicide in any way, actually. Not only did they show the harsh, painful reality of the act itself, but it showed how that act can destroy the people around you. It showed that the people who loved you the most are the ones who will suffer the most. Will a depressed person watch this series and see some appeal to a revenge element, or the “make them pay” element? Possibly. But those people aren’t in their right minds, and I don’t think that this series is going to make them worse. Saying that we shouldn’t depict something in fiction because it might feed into someone’s mental issues is a dangerous position to take. Do we stop showing murder on film? Do we stop showing terrorism? Do we stop showing greed? Do we stop showing any negative element of humanity, because it might feed into the mindset of someone out there?

I think that exploring ideas in fiction gives us a way to consider and process ideas in a way that we normally wouldn’t.

The show doesn’t provide better options –

Well, no. Hannah kills herself, and nobody considers giving her a better option until it’s too late. That’s when the posters come out. That’s when people start looking back at their actions, and her attempts to get help. I just responded to the claim that the series glorified suicide, and now I’m responding to the claim that it doesn’t glorify that situation enough. The harsh truth is that there are no take-backs. There’s no undo button. There are no better options to present once the act is done. There is just a large mess to clean up, and a lot of lives to try to put back together.

The show didn’t depict the real mental health issues that lead to suicide –

Not directly, no. I get that people in the mental health field will want a show that tells us the diagnosis, the treatment, and the potential for a happy ending, but that’s not what this story is about. It’s not a video for health class, it’s an exploration of characters and situations… it’s a story. I can write a dystopian series, with rebellion and battles, but if I turn that into a political thesis, it loses what it’s supposed to be in the first place.

That said, it’s not true that the show didn’t depict Hannah as having other issues. She clearly did, and not just as a result of what those other kids did to her. There are scenes in the series where we see people reaching out to Hannah, wanting to be her friend and wanting to spend time with her, and she either doesn’t see it, or twists it into something else in her head. We see a friend from her poetry group telling her that people miss her and want her to come back, and Hannah doesn’t see it. We see Clay trying to get back to normal with Hannah, being friendly with her, after Jeff’s death. Then we see Hannah say that Clay hates her. There is clearly a difference between the reality that we see, and the way Hannah processes what she sees.

There is no diagnosis. There is no medication. There is no help. There’s only hindsight. Welcome to the point of the show.

The show is dangerous to people considering suicide –

No moreso than a war movie is dangerous for someone with PTSD, or a rape scene is dangerous for rape survivors, or fitness videos are dangerous to people with anorexia. Everyone with an issue has a trigger. The truth is, the trigger isn’t the problem.

Why would I watch a show that isn’t happy or entertaining? –

If you don’t want to, then don’t.

Personally, I like stories of all kinds. I don’t just want mindless entertainment all the time. Sometimes, I like stories that make me feel something else, or think about something else. There are two faces of the theater for a reason. When I’m in the mood for some mindless entertainment, I watch a mindless, entertaining movie. When I’m in the mood for something a little bit deeper, I find something deeper. I don’t think that every song needs to be a love song, or every movie needs to have a happy ending.

I don’t think that the series was perfect by any means. There were a couple of story elements that I’d probably change, if given the chance. However, I think that the overall product succeeded at what it tried to accomplish. It had its lighter moments, but it was mostly just a painful, sad, tragic story. It’s worth watching, and worth discussing. That is where the better options come into play.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and we can discuss!

Also, be sure to click this link and check out my books on Amazon. I have something for everyone, whether you like supernatural, dystopian, or silly Hollywood superstars who turn into action heroes. Click. Browse. And if you read any, please do leave a review. They help a lot!



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