Review: 13 Reasons Why

**Warning: Spoilers Alert

I’m pretty sure a lot of us have heard of or watched the new Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why based off Jay Ashers’ young adult novel. Before we begin discussing it, here is a brief summary (or a trailer if you prefer) of what it’s all about:

“As the school mourns the death of Hannah Baker, her friend Clay receives a box of tapes with messages she recorded before she committed suicide.” -Netflix

Basically, these tapes contain thirteen people who have affected or caused some harm to her that led to her suicide.

This series definitely sparked a lot of conversations and opinions about bullying, mental health/illness, sexual assault, suicide, etc. Some people think it is a great show at portraying the effects of bullying and others are not so fond of it. Personally, I think 13 Reasons Why is a decent text that sparks conversations about topics that have been buried, but the other side of me thinks it isn’t all that great.

After having enough time to recollect myself and my thoughts I have decided to write a little something about it. And having read many articles about the reasons why people thought it was great and why it was not, I want to share my perspective on some points that were made. So this is my conversation on it. Feel free to agree or disagree.

In an article written by Emily Madriga from Thought Catalog, she said, “The answer to mental pain isn’t for some guy to love you and show you that you are worthy. The answer is to figure out how to survive these events and hold onto your worth as you do this. Other people can’t save you, and you shouldn’t want them to.”

One of the disputes that I often have seen is that Clay only exists in the show for the sole purpose of being a savior to Hannah, implying that those who are depressed, bullied, or suicidal needs someone to save them and that ‘love’ is the answer, which some believe should not be a message for those who are in mental pain.

I’m sure Clay does not only exist in the show to “save” Hannah, whether with his love or not. Like most films, their romanticized relationship was probably an element to move the plot along and draw attention.

We can view ‘Clay’ as a symbol for observers who could have done something but did not, or someone that can do something – which can encourage viewers to step forward too if they know anyone going through the same experience. Clay was the person that ‘could’ve’ helped her and so was Mr. Porter.

I do somewhat believe what Madriga said is true because yes, no one can save us. I know that and I have learned that, but sometimes we need someone to help us. We need someone to ask if we are okay. Just someone to notice! Not just notice a person in mental pain specifically, but the bigger picture – bullying, depression, suicide, etc. Clay was there as an observer. He saw things happening and never said anything, and we need more people who will actually say something.

There are already so many people struggling with all kinds of mental illnesses or pain and they already do hide and bury their feelings and problems. We hide ours cuts with long sleeves, take pills to remain “normal”, apply makeup to hide our baggy eyes, just faking it until we make it. We don’t say anything because we are afraid that our negative energy or feelings of wanting to die every day might scare or annoy people. Because wow, who wants to be around a person who strips me of my joy. Right? So I don’t see any reasons why their feelings should be further suppressed or unacknowledged.

We don’t need a person necessarily to “save us” but to notice, to take that hesitant step and care. Care about mental illness, bullying, and all that. And we see Clay finally taking action at the end when he talks to Skye who cuts, and asks how she is. So yes, we need someone to care. Not to save us, but to care. That is one of the ways where the healing can begin.

Another thing I hear is that “we should have full agency of ourselves and our worth” and 13 Reasons Why does not convey that message.

Can I just say that we will never have agency over ourselves or our choices? Because that is some transcendental shit. I mean, that takes a lot of sacrifices. I agree that we do not have to give others permission to make us feel worthless and I respect those who believe that we can do this. However, I don’t know about you, but people are mean and they do mean things.

Depression is different for everyone. If you’re able to have agency and still recognize your self-worth then good for you, but some of us can’t do that because our depression is different. Sometimes it isn’t even because of people. Sometimes it’s an unknown reason. I can’t control mine. Sometimes it just comes and goes, leaving me feel completely worthless.

I know I’m taking this out of context, but it’s true. I don’t have a lot to say about this topic though because we all struggle different battles. Point being is that we can never completely have agency over our bodies.

Next stop: the blame game. So many articles I have read said it was wrong of Hannah to blame others for her death when she took her own life and making others feel guilty after her death was wrong.

Making others feel guilty is another story, but you’re telling me that I can’t blame others for the pain that they have caused or afflicted upon me? Unbelievable. Please tell this to the little kids who are bullied every day. Tell them it is their fault that they’re “fat”, “dumb”, “slow”, “stupid”, “nerdy”, “ugly”. Yes. Do it.

There are shitty people. I’m petty sure we all know this by now. If I can’t blame others for what they have done, then is it my fault then? I find this so close to victim-blaming.

I have a crappy past with crappy, selfish people. I have a family that pretends to be happy, that pretends to get along and I have to deal with that. I, myself, have to pretend that I am happy to keep everyone happy. I have had people, friends, family members say really mean and awful things to me. All of these people that have hurted me and have caused some kind of reason for be to be depressed and suicidal. Should I not blame them? I already do blame myself for most of the things that happens to me. Is it all just my fault then? Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just a total idiot. Sometimes depression is built on these things, of people constantly tormenting you and it will affect you, your worth, self-esteem, and just the way you see yourself.

Referring back to the previous topic of ‘agency’, I get that one should have agency over oneself and should not let the actions of others affect us (and forgive them even), but that is some idyllic fantasy that is unlikely to happen to people who have gone through a lot of bullshit.

Lastly, Hannah Baker committing suicide.

A lot of controversy going on with this one. I for one, appreciate the scene. It is honestly very hard to watch and despite the warnings, triggering as well.

I can see how the writers adding this scene is inappropriate because 13 Reasons Why did violate the recommended guidelines for Reporting on Suicide. Because discussing suicide can lead to the committed act itself, these are guidelines that should be followed to prevent them. After watching that scene, I did feel like shit and wanted to kill myself too.

On the other hand, I truly appreciate how real and heartwrenching that scene was. Yes, it was heavy, graphic, and having Clay individually list the steps of how Hannah did it just got more worse, but it was real.

In “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons”, the writers discuss about that particular scene and why they decided to add it.

Brian Yorkey, executive producer, said they worked hard not to be gratuitous, but did want it to be painful to watch. They wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing in any way worthwhile about suicide.

As graphic as it is, by having this scene, it definitely shows that this is real and it happens. The scene is supposed to be hard to watch because suicide is not easy.

Dr. Helen Hsu, licensed clinical psychologist, said it was important to show that suicide is not a pretty death nor an easy one.

Why is it okay for us to view or broadcast movies or Facebook/YouTube videos of violence like people killing or shooting others but not this particular scene?

It is not glamorizing or sensationalizing anything.

By not having this scene, we will only continue to sweep the subject under the rug. We need people to understand that this is real and this is how it looks like.

I have so much to say, but I’ll stop here because people are just beyond shitty. I wish for better days.

One thought on “Review: 13 Reasons Why

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