adaptation · Discussions · mental health · miscellaneous

TV Review: 13 Reasons Why

So, I originally wrote this post a couple of weeks ago after finishing the series and then decided not to post it. This is primarily a literature blog though I stick some random stuff in too! I haven’t read this book so the post was only on the series, I wouldn’t usually write a post like this without referencing it’s source material so it felt odd to write it solely based on the TV show. I just found out however that there is going to be a second series so I changed my mind and am going to post it anyway!

Spoilers ahead…

(I apologise in advance for this very rambly post)

I don’t have thirteen reasons why I wasn’t happy with this series but I have a few and I’ll share them with you now.

First, I found the depictions of sexual assault and suicide extremely hard to watch. Of course, I should be made to feel like this, I should be uncomfortable otherwise it would have been normalised to me in some way. I hate to say it but I get the feeling that showing rape on TV is becoming popular, there’s a worry that it will somehow become normalised in the way that a lot of violence has. Of course, TV can’t shy away from reality but another one of my issues was that, for young people, whose only experience so far of sex is seeing it on TV and film, seeing the majority of the sex in the program as rape can instil the wrong view of sex.

I was surprised to see the suicide scene, I didn’t expect to actually witness it. There was an odd simplicity to it that disturbed me. It showed the pain but it lasted only moments and then there was just release, maybe it was too realistic but it got me thinking, and this brings me to my next point.

The episodes containing these scenes came with a trigger warning at the beginning which I thought was refreshing to see. However, I’m not sure it goes far enough to protect those effected by these issues. I’m not sure people are fully aware of how damaging these portrayals can be. This seemed particularly significant when it came to the suicide scene which, I think, didn’t do enough to dissuade those with suicidal thoughts. It felt strangely like an instructional video to see it in that way.

Actually the entire approach to suicide felt very jarring. Firstly, this show had a chance to really highlight mental health, yet, apart from the actual suicide, there was next to nothing​ mentioned about actual mental illnesses. Secondly, despite her plea for help in the end…no one helped her, I think this set a very harmful precedent. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to find help rather than making it seem pointless because no one will take you seriously? Thirdly, her suicide seemed to help some of the characters be better people…like they were better, more sensitive people now that she was gone. This does absolutely nothing for those that believe that the people around them would be better off without them!

Fourthly and most importantly, I got the feeling that had her knight in shining armour paid a bit more attention then he could have saved her life. That was pretty much the point of Clay wasn’t it? That he alone could be her saviour, all she really needed was the usual YA romance where suddenly a guy is able to cure the girl of her mental illness.

Hannah was, sadly, not the most likeable character and this was for two reasons. First, she was painted as someone out for revenge. Secondly because there was actually very little emphasis on her at all. This series was all about Clay, forget the girl desperate to find a way out, no that’s not important, apparently the story needed a male protagonist to earn our sympathy.

Often suicide happens out of hopelessness. They can see no other way out, yet, throughout the tapes, Hannah explains exactly how everyone could have saved her. There are ways out, she identifies them herself and yet, commits suicide anyway. If the show was trying to demonstrate that suicide is not the selfish act that it is percieved to be then they went about it completely the wrong way!

The last point I will make is that the show tried to get people to understand how their actions affect other people, even if it is just a snide remark. Everything causes ripples and we need to learn to think of others. That was the point in the end, right? Yet, despite all of this, they manage to not notice the boy who then attempts suicide at the end…so really, no one learned anything at all. Her death didn’t help. They still didn’t prevent anything! But, of course, now we have a second series coming so perhaps this was just a plot device. Yes, suicide has been exploited simply to prolong a TV show!

This show was pretty much all about hopelessness. Nice job on raising awareness there! What this show could have done is focus more on the pain caused by her suicide, her devasted parents and how people struggle to go on after such a devastating event. Instead, it boiled down to a mystery to keep you hooked.

I have far more to say on this issue but I’ll leave it here. I ranted about this show a lot when it finished and I haven’t​ even mentioned the fact that the other characters only seemed to care about themselves! (They even consider killing Clay so that some of their, in some cases, minor offenses, would stay hidden!). We can only hope that the second series goes some way to repair the damaging effects of this show. Many people won’t agree with me I’m sure, however, I felt very strongly about this so I had to write it down. This post doesn’t flow very well as my mind kept wandering off to other elements that pissed me off so it was difficult to make it coherent. 

The most important point I would like to make is that, if you are suffering or can relate to anything at all that Hannah went through then please get help. Suicide is not your only option and the world will never, ever, be better off without you. There is always hope!

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