Thirteen Reasons Why This Show irks Me
Something draws you towards the story. The moment you read about it, you want to read it all the way, or watch the show. Because it brings up critical issues, they say, of suicide and bullying. Suddenly, you find yourself pitying the protagonist because obviously, she’s the victim and needs to be pitied. Maybe it’s worth sitting through a storyline pounded and flattened till it finally punctures with petty puffs and smelly farts.
Is it so bad, you ask? If I put it the way I do, I’m sure you will not be tempted to watch it. At all.
Hannah Baker, the golden girl of TRW is not just pretty and vibrant, she’s also
ironically ignored and bullied. In fact, there’s nothing left for her to experience as far as terrible experiences are concerned. For a nobody, she is too often a victim of bullying, molestation, even rape before she finally caves in. It is beyond her understanding as to why she of all the people was being cornered and ridiculed repeatedly, every single day of her high school life.
All of this automatically puts her centre stage. After a point, it is expected of her
to be wound up in one controversy or the other.
Poor Hannah, you say. What did she do to deserve this? She made all the wrong
choices, starting with Justin, the blond jock who is warned against by her best
friend. But the 101 guide to high school popularity makes dating the “bad guy”
mandatory. So she does, for one evening and resentfully marks it as “the day it all began”.
Then on you witness her spirally downward emotional progress, triggered by a series of unfortunate events, some of which are truly cringe-worthy. There are however, times when you wonder: “Does she never learn? Nobody wants to be nice to her, so why take up any offer?” But she does, every.single.time. And in her deepest resentment, etches that episode- a trigger that pushes her towards her own death.
Let’s talk about her death, not because it’s graphic, but because it’s unbelievably captivating. Her blood looks like silken sheets oozing out of her veins, her face
strained but lovely as ever. The struggle is visually appealing, because entertainment; imagine the alterations in the impact that it creates. Suicide is no longer gruesome but the perfect, calming climax after all the melodramatic struggles experienced by Hannah. Suicide is necessary for Hannah to turn into a heroic martyr.
Suicide allows Hannah to finally get away with something horrifying. It allows her
to play the games she finally wanted to, for instance, turning her bullies, molesters, friends, and lovers into perpetrators of an act chosen by her. Suicide gives her the power to operate beyond the grave, to guilt trip the alleged perpetrators into believing that they truly drove her into commit suicide.
Neither the book nor the series leaves any room for possibilities. In the series, her parents are single-dimensional fleshed out caricatures, sweet and loving but unaware of the emotional turmoil broiling within her. Her teachers and counsellors are blind as fuck, to the derogatory social environment in classrooms and corridors. Everybody but Hannah is cruel; everybody is out to get her. The screenplay makes one feel paranoid, suffocated, and averse to schooling in general. “School sucks”, but this is too dark for anyone to handle. In the end, Liberty High is slapped with three deaths: Hannah immortalised by her tapes, Jeff who meets with a tragic car accident, and Alex who gets shot in the head.
All accused except Clay form a gang of sorts to protect themselves from the wrath of the tapes. Secret meetings are held; discussions in hushed tones, all pointing to the fact that Clay now had the tapes. Much ado about nothing. No action taken to stop Clay from further listening to the tapes. What’s surprising is that every single one of them follows the rules of dead Hannah when they paid no heed to Hannah in the flesh. The truth becomes public anyway; well, almost since the lawyers get involved. One can look for courtroom drama in the next season.
Which begs to question, where is this plot taking us now? The truth is out; the tapes have been listened to. What next? Even Hannah had no clue. She wanted to vent out against everyone she greeted across the halls, which she did in stereo. Forget the rules, the tapes themselves had consequences. The mere existence of those tapes became a threat to the lives of the accused. Is this fair?
Yes, some of them deserve severe punishment, especially Bryce. The season
finale has us believe that even someone as seemingly invincible as Bryce can be
taken down. But what we forget is that we have no concrete evidence, no memory on behalf of the victim, only the word of a dead girl who was herself disturbed and suicidal.
This brings us to Hannah’s rape by Bryce. How should one counsel a rape victim?
What kind of help needs to be extended if she’s uncomfortable making the case
public? The signs are all there; she wants them to “stop”, for “life to stop”. As a
counsellor, what are the actions that you must take to ensure the patient/student
stops thinking in those lines?
There is no suggestion of external help, for instance a Psychologist or a Therapist,
something which is more common in the States than anywhere else. Maybe that
would have pushed her into thinking rationally, no? I guess not if she had already made up her mind.
The series is irksome to me because it encourages blame games with a twisted
sense of logic established by the victim. How can one trust the victim, knowing the state of mind s/he was in when s/he made that decision? How can one go by the words of a person who considered suicide as an option?
Taking the blame for a suicide is like expecting a cow to fish. The actions of both belong to someone else.