Monday, April 3, 2017
13 Reasons Why: How it made ME feel
I just finished watching the Netflix adaptation of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, and I have some thoughts. Here a lot of them are below. I get personal, and yeah:
I loved this book when I read it sixish years ago. I mostly loved the show, except... I very much did not. This isn't going to be about the acting (which I really enjoyed, to be honest), but rather the raw emotions this show brought out in me recently, the pain it has caused. And why, while I think it's a necessary show for a few reasons, I can't recommend anyone actually watch it for a plethora of others.
Spoiler warnings, and triggers ahead: rape, self-harm, suicide, bullying. I'll add more as I talk about them, I just know I'll be discussing these things. Please don't read any further if you could be triggered by discussion of these things just know: You should not watch this show if you have gone through these things as heavily as these characters had. It's harmful, and could cause a lot of problems including memories returning.
So, as most of you know, Thirteen Reasons Why follows Clay after he receives a collection of tapes from Hannah Baker, a girl who recently committed suicide. The tapes chronicle the "thirteen reasons why" she ended her life.
Main issue with the premise and execution of the story: It focuses more on Clay than on Hannah Baker, and if this story was going to be about teen suicide- and preventing it- then I really think the focus should not have been on Clay. Regardless, I enjoyed the book when I read it way back when. I'd likely have a different opinion now- but only on how it wasn't really about Hannah in the book. It was ALL about Hannah, but it wasn't about Hannah, if you get what I mean.
I actually think the TV show remedied that, a little bit. I saw the focus on Hannah be much clearer. They definitely allowed us to see her thought process (though not enough, in my opinion) but more so than the book did. It was easier to sympathize/empathize/understand everything she went through before deciding to end her life.
While I don't agree fully on the stance that "people don't kill themselves for reasons" statement, I see what people are thinking when they say that. I think the culmination of those things on top of the emotional issues Hannah clearly already has, makes sense to me. At least, I believed it. Doesn't mean you have to, but discounting people who have felt empty like Hannah for similar reasons could be harmed by stating that Hannah's story is "unrealistic". Which I get. Nobody has to believe Hannah's reasons for them to be something that could possibly happen. That's very important to note, in my opinion.
Now that I have gotten those thoughts out of the way, let's get into the nitty-gritty of this show. First of all, it was marketed like a mystery. That's where my first problem with it lies. This is not a mystery, nor should it be treated as such. But it added to the compulsive watching factor that made it so people watched this show quickly. Which I don't blame them. You want to know what happens, you need to, almost.
Major Spoilers are coming up ahead.
My main problem with the show didn't reveal itself until the last couple episodes. The graphic depiction of rape. And Hannah's suicide.
Not. Okay. Whatsoever.
The rape, I understand why it was put on screen. I understand the intended effect, why they presented it in this way. I do. I understand. But this does not excuse the pain it will cause so many fucking people.
Both Hannah and Jessica are raped by Bryce Walker... and the lies that surround that are terrible. But, showing it on screen, though it brings out the emotions necessary to understand everything. Is unnecessary. We don't need to see the rape happening to know it happened. We don't need to watch it more than once to get a better idea of what happened those nights. We don't need that. That is only going to cause harm to viewers.
I haven't been raped. But I have been sexually molested. By my half-brother nonetheless. I could go into a whole post about this but it's not something I like to talk about, or generally make public. But it's a part of who I am today, and I really could have done without watching sexual assault and rape this morning. How am I supposed to go on with my day after watching someone get raped, even if fictionalized and on screen? How am I supposed to get that out of my head? How am I supposed to not feel hurt, and have memories that I have tried hard to suppress come back to the surface? How do you expect me to go about my day like normal? I fucking can't. It's been the only thing on my mind most of today, and I get close to tears just thinking about it. Rape is real. The depiction in this show is just problem number one, of many. The hurt I feel, and I haven't been raped. Imagine what this could do to someone who has.
Another problem regarding the rape: Mr. Porter. What the actual flying fuck. His response to Hannah's claim of rape is frankly complete bullshit. I don't believe for a second that a counselor at any school, EVER, would treat Hannah's claim like nothing like he did. THAT IS FUCKING HARMFUL. It killed me, felt like a stab into my chest. Unrealistic, and painful to watch. I was screaming at my computer as I watched that scene. It made me ache, it made me shake. I was not okay. I am still not entirely okay from that scene. Unrealistic, and seriously an issue.
But the worst scene wasn't the rapes. It wasn't the sexual assault that Hannah went through multiple times. It wasn't watching her get put into this role that she wasn't. It wasn't all of the terrible shit she went through. The hardest scene. The worst scene. The scene that I wholeheartedly don't believe should have been included was the scene in the final episode when she commits suicide.
Never in a million years should anyone have to watch someone slit their wrists in a show. Not one good reason. I actually cried uncontrollably.
This wasn't okay. This will never be okay. Why did someone think this was okay? It's fucking triggering. Really, really triggering. Do you know what this can do to a teen that is struggling with suicidal thoughts?
And these are just the major things that really bothered me about this adaptation. There are a lot of smaller things that also bother me about this story:
Clay's selfishness and tendency to make everything about him. A little hypocritical for someone who accuses Hannah of the same exact thing.
Bryce not getting any actual repercussions for what he did. That could be explored. Make it even more obvious how wrong raping someone is. He's delusional, and he doesn't learn whatsoever, and I don't like how this was.
Skye's comment on how suicide is for the weak, and how she slits her wrists so she can cope, but would never do something so cowardly. This is a problem for so many reasons, and I don't even know how to begin. Suicide isn't the correct answer, but neither is self-harm. I understand the urge. I've cut before. It's been a long time, but this show is a problem because though it doesn't actively advocate for self-harm it doesn't say much against it either. Inaction is still action, my friends. It's harmful, and hurtful and problematic and it makes me incredibly upset.
Justin Foley. I don't have complaints over most of his storyline actually. I felt for him so fucking much, and it doesn't excuse what he did. But his situation was shitty and I wanted someone to do something about it and nobody did. How stupid are these kids? None of them report any of this because they are so fucking selfish, and only care about what these tapes could do to them. Well, do you fucking realize how the rest of these characters are feeling? The hurt you are all going through? This is when you talk together about these things. Instead of blackmailing each other, going behind each others backs, and making certain people's actions "worse" than everyone elses.
And something I might hate even more than a lot of this: The addition of Tyler buying a gun(s) in the last episode,( teasing at a second season possibly?) was unnecessary and just adds even more issues to the mess that this could be.
I'm just so intrinsically upset by this show. And I wasn't until I got to the last couple episodes. I actually was enjoying it. What went wrong?
Maybe it's because things hit a little too close to home, or maybe it was because I just realized how it was actually making me feel... but nevertheless this show is harmful.
It does some good things though:
It opens up a discussion about teen suicide. While it doesn't do a lot of good things surrounding that. It does make you think about actions you make daily. Although the guilt trip is whole other issue entirely, the show makes you think about things you say.
It makes you think, in general. About people, about life. About mental illness. About some seriously heavy topics.
Tony's characterization was spot on. I think we really get a grasp of his reasoning's on why he needed to do what he did.
Hannah's parents. Arguably the best part of this entire show. We got to see their hurt. The lawsuit. The pain. The scene after Hannah commits suicide in the final episode and her mother walks in, that broke me to smithereens. Painful. holy fuck. I just believed everything they said so immensely. And the contrast before and after Hannah's death is simply haunting. Very powerful.
Shari (Sheri?) I have always enjoyed her character but watching everything unfold in her mind was done well, and I feel it highlighted some important things that us humans do to justify our actions.
I will stand by statement that Clay just royally pisses me off and he is the reason this novel can be seen as romanticizing mental illness/suicide; and I don't think this is the case. I see why people read it that way, especially with the outright stupidity of Clay sometimes... but I think the show and novel were trying to do more than that. Do I think they succeeded? I'm not sure but it's something to think about.
Though THIRTEEN REASONS WHY offers an intriguing storyline with some important intended messages, the adaptation of the novel into a tv show is very harmful and could potentially hurt a lot of people. I don't want to tell you not to watch it. But if you think, even possibly however small that possibility, that you could be hurt. I would suggest not watching it.
I don't want anyone getting hurt by watching this show.
I have more thoughts I'm sure, but I am drained and this enough for now.
Have you watched the show? How has it made you feel if you have? Let's talk about this. If you disagree, let's talk. If you agree, let's talk. I think a conversation about this could be really healthy.