13 Reasons Why: Musing


Again I watched a series because everyone is talking about it. And the series in question here is “13 Reasons Why”. My curiosity kills the cat and every resolution of mine. I thought I was done with all high school dramas literally and media-wise. You maybe thinking given my age I should have been done the literal part of high school long long ago but seriously have not you been ever part of a Whatsapp group of your high school batch?

The week Netfilx started streaming the show the whole web world is full of praise about the show, how it has started a dialogue on bullying. But the next week almost every one agreed Hannah deserved to die because she is too irritating and drama queen. So Hannah dies and in case you are screaming “spoiler” then let me tell you Hannah’s death is not the spoiler but it is the beginning.

A high school girl Hannah committed suicide because of 13 reasons in her own opinion. And some viewers feel she deserved it. Do I feel the same? Actually I feel no one deserves to die, not even rapists only they should be banished to a torture chamber forever.

But do I get suicide? I should be against suicide, should not I? Especially being a mother and all. But unfortunately I get it sometimes.

We are combination of body, mind and soul.

When someone suffers from terminal disease of body and suffering a lot then they opt for medical assisted suicide in some countries. And most of the “intellectuals” on theory support the decision.

But mind and soul are equally important for a life. What if you are losing your mind due to some disease? Would you want to live like a vegetable someday losing your mind entirely? Didn’t Robin Williams kill himself for that reason? And Terry Pratchett? Don’t you ever wonder how he suddenly died immediately after announcing about his Alzheimer’s? Does not it take some time for this disease to kill? Since he did the announcement so obviously he had not lost his mind entirely he must have had some time left. I am not speculating but just saying if he did take some step then I get it.

Then comes soul. What if you are heartbroken or you have done something for which you can never forgive yourself? Don’t you feel your soul sucking out slowly from your body? If soul is terminal can anyone live? Some people may say, “hey it is just a heartbreak. Just move on”. Oh yeah? Have you ever got a heartbreak? I am talking about a real one, not the one where your three dates old boyfriend hanged out with another girl. Then the momentary lapse of judgment and doing something unforgettable and unforgivable. Everyday you can feel the soul is dying. How does one go on living when soul is dying? So I get it.

But I really didn’t get it why Hannah killed herself. I did not feel for her.

Netflix again banked on the 80’s nostalgia with Hannah leaving her last thoughts on cassette tapes. She recorded the 13 reasons or 13 people responsible for her death. The cassette got circulated among these 13 people and the show started with No.11 getting the cassettes. We listened to the cassettes with Clay Jensen, the number 11. But as one goes through the cassettes Hannah went hot and cold. Her character seemed inconsistent. She is deep and fickle back to back. Someone took a picture of her and spread a rumour about her. It broke her but the next episode she was her normal self, only angry at the world like other normal teenagers. She hanged out in café and made new friends. And like this it went on. Her life was like a sitcom. When a fresh episode starts there’s no leftover feelings from last episode. But the feelings were supposedly accumulating which led to her suicide, I as a viewer could not feel it. The tapes were vindictive towards everyone who had crossed her path.

And she was inconsistent in her blame game too. People get equal scorn for sexual assault and having a tiff with a friend.

Most of the show she was narrating through her cassettes. Her voice was preachy, patronising, passive aggressive but never there was the sinking sadness. It felt like she was in a high position and giving challenges to mortals to stop her suicide. But the stupid mortals failed in this task. She was disappointed rather than sad.

She talked wise beyond her age. But she can write brilliant poems so that’s explained. Still a high school kid having that kind of insight and intelligence should be in Mensa list. In fact all kids talked like grown ups and one kid Tony talked like he is Tony Soprano. The usual high school movies/shows cliché where the kids talk like 50 year olds. And this is not the only cliché the show has. It is full of it.

High school students as usual do not do much other than fooling around, especially they don’t study at all. But whenever they need to hang out with a classmate for some shady reason they always give excuse of homework or projects to their parents. I don’t know if in real life this lie works with American parents because in India it will never work.

“Mama I want to stay with X tonight to finish the project”

“Which project dear because I am doing all your projects. You two can help me if you want.”

The students in sports are all rapey except Jeff who is nice. And we know what happens to nice guys so far as clichés go. Cheerleaders are popular. The nerdy guy is the loner. The creepy guy is the photographer. Rich parents are careless about their kids. Single mother makes a terrible parent and is always hooking up with drug addicts. Only difference was there were couple of good at academics-go getter who were not the proverbial boring kind but real smart.

As a grown up geek I would say high school must be easiest for Clay Jensen because we geeks always find solace in some obscure non-people obsessions. And he was really in a way better off than the bunch. The other kids were a sad bunch. Strangely enough I could feel the sadness of the other kids, which I could not for Hannah. Alex and Jessica going down the road of sadness and self-destruction made me feel big time. I was willing to even forget their mistakes which led to Hannah’s suicide. Anyway I think those were not tremendous mistakes. They had fallen out with Hannah and they were not friends with her any more.

In the show the recurring idea is had Hannah few friends then she would not have taken the step. But she always had Clay and apparently Tony. Her relationship with Tony was not explored in the show at all. Maybe in second season some light will be thrown in that direction. But that relationship needs some air time given the fact that in the end she trusted him more than anyone.

It was not that kind of high school where popular students don’t talk to new student at all. Everyone talked to her and become friends quite easily. It is another story that friendship fell apart always because of some reasons. But there were many other students she could have interacted with. Most importantly her parents, they were really nice to her. It’s true they were busy and did not have time to talk to her but I am sure they would have listened if she would have opened up.

Being old now I can see the perspective of parents. Her parents were busy not in partying but sorting out financial issues. They struggled but gave Hannah the best they could not even afford. This made me think about my daughter who is not yet teenager. Is she sharing everything with me? Then I remembered most part of her school life is captured in camera and directly relayed to me. Does it make me big brother? I don’t know but at least I would know if she is crying in the class because of bullying.

Touted as the show on bullying with social network, I need to say 13 Reasons Why has very little about dynamics of social network. Almost all American shows/movies about high school depict bullying. Here we didn’t see toilet dunk or wedgie. The bullying here was spreading vicious rumours about Hannah. And the spreading the word happened mostly in old fashioned word to mouth way. Sadly the missed the opportunity of showing the role social media in high school bullying.

Some how I hated marcus the most even more than Bryce. And especially after once getting assaulted by him once before

In my personal opinion the show was not about suicide or bullying. It was about rape. In general although I am not that appreciative of the show but I feel the show deserves a big round of applause for dissecting rape neatly and clinically. Everything got covered nicely be it the drunk party girl asking for it, or the girl in underwear asking for it, or the we-are-just-having-some-fun, or you should stick with your best friends.

The shame and guilt of the victims are heartbreaking. When the victims stopped blaming themselves they wanted to tell somebody. But whom should they talk to? Law enforcers? Who can’t do anything without hard proof. The over burdened school councilor? Is he even really qualified to handle this kind of situations? Parents? Maybe.

Among the characters the teachers and parents were in the periphery. Mostly they meant well but some how they never could get the kids to talk to them. They were understanding to some extent and the kids could have talked to them. But there were few exceptions. Alex’s father was the smooth talker who was passively pressurising him to be more “masculine”. And there’s this monster mother of Justin. And the ever absentee parents of Bryce were obviously not good at their responsibilities.

The geek Clay was in love with Hannah. He was the good person in her life but the way he treated Tyler can be labeled as only bullying of heinous kind. And the worst part is even if Clay was planning on revenge he could hit back at the weakest person so easily.

I hated the character Marcus the most. He was intelligent and calculative. He was obviously not a good person but with his polished exterior it became even more scary.

The young actors generally played their characters nice to brilliantly. For me the actors playing Alex and Jessica stole the show. They depicted the teenage angst and some beautifully.

The character Tony was downright irritating. He was making everything complicated, which had already been made complicated by Hannah.

It is no doubt a heavy and thought provoking show which better to be watched by parents with their teenager offspring. There is an immediate need of starting a dialogue between parents and their children on rape.

There’s going to be a second season. The show is based on a book of same name by Jay Asher. I wonder if the second season will go off book. The way the show is now, there are not much for second season. There may be few unanswered question but some things should be left unsaid like fate of a certain student. And some things could be worked out on our own, like after getting the tapes Hannah’s parents are obviously going to win the civil suit. Only thing I wonder about is what would have happened between Clay and his mother.

(Borrowing style of Hannah in most part I have addressed to an imaginary reader hence so much second person pronouns)

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