Thoughts on ’13 Reasons Why’

There, are you with me still? Good. I figured this was a good way to keep others from reading when they don’t want to. Now, onto my thoughts.

It would be foolish to deny that ’13 Reasons Why’ paints a very traumatic experience with death by suicide and the way it outlines what life in high school is like. However, the way Hannah goes about her death with the tapes and the pure vengeance that is brought out by it isn’t the norm when people are pushed to this end. Does this show glamourize suicide? It might. Does it give the impression that when you’re constantly shit on that you can end your life and blame all the people who had a hand in it, whether they believe they did or not?

Yes.

That is something that never sat right with me. Suicide is typically a way out for the hopeless: for the ones who have tried and tried again to live like a ‘normal’ human being but the weight of their reality is crushing them. Being in that low, dark place is uncomfortable. You feel isolated, lost and everything seems dark. That is, until you make your choice.

Before I continue, I want to let readers know that I am fine. While I attempted to die by suicide 9 years ago and struggle on and off with suicidal thoughts, I have gotten help. I see a counselor, I have taken Mental Health First Aid and I have also taken Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). I am in a safe space.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or just needs to have that voice on the line tell them it’s okay, there are resources for you. Since I live in Manitoba, Canada that’s where my resources are:

  • A list of Crisis Centres in Manitoba is here.
  • You can call the Klinic Crisis line here.

If you click on the second link, it’ll help you find resources in the rest of Canada and some internationally as well.

The Show

There was only one time I didn’t like Hannah. Aside from the ‘revenge by death’ scenario she painted herself into, her interaction with Mr. Porter in the final episode was unfair. She went into that appointment setting him up to fail. She was recording him before she even got into the room. As if to bleakly say ‘I tried, and he failed me’. However I disliked Mr. Porter from the moment he showed up on screen. My dislike grew for him as he tried to remove the page from his day planner, when he spoke with the teacher about how many kids are on his caseload and how he announced to the students who he had pulled into his office for questioning. Are guidance counsellors overwhelmed? Yes they are. But you do not run around telling the entire school who has been to your office and why. That is a gross example of disrespect and breach of confidentiality. Will the kids figure it out anyway? Maybe. But as a professional you do not run your mouth like that. I think that infuriated me more than anything.

As you watch the show, it becomes clear that Hannah has been a victim of bullying before by the things her parents say and the reasons for their move. As a former victim myself, I can vouch for the fact that those ‘little things’ can add up and bury you. Even though Hannah herself says that when Zach stole her compliments from the bags that it was just little and she should have been able to let it go, but she couldn’t. She needed those and he robbed her of them for his pride. She refused him, and he didn’t like it. The same thing can be said when Tyler releases her photo with Courtney for the entire school to see: she rejected him and he didn’t like it. These are two examples of revenge that contributed to what destroyed her.

Let’s not forget Justin, Alex, Marcus and Ryan. Justin, who took a stupid picture of Hannah where her underwear is exposed. Justin, who cannot stand up to Bryce at the beginning of the show. You could say that this picture is what triggered the tsunami that consumed her. Alex, with his stupid list that he created out of revenge because his girlfriend wouldn’t sleep with him. Marcus, who sought to embarrass Hannah in public when she refused his advances. Ryan, who at first seemed like a supportive person who helped Hannah commit her feelings to paper and yet partook in what is a most vile violation of her trust by spreading her intimate poetry to the school.

I didn’t really like Courtney. The girl with the perfect mask. Yes, she is burned with the thoughts that if she were to come out as lesbian that her fathers would be somehow blamed for it. I can appreciate that mindset. However, she not only threw Hannah under the bus at the dance, she fed her to the wolves. Even by the end of the series Courtney still seems to be in denial about how she contributed to Hannah’s mindset in the end. Perhaps this is a way of protecting herself.

Even while watching, I couldn’t bring myself to hate Alex. I wanted to. I wanted to hate all of the people who hurt Hannah. But Alex was one I couldn’t hate. Did he do something stupid? He sure as hell did. However, the entire show he’s grieving. He’s grieving his part that he played in Hannah’s death. He goes through the stages of grief with denial and anger, finally acceptance. Alex has his own problems. An overly masculine father and other brother while Alex is clearly not that type of man. The pressure on him must have been insane. Is that an excuse? No. But it’s a piece of understanding.

When I first met Jessica, I thought she was a raging, selfish bitch. However, by tape 9 I gained a new understanding. She spent the series denouncing everything Hannah said. She called her a liar and seemed desperate to keep her one. How could so much hate come from such a brief friendship? Then tape 9 came around. Of course Jessica is desperate to believe that Hannah lied to her. She suffered a horrible assault that she blocked from her own memory. It’s very likely that in the days after the event she had an inkling of what happened, but could not bring herself to accept it. Accepting it would mean that her boyfriend failed her. That her former friend failed her. That she was violated in a way that would be difficult to recover from. Accepting those failures on top of Hannah’s death and her own role in it is too much to ask of a young person. We get some peace near the end of the series as Jessica begins to accept what has happened to her.

Sheri was also hard to hate. While her actions cost the life of Jeff, a character I had been wondering what happened to the whole series, she is obviously deeply troubled by it. She’s an idiot for not reporting the accident when it happened and she will have to live with the fact that this killed a classmate and had him branded as a drunk driver, even though he wasn’t.  She too begins to take responsibility by the end of the series.

Justin was a character I reviled at the beginning of the series. This didn’t change when tape 9 came around either. However, my heart began to break for him by the end. Justin basically sold his girlfriend off to Bryce, who we later learn is a serial rapist. Justin has been fucked since the beginning. His mother is a horrible parent who puts him in difficult situations. She doesn’t even bat an eye as her on-again-off-again boyfriend tries to strangle her son in front of her. Justin has depending on Bryce and his ‘kindness’ (and I use this term very loosely) for the majority of his life. Bryce owns him in such a way that Justin can’t bear to go against him. Even though it costs him a relationship and any self-respect he might have been able to craft for himself. Justin is cornered by the end of the series and he’s irrational. In season 2, I won’t be surprised if Justin shoots Bryce. Or himself.

Bryce. Never have I borne witness to such a piece of human refuse. We all know that guy: popular, powerful (either with money, parents social standing or their own social standing within the school) who believes that if he wants it, it will come. He has no one to put him in his place. People are too afraid of him to speak up against what he does. It’s the worst kept secret that he will rape any girl he wants and gods know what else he does that people don’t bat an eye to. I wanted to reach into my television and strangle the shit out of this kid. This episode was the hardest to watch. Not only because of how graphic it is, but because this episode culminates all the personal experiences I have had in high school. Let me be clear: I was not raped in high school. A very dear friend of mine was. I was sexually assaulted as a child and in high school. Watching this episode brought those buried thoughts to the forefront which would be difficult for anyone to deal with.

And then there was Clay. This kid has had a shitty time. While I don’t agree with everything he did (forcing Courtney to the cemetery, taking that photo and sharing it of Tyler, forcing Jessica to recognize what happened) there were other things he did that struck me as odd. See, aside from knowing that Hannah has died by the beginning of the series, we don’t know about Jeff until much later. While Clay denies his connection with Hannah to his parents (which I found weird) he also doesn’t appear to have grieved the loss of Jeff. Is this because he is still angry at Jeff in the beginning for believing that he drove drunk? He also seems unnaturally detached when it comes to Hannah. I wonder if this is a common thing for Clay. He has seen a psychiatrist before and was prescribed medication for anxiety. Is this lack of emotion a natural thing for him? I understand that teenagers are not forthcoming with information for their parents, but I was honestly concerned for Clay’s mental and physical health up until he had his breakdown with Tony. I cried when he finally cried thinking: “Yes, be a human being. Allow yourself to be sad”.

Some general questions I had while watching this series are: ‘What about the parents?” They seem to be everywhere yet none of the children seem to confide in them what is happening. None of them. We see why Justin and Hannah don’t particularly confide in their parents (deadbeat vs. stressed out) and it’s kind of understandable why Alex doesn’t confide in his father. But what about his mother? What about Tony’s parents? Or Sheri’s parents? Even Jessica appears to have a decent relationship with her parents, although we only see interactions with her father. That could explain why she doesn’t want to tell him anything because she doesn’t want to risk him looking at her in disappointment. Another question is “Are the teachers really that blind to what is going on in their classrooms?” Are teachers overworked and underpaid/underappreciated? Yes. We know that the teacher from the communications class feels regret over not seeing the signs after the fact, but what about the other teachers? The students weren’t very kind to Hannah in the classroom or the halls, so someone should have seen something.

Predictions for Season 2

There is going to be a season 2. Anyone with access to the internet knows that. Here are some predictions and some hopes for the next season:

  • Tyler goes postal and shoots up the school. That kid has a shittonne of guns by the end of the series and he has been bullied through the entire series.
  • Justin shoots Bryce. We know Justin has a gun, we know he’s finally had enough of Bryce’s bullshit and we know he’s unstable.
  • Alex survives his suicide attempt. Please god let him live.
  • Clay comes clean to his mother about everything. The tapes, what he did, everything.
  • Someone, other than Clay, punches Tony. The dude seemed to have his heart in the right place but the dude was just too ‘Holier-than-thou’.
  • Hannah’s parents sue the shit out of the school and Bryce’s family. They have the recording where he admitted to raping Hannah, and now that Jessica seems better able to come to terms with what happened to her, she may be a witness and partake in the suing the shit out of Bryce.
  • Clay and Skye become friends. I really don’t want to see either of those two in a relationship until they sort their shit out, but I believe they could be a support to each other.
  • With Sheri admitting what she did with the stop sign, there is some justice for Jeff.

And that’s it folks! I finished watching this series at 3am on a Thursday morning when I had work the next day. I watched episode 1, waited a few weeks, watched episodes 2 & 3 which left me feeling physically ill for some reason, watched 4 &5 then binged 6-13. It’s also been a while so all my initial thoughts and feelings might not be gathered here in this rambling mess.

Posted by Sarah Jayne

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