Review(ish): 6 Reasons I’m on the Fence about 13 Reasons Why

Last night, I finished a show called “13 Reasons Why.” Now that it’s all said and done, I’m frankly not sure I should have watched it. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. Did I like it? Not really. Did I hate it? Nah. Too harsh. Did I need to watch it? Not sure. Is it topically important? Yes. Absofuckinglutely. Was said topic handled properly? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. On the fence here.

Before I begin: If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. Right now. Right. Fucking. Now. You aren’t alone, and there are people who are fucking eager to help you. Don’t wanna talk to anybody? How about texting? Some awesome people who realize phone calls can be scary have set up a texting crisis line. Go. You’ve got nothing to lose if you’re at that point.

The Premise:

High school girl commits suicide. She leaves thirteen cassette tapes (well, thirteen sides) explaining why she chose to end her life, hence the title. The show follows one particular student as he listens to the tapes, which leads to at least half of the show being presented as flashbacks to when the girl – Hannah Baker – was still alive.

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13 Reasons Why I’m on the Fence (spoilers ahead):

  1. The blame game. No sense in saving this one for last; it needs to be addressed right away. Hannah (and therefore the show) strongly asserts that there are thirteen people responsible for Hannah taking her own life. Not Hannah, the girl who sat down in the bathtub and opened her wrists. Not Hannah, the girl who baited her guidance counselor into failing her. Not Hannah, the girl whose mom asked more than once if anything was wrong. The reason I’m on the fence? Well, that’s easy: it’s realistic. It’s extremely realistic for troubled people, regardless of age and stage in the whole hormones and puberty thing, to seek out people to blame. I think it’s more realistic for us to blame ourselves, but we do point fingers. If only that motherfucker hadn’t… If only she’d listen… If only he’d stay… If only they would pay attention… If only… They all hate me… They’re better off without me… Why do they all treat me like shit?… It’s so. Fucking. Realistic. The problem lies in the fact that teenagers and other people who are in highly susceptible states of mind are watching this show (based off of a book that I didn’t know existed until the end of the show), and they’re thinking…yeah! Fuck those guys! I’ll show them! So where do we draw the line between depicting realistic scenarios and being socially responsible? Do we only show one type of suicidal narrative? Do we avoid it altogether? Do we allow the conversation to occur in all forms? Was the show irresponsible? Or was it honest? Or…was it both? I’d say both. It was honest to the narrative of some and irresponsible to all. Does that mean it should be censored? See what I mean? Fence-rider.
  2. Dangerous implications that are never addressed. There are things shown or implied in the show that never get proper treatment. For example, toward the end, the boy who plays a photographer / stalker is shown stockpiling weapons in a secret compartment at the bottom of a clothing trunk. This is never addressed, but the implications are clear. There isn’t one gun. There are several. And the picture the mind paints in this post-Columbine society is one of an impending black trench coat and a troubled, bullier / bullied boy, going out in a “blaze of glory” in the middle of school, taking out as many students and teachers as he can before he aims the muzzle at his own head. Again, these are conversations that need to be had. The problem is that we are shown one or two images that imply these things, but there is never any discussion about it. It’s merely displayed there and left to you to understand that this is yet another terrible type of fallout from bullying and exploitation.
  3. Soft-core pornification of rape. Two girls in the show are raped: Hannah and her one-time best friend, Jess. As with the previous two points I broached, I’ll also say that this is yet another topic that needs to be addressed. It’s all too often swept under the rug, hidden away as something shameful and secret. So I’m okay with the fact that the show discussed rape, the rape mentality and the conflicted emotions felt by victims and witnesses. What I’m not okay with is the way one scene in particular was drawn out. When it gets to Hannah’s rape, it seemed like the scene would never end. Were producers trying to convey the endlessness of victims’ experiences? Were they trying to make viewers feel as much discomfort as possible without showing rape-porn? Perhaps. And I understand that – we need to be uncomfortable. We need to be confronted with shit we try to hide from; otherwise, it will never be addressed. But the soft lighting? The endless slapping sounds as he took her from behind? The close-up camera zoom on Hannah’s breasts as the perpetrator fondled her and slipped her bra down? Or the zoom on her ass as he pulled her panties down? Was that really fucking necessary? “Hey guys, I need you to get a better shot of her ass! Wait, hang on, there’s not enough tit in this scene! If we’re gonna show a real rape, we need to show WHY THE FUCKING RAPIST WANTED HER?!?!?!” What. The. Fuck. And how long are we supposed to sit there while we watch her body rocking back and forth, back and forth, as she’s being raped? I sincerely think this was mishandled. And that isn’t me saying we shouldn’t talk about rape. We should.
  4. Okay so I’m not done with the blame bit. How many times are we told that Clay, the main character who listens to Hannah’s tapes, is responsible for Hannah’s death? Sometimes he’s told, “We’re all responsible.” Okay, fair enough. Fine. But right before Clay begins his own tape, he asks Tony something like, “Did I kill Hannah Baker?” And Tony tells him that yes, he did kill Hannah Baker. A few fucking minutes into the tape, Hannah says YOU SHOULDN’T BE ON THESE TAPES, CLAY, BECAUSE WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN US WAS MY FAULT. And yet, the narrative through the rest of the damn show is that yes, Clay did kill Hannah Baker. Is being shy, nervous around girls and somewhat introverted a crime? He didn’t kill Hannah Baker; he only hurt her by his inaction sometimes. Yes, he could have stood up for her a couple times. But fucking hell, is there zero room for “mistake” in life? Not according to this show. You so much as breathe around someone who dies the next day, and it’s your fault. Yeah, we need to have discussions about our roles in each others’ lives. About how we treat each other. About compassion and empathy. But you fucking killed Hannah Baker because you left the room AFTER SHE TOLD YOU TO LIKE A HALF-DOZEN TIMES? Piss right off.
  5. The treatment of authority figures. Throughout the show, the students / kids are taught a myriad of lessons. Whether they stick or not isn’t my issue – it’s realistic that most people aren’t gonna fucking change. And it adds to the true story of how horribly we treat each other, and how we all need to do a gut-check. The kids are shown discussing these matters, though. They at least get chances at redemption, telling the viewers that they deserve another chance. The authority figures? Hmm. Let’s see. Over the course of the show, we watch as Hannah’s perception of her parents grows more and more negative, though I will say they are treated the kindest. Them and Clay’s dad (though he is a bit oblivious, but not criminally so). (Oh, and by the way, of fucking course the victim’s parents – victims themselves – are painted with a soft brush. God forbid they have flaws aside from extremely common arguments over finances. No, let’s save the flaws for everyone else in the show – every last one of them are murderers! Until they kill themselves, then Hannah’s parents morph into villains, too.) Alex’s dad, the police officer, has no redeeming qualities. He’s proud that his sons fight people. He let’s them break the law, regularly. He’s constantly looking for a way to escape responsibility, for himself and his boys. Is this realistic? Yeah, for a lot of people it is. But he’s not even a three-dimensional character. There’s no depth to him and no opportunity for reflection or growth. He’s a stock stereotype. (Oh, and by the way? Alex shoots himself in the head at the end of the show. With one of his dad’s guns. AND WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT AT ALL.) Justin’s mom and her boyfriend, another set of stock stereotypes: abusive, neglectful drug addicts. Yes, these people exist. But in the show – all the kids get a chance to own up to shit they did and change their ways. Repeatedly, in fact. “Oh you won’t be reasonable in this episode? Well, you’ll get a chance IN EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE REMAINING TWELVE EPISODES! Your parents? Man, fuck them. Adults suck.” The guidance counselor? He never fully accepts his responsibility and his role in his students’ lives. Realistic for a lot of people, fine. But again, young and susceptible viewers are validated, “SEE! THIS is EXACTLY why I won’t go see Mr. Smith. Guidance Counselors are a fucking joke. AND SO ARE ALMOST ALL ADULTS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.” There are a lot of shitty adults. Because, all too often, shitty kids turn into shitty adults. But a show that claims to want to help the suicide epidemic is making it worse by telling kids that adults are useless.
  6. How peaceful they made the act of suicide look. When it came time for Hannah’s suicide scene in the denouement? It shows the whole scene set-up, from start…to finish. And it fucking wrecked me. That part, I’m not gonna take umbrage with. It should have wrecked me. People need to be wrecked to take this shit seriously. It’s fucking serious, and people are in danger. The problem I have is that, once Hannah slits her wrists (which it shows – explicitly), there’s no real demonstration of pain. Maybe there is no pain – maybe she’s too numb and in a state of shock to feel it or express it. But you know what’s fucked up? How g-damn peaceful they made it look. I even thought, “Damn. Maybe…I mean, look how easy that was… WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, STEPHANIE.” I knew right then they’d fucked that part up. She shivered. Hannah shivered. She fucking shivered, then closed her eyes, slid down a little, and peacefully went to sleep while the bathwater turned a warm shade of pink. Yes, suicide is a private thing. Probably often done in silence. And there’s a complete sense of being abjectly alone. But I think creators of a show like this had a responsibility to make it not look like you’re TAKING A FUCKING NAP IN THE BATHTUB. Look. Just LOOK at how EASY it is: a momentary wince and then a nice little nap. <—THAT is irresponsible.

You know what? I’ve just talked myself out of almost any redeeming quality about this show. It’s irresponsible and dangerous. Hell, I knew what it was about going in – and my reaction when it was over? “I should not have watched that show.” I even said that same thing to two people: “I should not have watched that show. I really shouldn’t have watched it.” I was a fucking wreck. And I’m a grown-ass woman with at least like, one or two coping mechanisms. And it fucked me up at the end. I can’t imagine what it’s doing to kids. No, I won’t go so far as to say: ban it. Not gonna do it. But is the show irresponsible? Fucking right it is.

P.S. I’m fine now, by the way. At least from the effects of the show. I’m more concerned with the impact it’s having on kids – or adults who aren’t currently strong enough to fight.

 

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Salvaging Saturday: Anime & You

ShaoMayMiniPandaI don’t have heaps to say right now. My head still isn’t right. But it’s super important to me to say: THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who messaged me. Everyone who read and related or just heard. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and didn’t message. Seriously, thanks. Y’all got me out of bed – or at least awake and functioning – today. Those little “plings” of support, alerting me to each new like or message. At first I resisted even reading them. And then I realize that means that I was resisting feeling better. So I called myself out and read your warm messages. And let you pull me out of my funk, far enough out that I’ve fed myself and played with the cats and am watching anime and letting myself smile and relax a bit. Thank you.

And thanks anime. I mean, seriously. Check out that spirited little mini-panda. Who could resist smiling at that?

I’m going to shower and scrounge up food. Maybe I’ll even get out and go to the grocery store. What?! Thanks, y’all.

MR. ROBOT: Season 1

Before I get started with my little review of MR. ROBOT (which will be CHOCK full of spoilers)…can we just take a moment to drool over Rami Malek’s face? I mean, just look at that structure. Those eyes. That mouth. That stubble.

I don’t mean just any ole iteration of Rami Malek. I specifically mean the Rami Malek of MR. ROBOT. Okay. I really really mean Elliot Alderson. Because who really gives a shit about Rami Malek. Let’s be real, here. I’m here for the Elliot.

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That Elliot. Oh he’s different alright. Different. Wide-eyed, rarely blinking, hoodie-wearing, superbrilliant, superparanoid hackerboy. I’m gonna need another moment.

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Oh, hello. I wasn’t staring and totally losing the plot again. Pinky swear. (That’s not the same as a promise, right? Cuz I don’t break promises. But I do break pinkies.) (Hang on, I don’t break actual fingerpinkies.) (Yet.)

Yeah. Kidding. Mostly. In all seriousness, what the fuck am I supposed to be writing about? Oh yeah. MR. ROBOT.

MR. ROBOT was the shit! And one more time for those of you who were distracted by the Elliot, I’m gonna write spoilers. I’m gonna throw that shit around like they’re going out of style. I’m telling you, warning you, because I fucking hate spoilers. But what I hate more than spoilers is posts full of spoilers that are like, “Hey cutie. Yeah you. Come look at this flower.” *BLAMMO* “This isn’t a flower at all! This is a certain evil character in Game of Thrones having his guts exploded! Got ya, bitch!” Yeah. That shit pisses me off. So consider yourself warned.

Second point I want to make is this – I have zero confidence in my reviews. This isn’t going to be some award-winning Amazon Prime 5,000 upvoted review kinda posts. Not only that, but this isn’t even gonna be a coherent, episode by episode break down. Wanna know why?

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I BINGEWATCHED THE FUCK OUTTA THIS FUCKER. THAT’S WHY. BOOYAH. Seriously, it was that damned good. If you’re into hackery stuff, conspiracies (government, corporate, dark web hackers), down with the man, fuck society, geekboys with social anxiety and drug problems in hoodies because fuck yeah hoodies, fuck the popo ho and the one percent? Yeah, this show is your jam, man. IT’S YOUR JAM.

Oh and if your thing isn’t those things, but is instead suit-wearing assdouches, then this is your jam, too. No it’s not. Get the fuck outta here.

I watch the best shows. Seriously. Cuz I have the best informant on the best shows. So I don’t even have to do any work. Just say, “Oh yeah? Good one?” And he’s like, “Oh yeah, man. This is your jam.” And bam. BEST FUCKING SHOW.

So. Elliot is fucked in the head. Seriously fucked. He’s suffering from very real mental illness(es), which is significantly exacerbated by his drug abuse. You know right away that he’s aware that he’s ill. He’s talking to his imaginary friend (or is he talking to you). And he can’t stop. Probably shouldn’t stop. It keeps him sane. Crazysane. Sanecrazy. Crane. No. That’s a fucking bird. Something. He needs that outlet to work his thoughts out. To try to make sense of the storms in his head and in his life.

I love that a major cable network created a show with a mentally unstable main character. Not only is Elliot suffering from mental illness and something else. Gah, I REALLY don’t wanna spoil this part. So I won’t. Yet. Maybe. We’ll see. I’ve decided: I’m totally gonna spoil it. Elliot has..what? Split personality? Dissociative Disorder is a definite, but I’m not sure the actual term for the next part. Is it split personality? Dissociative Identity Disorder? Because there’s a whole character in the show that isn’t actually a separate character. This character is only visible to Elliot. Only Elliot doesn’t know that. Not at all. Not only that, but Elliot actually is both characters. What I mean to say is that Elliot actually acts as both characters. He just doesn’t know it and neither do we, until the end of the season. I saw it coming a mile off, but actually WHO that second personality is to Elliot and why he created him? Now that, I did not see coming. Pretty sure I’ve made it clear at this point that Elliot has more than one issue going on in his head.

His social anxiety is significant, as is his depression and anxiety in general. He sucks at relationships. He really only has one long-lasting relationship in his life, and he fucks it up on the regular by not being…”normal.” Oh and I’m by no means bashing “abnormal.” I say fuck normal. Normal is boring. Normal is vanilla. Vanilla is boring. You get the idea. Elliot is nowhere close to being boring vanilla. He’s complex and withdrawn and completely inward and introverted and devious and conniving and at-times diabolical and sad and lonely and hates being touched. Major. Major props to USA Network for doing a show with an Elliot as the main character.

I don’t know what it says about me that I totally wanna do Elliot. And I don’t really give a fuck. Oh. Shit. How’d we get back here? Y’all set me up.

MR. ROBOT is intense. Emotional. Dramatic. Edgy. Fast-paced. Climactic. It’s a fucking rollercoaster, and you will not be able to stop watching. It’s got the aforementioned and aforedrooledupon Elliot. It’s got criminals and drug dealers, soft sweet weary ones and murderous crazyeyemotherfucker ones. It’s got besties and coworkers. It’s got douchebag executives. It’s got The Man. And The Man is keeping everyone down. It has dead parents and arcade games. It has crazy girls in combat boots and a hijabi hacker. It’s got an arcade and sweaty withdrawal. It’s got V for Vendetta callouts and sedated masses. It’s got everything for someone like me. Probably for someone like some of you, too.

Hm, what else? Maybe I should mention other characters, yes? Elliot is your guide through most of the show. But he is the quintessential unreliable narrator. I love the Unreliable Narrator, and Elliot is an epic one. But that also means we need other characters to help us create a better frame of reference for reality. While we see them almost exclusively through Elliot’s eyes, and I dig that you have to willfully think outside of his box. Hints are dropped along the way of truths that many will miss. Hints that are at times subtle and other times in your face. Let’s take Darlene for instance.

Darlene. Darlene is crazy. Darlene is wild and eccentric, wears combat boots and hoodies with short skirts and big socks. Her eyes are rimmed in thick black makeup, and her unkempt hair is nearly its own character. Nothing wrong with any of that. Darlene – on the surface – is the kind of person I would get along with. On first glance, I would think our characters would mesh. But no. No. Let’s be plain, here. I hated Darlene. From the moment I met her, I hated this crazy bitch. She was loud and mouthy and obnoxious and bossy and flighty and bitchy and selfish. She was annoying and pushy. And she reminded me, somewhat, of a person (that used to be) in my life. That was not helping her case with me. I loved her style. Her eccentricity. But the rest of it was ew. Despite all of the things going against her, there was something nagging about Darlene. Something nagging at the back of my mind. All through the season, I wondered, “Just who is Darlene? I mean, who is she really?”

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You can just feel that there’s more to Darlene than is presented. And if you pick up on any of the subtle little hints, you’ll know – long before they tell you – that Darlene is (somehow) more than just some random hackergirl. Will it make you like her in the end? Will it endear her to you? Perhaps. Before the reveal of just who she really is, her character began to soften somewhat. You could see chinks in her carefully crafted armor. And through those chinks, vulnerability was revealed. And it made her more whole, more beautiful. So, for me, by the time of the (surprising) reveal, I began to soften toward her. And it made the reveal all the more poignant.

Angela. Elliot tells you about Angela right from the start. She’s important to him, and she’s really his only friend and ongoing relationship. I don’t mean love-affair relationship, FYI. Angela is solid and good in Elliot’s eyes. And that’s true in mine, too…for most of the season. She’s definitely plain vanilla. She’s the good girl who doesn’t want to make waves. With anyone. Not even with her cheatingass boyfriend. Not with her employer who allows clients to demean her. Not with Elliot who is never there for her. She shows up to work on time, good little worker bee that she is. She jogs on the regular, iPod earbuds firmly in place. Starbucks Vanilla Latte kinda girl. But, due to myriad circumstances and events, she begins to change. Slowly at first and then more quickly. She’s practically unrecognizable (to me) by the end of the season, compared with the cloying, skittish, unsure Angela we meet in the beginning. Let’s not even get into the fact that the actress develops duck-face by the end of the season. I mean what the fuck. She’s in her twenties, for crying out loud. Did she (they) really have to botox her lips to hell and back? Gross. Anyway. I’m worried about Angela, about who she may be turning into. About what has happened to her now that she’s finally accepted that she can’t rely on Elliot to be her protector. Blank slate Angela has finally been written upon. But we don’t know yet, if she’s writing her own story now instead of waiting for someone else to keep writing it for her…or if she’s found a new author for her story. If the latter is the case, Angela as we knew her is in trouble.

Tyrell. Ooooo Tyrell is one big crazy douchebag mess of a tyrant. He’s pouty and whiny and needy and demanding and scary and posturing and fucking nuts. I said I’m fine with Elliot’s brand of crazy. Tyrell’s brand of crazy is another matter altogether. I said Elliot has moments of behaving diabolically. Tyrell is diabolical. Diabolical and egomaniacal and and ohmyfuck how does one describe him? He is an excellent villain to watch. He will stop at nothing to succeed. And if he can’t achieve his aims, he will stop at nothing to stomp the everlovingshit out of those that thwart him. He will use any means necessary. He and his equally diabolical wife have Tyrell screwing other people to get ahead. And while that may sound bad enough, it gets worse. It gets much worse. Tyrell is the kind of guy that pays homeless people to let him vent his rage upon them. Tyrell is the kind of guy that buttfucks a male assistant to get access to his phone. Tyrell is the kind of guy that murders someone who damages his pride. Tyrell. Tyrell is awesomely wicked.

Shayla. I don’t really want to talk about Shayla. I loved Shayla’s character so so much. Shayla’s character and storylines broke my heart, from the start. She was beautiful and broken. She was lost and hopeful. She was so many dichotomous things wrapped into one vulnerable but strong girl. I don’t want to talk about Shayla anymore.

There are other characters that deserve mention. Hell that deserve more than mention. Like Krista. Krista is Elliot’s therapist. Elliot is obligated to see her because of something unknown in his past. Elliot hacks the shit out of Krista and totally invades her privacy, her life. Elliot hacks everyone. Krista is sweet and kind and broken and really does care about Elliot. And and oh god, Bill. I will never forgive Elliot for what he did to Bill. Team Bill. But I’ve given so many shittons of spoilers that I kinda want to stop myself and let this post fly.

Geez, I haven’t even talked about the acting in this show. Stellar! Or the Christian Slater. Still the same guy with the never-aging face and that cool, distinct way of speaking. It’s Christian Slater! My old pre-teen crush! “Pump Up The Volume,” anyone? I mean, hello! Or the soundtrack. Ambient and found-sounds kinda things. Subways and computer sounds and soft music and manic music and you usually forget there is a soundtrack. It’s just back there, doing it’s job, modifying pace and tempo and heart rhythms. I’m still rambling. I can’t seem to stop.

I probably cried more while watching this show than is normal. Some of it hit a bit close to home for me. Some of it I related to to a freakish amount. Some of it broke my heart. Some of it scared me. Some of it weirded me right the fuck out. Some of it was exhilarating and funny, and sometimes I cry at those things, too. Yeah. I don’t think you’ll cry as much as I did during this show. Pretty sure those weren’t normal reactions I was having. But it also made me laugh out loud and snort and guffaw and clap my hands together with delight and grin like a fool. More than any of that, though, it made me nod my head and think FUCK YEAH DAMN THE MAN!

I anxiously await season two. Until then, I’ll be pondering the fsociety’s next move(s). In the meantime, you should catch up. Watch season one and tell me: Are you in on the conspiracy? Are you even aware there is one? Is there really one? Is any of it even real?

I wonder if he’s found my bug. Is this my bug? Are you my bug?