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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I can’t help myself. Can we talk about Game of Thrones? Please? Fuck it, I’m gonna. This post be spoilery and full of spoilers.

Y’all know damn well I don’t do formal reviews. I’m just gonna talk a bunch of shit and label it a review(ish). If I wanted to write an essay, I’d knock your fucking socks off. But I’d rather talk shit. So I’m gonna talk shit. Once more for those in the nosebleeds: SPOILERS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Brienne & Tormund

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He totally wants to do her. She does, too. She’s just in denial and hung up on Jamie. Come on, Brienne. Get some wildling up in ya.

Dudes. DUDES. Tormund being a total horndog toward Brienne, and Brienne being wildly uncomfortable….was, without question, my absolute favorite part of the season. Rare is the occasion when I laugh out loud if I’m watching or listening to something by myself. I don’t really know why that is. But oh man, I busted a gut in these few scenes. Look! Just look at their faces! Brienne is a badass and has been one of my top characters since I met her. Same with Tormund. They should totally do it. And he’s a wildling, for fuck’s sake. I bet once you go wildling, you never go back.

Lady Mormont

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This chick right here needs no introductions. She can introduce her damn self just fine. Seriously. She is an epic badass. When Jon and Sansa approach her to ask for the support of her house (read: her knights), she gives them hell. And rightfully so. No house worth its salt will throw its banner behind a cause without knowing fucking well it’s not only for a worthy cause but also that the knights will not be fighting a guaranteed losing effort. The Starks begin with simple pleas, but Lady Mormont isn’t having it. When all is said and done, she devotes her entire army to the cause: 62 fighting men, which makes them all the more valuable to her house and to Bear Island. And she didn’t just devote her troops, she’s active through the entire effort between the Starks and the Boltons (Ramsay).

Seriously. Team Stark. Team Mormont. Team Dothraki (I only seem to like Daenerys when she has a Dothraki horde.)

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Fo’ real yo’

The Dothraki Horde

Am I the only one who’s happy to see these motherfuckers back in action? I mean besides the yum factor (*sniff* I still miss Khal Drogo), they’re simply badass. Look, I’m in the MAJOR minority here in what I’m about to say: I think Emily Clarke is seriously lacking as an actress. Like hardcore. I get tired of watching her. Now, I love her story-line and her role. I love Daenerys. I just don’t think Emily Clarke is right for the part (it could very well be a problem with her direction, though). So I focus on other things, like The Dothraki, or her cool counselors. Oh. And of course the dragons. Duh.

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Yep. Much prefer Daenerys this way, even more so if she was in Dothraki threads, which she kind of is here.

But I really fucking hate this guy:

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He is such a cocksmudge. Seriously, Daario Naharis he is not. And he’s certainly not compelling as either a love interest or a trusted advisor. Perhaps most aggravating of all is how he switches from an American to a pseudo-British accent….sometimes in the same fucking sentence! I hope we never see him again now that she’s leaving him in the pyramid. Better yet, go back to Treme, bitch. You were a shit actor then, too.

I mean, really. Whatever happened to the real Daario Naharis? He was smug and cocky and arrogant and mysterious.

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Will the real Daario Naharis please stand up? Please stand up? Am I the only one who misses this guy? Seriously. Why did they axe this Sebastian Bach lookin’ motherfucker. I’ll hire him.

Hmmmm. What else?

Oh! Oh! This Crazy Bitch!

Cersei has gone full on Mad Queen on us. How many times did she threaten to burn cities? To burn it all to ash for the sake of her children? Over and over and over and fucking over again. And then she did it. She burned the fucking sept, with everyone in it: Margaery, Loris, The High Sparrow, Lancel, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, etc. Anyone in the sept boiled alive by wildfire. (If anyone survived it, I’ll be pissed because it’s simply not possible the way they filmed it. They were all trapped.)

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The best part? It instantly bites that crazy bitch in the ass.

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She underestimated Tommen’s love for Margaery and his desire to be a good king. Whoopsie. Mommy’s prophesy came true.

But hey, at least she got the throne, right? For now…

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I’ll give her this. This episode was the first time I’ve ever seen her looking like a badass. Too bad even her brotherlover hates her now. She’s so fucked. I can’t wait to see one of her brothers off her ass. At least that’s what I think is gonna happen.

Who else do I wanna talk about? I mean, Jon Snow doesn’t surprise me, except it was really nice seeing his ass. He’s always a brooding, emotional, thoughtful badass. I love Jon Snow. And I fucking KNEW he was a Targaryen. Absolutely one of the best good characters. I love what has happened with Sansa. It took her long enough, but she’s certainly earned a place in my good character book. She reminds me a lot of Catelyn, her mother’s character. And that’s a good thing. Hmm. (I am curious how it will play out once it comes to light that Jon is not Ned’s bastard and doesn’t belong in House Stark afterall. But Sansa, Arya and Bran still in the picture.)

Oh! Oh! I was superpumped to watch Sansa watch Ramsay get eaten by his own dogs. I’m glad Jon spared him on the battlefield so we all got to have that moment.

I never in a million years imagined Theon Greyjoy returning to my good graces, but it’s a testament to good writing and good acting that he’s there now. I’m proud of what he’s become now and look forward to seeing more of him next season (which very well may be our last season).

Things are shaping up nicely, and while I’m sad to see the end so near, I’ll kinda be glad when it’s over, too. I don’t watch much TV…so I tend to put off GOT until a season has piled up. Then I lose a day marathoning the fuck out of it until I’m caught up. So…this is six seasons so far? I’ve devoted six full days of my life to this show! Doesn’t sound like much, but it is. Hell, it’s a phenomenal story, though.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! I can’t finish this post without Arya.

I’ve been worried that Arya is losing her humanity and, just as importantly, her identity. I don’t want a girl to be no one. I want a girl to be Arya Stark. And I want Arya Stark to get back to the rest of the Starks, bringing with her all of her newfound badassery! Suffice it to say, I’m superpumped that a girl is Arya Stark and not no one. That scene with her and the little bitch was badass. By the way, Arya is totally Batman.

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Also. I read what I thought was a massive spoiler before I ever watched the season. Someone wrote, after some episode, that Arya died. I didn’t mean to run into that. You know how the internet is. And I was fucking livid. It’s part of what took me so long to finally watch the season and get caught up. I was dreading it. So yeah. I’m thrilled.

Oh! Oh! And Oh My Fuck, this scene!

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Sweet. Fucking. Revenge! Arya’s back, bitches!

OHMYGOD AND THE HOUND

I fucking knew he was still alive. On Game of Thrones, if you don’t actually watch someone die, there’s a damn good chance he or she is still alive. I acted a damn fool when this motherfucker showed back up on the screen. Fistpumping the air, screaming, “YEAH! YEAH MOTHERFUCKER! YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I shit you not. Welcome back, my friend.

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Shityeah, mothafucka! THAT’S MY HOMEBOY RIGHT THERE! I hope he and his brother, the FrankenMountain, meet up so he can slam an axe down into that beast’s unholy skull.

So. Those are my highlights. What were yours?