Hello Fellow Bloggers!
I know it’s been a while, but last week I experienced a bereavement in my family. It is for this reason that I’ve been slightly absent, but today I’ve managed to find the inspiration to post-I am aware that this post isn’t perfect, and any feedback is-as always-very much appreciated!
Love and Peace
Bea 🙂 x
Having been subject to multiple Facebook posts, raving about the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, I finally bowed down and succame to peer pressure. Cautiously, I pressed the “play” button-and, after an emotionally turbulent thirteen hours worth of TV viewing, I was left with mixed feelings.
Firstly, it must be said, throughout the action-packed mystery that follows after the protagonist, Hannah Baker, slashes her wrists in the bathtub, I was unable to avert my eyes from the screen. Although horrified and disgusted by the poor and inaccurate portrail of what “real” suicide looks like, the series created a morbid interest, embedding itself deep into the minds of its predominantly teenage audience. Covering issues of peer pressure, self harm, and-above all else-the persistent cruelty and dangers of bullying, 13 Reasons Why acts as a warning to young people across the globe: a lesson that consistent taunting, cat-calling and sexual harassment can lead someone to carry out the unthinkable.
Of course, raising awareness concerning such a sincere and harrowingly common subject matter is highly commendable; let down by a lack of moral to the tale.
Recorded by Hannah herself prior to her death, each of the featured classmates are left a “tape”, listing each and every one of their downfalls. From the incredibly serious accusations of rape, to the every day mistakes we make as human beings, Hannah ensures a guilt trip for all that she deems to be “her killers”.
It goes without saying-as far as I’m concerned, Bryce, the repeat rapist, deserved all hell brought down on him. Potentially upsetting for those who have had first hand experience of sexual abuse, the hottub scene at the party where Hannah herself is so horrifically violated is graphic and deeply upsetting: and yet almost unbelivably sensitively done. One of the few triumphs the show achieves happens to be the active challenging of society’s sometimes victim-blaming stigmas and misconceptions. It was genuinely heartwarming to witness so many of the young male characters begin to empathise and openly defend the victims of rape throughout the series.
Unfortunately, that is more or less where the positive attributes of the show end. Throughout the duration of the story, it would be true to say that very few characters who have done wrong by Hannah seem to express much remorse. There are a few sweet and admirable gems who seem to understand and attempt, although perhaps too late, to fix the damage that they caused: but the minority aside, most of the offenders seem more fixated and intent on covering their tracks as a police investigation begins to unfold.
Recorded to Ultravox’s highly strung and enchanting song Vienna, the suicide scene of itself is both a mixture of over-romantisisation and absolute shock horror. Gritty beyond acceptability, the graphic sight of Hannah Baker taking a razor to her wrists and screaming in pain as the blood rapidly flows out is stomach-churning. As someone who has personal experience of mental illness, and who has, in the distant past, considered suicide, the sight that unfolded before me felt like a violation of my emotional safety-and it is a guarantee that I am only one out of hundreds of thousands of viewers who inevitably felt the same.
Within main-stream productions, there are often attempts to “go the extra mile”; to challenge taboos and boundaries. Sometimes this proves successful: with some pieces proving revolutionary and are withheld as pure art-take Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, provoking the audience to think and appreciate same sex relationships, questioning the current societal certainties that human sexuality is non-fluid and consisting purely of heterosexual norms and homosexual tendencies. Often, critisising acceptability is healthy.
This was not an example of such an occasion.
As to why anything needs to be so incredibly full-on remains a mystery to me. Bearing in mind that this is a show directed towards young adults, many of whom will have experienced vulnerabilities themselves, the in-depth scene acted not as an awareness stunt-but more of a “how to” suicide guide.
Worst of all, 13 Reasons Why features very little alternatives or sense of improvement for those who may be considering suicide themselves. There is no peace-offering of closure towards misery of any kind; no parting message of there existing a future beyond pain. After launching such a profound emotional wrecking-ball, a glimmer of hope wouldn’t go a-miss.
There are serious down-falls, which can only be described as a sad and disheartening tribute to those who genuinely suffer the throws and pains of mental illness. To the millions who have had experience of suicidal thoughts and tendencies, or have felt the heartbreak of a loved one’s emotional traumas, 13 Reasons Why is never within danger of avoiding offense. As a matter of fact, at times, it is nothing short of appearing downright disrespectful. Of course, mental illness raises it’s head in all shapes and sizes-and should never be underestimated or dismissed. It has no “type” of victim, no image in the way it presents itself, and is profoundly complex. However, the injustice that the series produces is the element of revenge that Hannah inflicts on her classmates-even the ones who have made only relatively “minor” and everyday mistakes: for example, her teenage crush appearing too afraid to pursue her. It is apparent that her ghost-like narration is fundemental to the plot line-but even so, would someone on the verge of absolute and complete dispair realistically be in the frame of mind to slate anyone and everyone who has ever wronged them, taking a sadistic and twisted pleasure out of revenge and redemption? Generally speaking, that is not the intention of suicide. It presents and endorses the concept that suicide is manipulative; as opposed to being the result of insurmountable suffering and anguish.
If, after all that, someone were to approach me and ask my take on the programme, my advice would have to be one of warning:
Superficially, this is an intense, suspenseful and thrilling drama. On an intellectual and deeply considered note? That Thirteen Reasons Why is offensive, dangerous, and, above all else, of incredibly bad taste.