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Friday, 2 June 2017

Reviewing '13 Reasons Why'

It’s the Netflix show that has caught the attention of everyone and sparked controversy and outrage. Some believe that it glorifies suicide; others believe that it shines the light on important issues. The show is about a 16 year old American girl named Hannah who commits suicide, and leaves behind 13 tapes outlining why she did it. Each tape is related to a person in her life who she believes contributed to her suicide. (Note: contains some spoilers).

I can see the problems with this. Clearly another person cannot be held responsible for what someone else does. If two people are treated badly by the same person, one may commit suicide and another may see a therapist. That will be down to the person and how they emotionally react to situations. We all react differently due to how we’re made up, not due to the external situation. I don’t think the point of the show is saying that everyone literally killed Hannah. What it is showing is the hardships of being a teenager and the dark stuff that goes on in High School. Bullying, rape, friendship groups dissolving; all of these things happen among teenagers.

I found the show relatable and entertaining, but at times highly upsetting. I watched it over the course of three days. I suffer from depression and self harm so watching it probably wasn’t a good idea, but it’s too late now. To link back to the earlier point; if I went and decided to kill myself it wouldn’t be because of the show, it would be because of how I am. You can’t blame your actions on something external, because how we react to things are based on how we are made up as people. I react strongly to stimuli; I jump at police sirens and loud sudden noises. Some people don’t. Same event, but different people react differently.

Saying ‘this show is going to encourage suicide’ is as silly as saying video games encourage violence. This show is shedding light on how SHIT being a teenager can be. Parents arguing, feeling alone and isolated, being picked on by the popular kids – oh boy, being young is fun. I definitely related to the part in the show when Hannah is talking about how she was friends with two of the characters and they would hang out and meet for coffee and then they slowly drifted apart. In life, friends fade away. The whole ‘we’ll be together forever’ thing is a nice fantasy, but its nonsense. People move away, they leave, they find other friends or other hobbies; they fall out, whatever. Nothing ‘lasts forever’, and even if you are forever with a person like a family member or spouse eventually they’ll die.

Life is full of darkness, and I hope more shows like this are made. It’s not supposed to be a ‘happy, strong, you can overcome anything!’ show. If it was about a girl who was being bullied and was raped and had rumours spread about her and overcame it all and went off to uni then it would miss the point. It’s supposed to be about how hard things are. It’s supposed to be about how things can get so awful and difficult that sometimes it’s easier just to give up. Hannah is not some sort of ‘hero’, and she didn’t commit suicide for ‘revenge’ or to ‘get her own back.’ She was just trying to honestly state why things ended up the way they were. It was her way of leaving an explanation; her own form of a suicide note.

I loved Clay, the protagonist of the show who is the last of Hannah’s ‘friends’ to listen to the tapes. Clay is the best character in my opinion; he’s kind, honest, just and really did love and care for Hannah. It’s a shame that Hannah was so broken that she believed she wasn’t good enough for Clay, but that’s because her self-esteem was so low and again it’s showing how people feel in real life. A person can love you and be kind to you but if you’re so unhappy with yourself it’s easy to miss that and feel that you don’t deserve them. Hannah wasn’t perfect; I sympathised with her and liked her as a person but I didn’t adore her. But she’s not supposed to be perfect, she’s supposed to be an ‘every girl’, a character that was just trying to live her life and get through things and treated other people well but ended up being chewed up and spat out by others.

I would recommend watching the show; it is very entertaining, although some scenes are highly unsettling. I thought the script seemed a bit staged in places; at times I was thinking ‘that’s not how people really talk...’ but this show was more about the story and the message than anything else. In that sense I think it sold it well.

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