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Saturday, 19 May 2018

Discussing characters on 13 Reasons Why

Season 2 of this show has recently come out; I've binged watched the first season again before starting the second. Its great to watch this show again because I'm able to look at the characters differently and see why they behaved the way they did. I think this is a good show because it highlights the difficulties of being young and going through traumatic experiences. 13 Reasons Why has received some negative backlash and controversy that I don't think it deserves; a lot of people are uncomfortable with struggles of growing up and mental illness, and probably don't want to open up conversations about these issues. But I think its important that we do have shows like this that show the dark sides of teen life in an honest way.

I'm not going to go through every single character as there are too many; just the main ones involved with the tapes. (Only commenting on Season 1. Will contain spoilers).

Hannah. Let's start with the leading lady. I think Hannah is kind, friendly, beautiful and has a fun sense of humour. She isn't perfect - I hated the parts when she snapped at Clay and at Zach when all they did was try to be nice to her. Of course I understand why; the way she was treated at the school was horrible, but lashing out at people and then expecting them to just run after you is sadly something that seems to be portrayed a lot regarding girl-boy relations in films. Girls snap at the guy and then expect him to put his arms around her and say it's alright when he hasn't really done anything wrong.

But that aside, Hannah did not deserve anything that happened to her. She is shown to be smart, sensitive, caring (the way she looks after drunk Jessica, the fact that she sees Clay for the good person he is), but is put in some traumatic situations. Her way of making the tapes wasn't to blame everyone for her death, it was to explain how cruel or tactless actions from others can drive a person to misery and ultimately contribute to them making such a horrific decision.

Clay. Clay is my favourite character. He is brave, determined, kind, humorous and friendly. He's the kind of guy I'd go out with. We see Clay go through the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - over the course of the first season. I wished Clay was a bit bolder with Hannah like Jeff tried to coax him into being - that he had taken more initiative when he liked her rather than hanging back. I was really rooting for their relationship.

Tony. Tony is probably the best character in the show - he is wise, calm, level-headed and extremely mature. He is there for Clay, and oversees everything. He is a bit of a Yoda-type character, or an Obi Wan - someone who is there to guide Clay through his tough journey. He knows the tapes would hit Clay the hardest because he loved Hannah dearly.

Justin. Justin's hot; had to be said, but he is a coward. However, he is not a bad person. He let Bryce spread around a picture looking up Hannah's skirt, and claimed they did stuff they didn't do which lead to Hannah being slut-shamed. When I first saw this I thought Justin was the one who raped Jessica, but re-watching it that would seem out of character. Justin is shown to come from a horrifically broken background; his mother has a drug/drink problem, and he constantly has new step-dads coming and going. He has to lean on his friend Bryce (ah, that guy) to support him monetarily when he has no food or can't afford new things. Justin is a victim of his circumstances, but overall I don't like him much.

Jessica. Jessica is a victim of a horrible incident - her boyfriend lets his friend rape her whilst she is drunk and passed out. I don't particularly like or dislike her, but I do feel dreadfully sorry for her. Again, no one deserves that.

Alex. I think Alex is one of the few decent people out of that 'group.' He didn't really do a terrible thing; his list about the girls in the school was petty and immature, but it hit Hannah hard because of the rumours that were already going around about her. I think Alex was one of the few who wanted to do something about the tapes, such as the scene when Justin yells at Bryce and Alex said maybe it does need to happen.

Tyler. Tyler is not an awful person, but he is a bit of a creep and a stalker. Hanging around outside someone's window and taking pictures of them without consent is an invasion of privacy - in fact I'm pretty sure its illegal. Him spreading the picture of Hannah and Courtney around school was stupid and again, further made Hannah feel afraid and ashamed of herself. Tyler was someone who also was bullied, and I don't think Clay should have sent around the picture of Tyler naked from behind. That wasn't a fair thing to do.

Courtney. Really couldn't stand her. She's another coward, but she's also happy to believe Hannah was lying about the tapes. I think Courtney is lame and pathetic really, although again I do sympathize with her not wanting to come out as a lesbian because of her dads being gay. However, the fact that she spread another rumour about Hannah just added fuel to the fire and makes her come across as weak to me.

Marcus. Hm, he's just a dick who thought he could get with the 'school slut.' (13 Reasons Why does a great job of highlighting how damaging slut shaming can be). He went on a Valentine's Day date with Hannah, not because he liked her but because he thought she would put out for him. All because of Justin's stupid rumour which escalated thanks to the others.

Zach. Does Zach deserve to be on the list? All he did was try to be kind to Hannah and she lashed out at him. I understand why she did it but I also think he didn't deserve that. However, what Zach did afterwards was pathetic and unkind; he started taking away Hannah's compliment notes and throwing them away. All because she wouldn't go out with him because she was scared guys only liked her because they thought she was something she wasn't. She tried to reach out to him through a letter, but he didn't respond to it. She thought he threw it away but he evidently didn't; probably she saw him throw something else to the ground but mistook it for her letter, or he threw it but then picked it up later. Again, like most of these guys Zach isn't horrible, but he did something that hurt Hannah deeply when she tried to reach out to him for help.

Ryan. Ryan had no right to publish Hannah's poem without her consent. Again, not a horrible person, but a fairly selfish one. In his eyes he thought he was doing her a favour, but it wasn't his favour to do. There's a saying in AA about 'keeping to your side of the street' and I feel like that could apply to Ryan; don't meddle with other people's affairs and try and do what you think is right for them. That's egotistical, even if it comes from a place of good intention.

Sheri. I liked Sheri; she is genuinely kind, and she is beautiful, and she made an awful mistake. I'm glad she confessed at the end to knocking the stop sign down. What 13 Reasons Why also shows is how the tiniest of actions can have enormous repurcussions. We may think that something is small and insignificant, but it can actually do so much damage - or so much joy - to someone else.

Bryce. Bryce is a complex villain. Whilst he is a disgusting misogynistic rapist, he isn't a purely evil sociopath like Ramsay or Joffrey from Game of Thrones. Bryce comes from a wealthy background, and feels entitled to anything because he has money. He thinks he can get any woman he wants just because he exists. I don't think he is aware of what an arsehole he is; not that that excuses it, but it makes his character more 'dense' than your everyday bad-guy. He does help out Justin and probably does genuinely care for his friends, but his arrogance and egotism make him think he can get away with anything.

I don't think he saw raping Hannah or Jessica as a bad thing; he thought it was something he could do because he could, but wasn't deliberately aware of the evil heartless things he was doing. Until Jessica's party you wouldn't think he's a rapist. He just seems like a douchey popular guy with a big mouth who inappropriately gropes girls and thinks he can get away with it, but he doesn't strike me as actually cruel for the sake of cruelty. This is why men like that need to be educated on sexual consent and empathy. I don't believe that most guys are nasty arseholes; a minority are which gives the rest a bad name. Most human beings have a basic level of empathy for one another, and someone with empathy would not force another person into such an intimate act when they clearly don't want it.

Mr Porter. On the whole I liked him. I think he tried to do the right thing but didn't really understand how to. Hannah tried to reach out to him, but she didn't name Bryce or explicitly say what had happened, and it is true that if you are raped but don't come forward, how can you expect there to be any justice? This is why its so crucial that rape victims should come forward and name and shame those involved. Rapists shouldn't be allowed to get away with such awful crimes but they do all the time because the victim is too afraid to come forward. IT IS NEVER THE FAULT OF THE VICTIM; I am only pointing that out because victims need to know that someone out there will listen.

I know feminists claim we live in a 'rape culture' that doesn't care for victims, but on the whole rapists are ostracised by society and not tolerated. The actor who played Bryce received some awful hate messages (even though in real life he is nothing like Bryce), and that to me shows that we as a society do not condone rapists. In prison, rapists are the ones who are most shunned and treated like shit by other prisoners. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you must come forward. It is horribly unfortunate that there isn't always enough evidence - if any - to prosecute, but at least by coming forward there is a chance that justice may be served.

I think 13 Reasons Why is a brilliant show and I am so looking forward to rolling through Season 2. Do you like this show? Do you think it deserves all its controversy? Do you think it glorifies suicide? Let me know!

End note: you can't blame a show for people committing suicide. That's like blaming video games for instigating violence in people. TV shows and films cannot be blamed for people's actions; they can trigger negative feelings in vulnerable people who shouldn't be watching them anyway, but they are not the reason. When it comes to suicide, it is ultimately the person's choice. No one else can be blamed for anyone who takes their own life. 

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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