I want everyone to note that there are a massive amount of spoilers in this article. I didn't want to do it, but I felt that to get my point across I needed to talk about events that happen in latter episodes. You have been warned.
I know that I am late to the party on this one. I watched it last month, but couldn't find the words to describe the show outside of "Holy Shit!" and "I don't think that I could ever watch that again." So, after watching a YouTube video, in which the author gets the core of the show wrong, I am now putting pen to paper (or is fingers to keys?) to bring out my thoughts on the show.
First thing is that there are many people who will not watch the show because they thing that, since it came from a Young Adult novel, then it must be catering to teens. I have to admit that I was in the same boat. I have sat through my fair share on films and TV shows based on YA novels and most of the are pretty bad. They don't get what it is like to be a person, let along a teenager. I am not saying that I know what it is like being a teenager because my experiences as one were so long ago, but research is key when writing about something that you don't know or think you know.
So yeah, my first thoughts were that the show had a unique premise, but that could get put to the wayside by having actors play unconvincing teenagers who speak in a stilted slang because the screenwriters don't know how to write for teenagers. 13 Reasons Why is above that though. Sure it came from a YA novel, but the heart of the story is something that we can all relate to: loneliness and helplessness. We all know that being in a crowded room can be the loneliest thing in the world and we feel helpless because we can't do anything about it. Hannah, the victim in the show, kills herself for many reasons (13 in fact) and we can all relate to most of these reasons in some way. The show is very well written (except for some characters who just show up for things and stand there as if they are two seconds away from being a perv. The show transcends the YA moniker by having three dimensional characters that we can relate to and whom we recognize.
Once into the show, you will notice that the structure is fairly loose. The first few episodes are full of Hannah explaining things down to the last detail, but by the middle of the series, she will set things up and give commentary here and there, but things are mostly left in Clay's hands. I like Clay and though that he was cast very well. They could have cast an actor who was not as good, but gets the staring part right.
The show is obviously very dark, but I don't think that people realize just how dark this show gets. There are two rape scenes in this show and entire episodes are dedicated to this act. The first rape scene is shown from an outsider point of view so there is a bit of distance between the viewer and the victim. The second rape, in the second to last episode is graphic and disturbing. We know that it is coming because the episodes of the show that deal with this dark material come with a warning in front of them. The first time I saw this warning, I thought "How bad could it be?" It was bad. I shook me. I talked to a coworker the next day and said "Why didn't you warn me that the show was going all graphic. That rape shook me." To which she replied "Which one? The first or second one?" My eyes opened in shock. "There's a second one?" The coworker put her hand over her mouth and walked away.
The second rape is so graphic and disturbing that it shook me to my core. This is the breaking moment for Hannah. She has seen and been the victim to a lot of things. She was the one that witnessed the first rape and talked about it on her tapes. There was still a bit of Hannah left in her, but she ends up at a party and in the hot tub with a bunch of people from school. Eventually, everyone leaves except for Bryce, who decides that Hannah is asking for it because she is the only one left. He gets in the hot tub and attacks her. When he is finished, he gets out of the pool and walks back into the house, leaving Hannah cold and alone, the victim of something he doesn't consider rape.
It should be pointed out that this episode was directed by a woman. This is important because a man would have directed it very differently. Jessica Yu, the director of the episode, focuses on Hannah's face (instead of the attack itself) as we see any semblance of Hannah's lifeforce drain from her. This is the attack that puts her over the edge. This is the event that informs her that there is no worth in living. If this can happen to someone like her (a bright and sunny young woman) then it could happen to anyone. She knows that if she told anyone about this attack they will either A.) Believe her, but get no traction because Bryce is a rich white boy and rich white boys don't go to prison. or B.) No one believes her and she will be mocked for spreading lies.) Hannah knows that option B is the way things will turn out. She has seen victims get ignored, She does not want to go through this. This being episode 12, we know what she has seen and what has been done to her. Hannah's rape is her turning point, a turning point that we as the viewer hope that she doesn't take because we hold out hope. Even though we know that she is already dead, we think that maybe the show has been lying to us and Hannah is in hiding. We know this is wrong, but hope is a power thing.
The 13th episode is preceded by a warning telling us that the episode depicts suicide. We know that the this is it. Hannah is going to put all her affairs in order and then take her own life. The only thing that we don't know is how she is going to do it. In our minds we think that she is going to shoot herself. Guns have been foreshadowed in earlier episodes, so it is possible. Then we see her take some razor blades off the shelf at her parents convenience store and we know that this is going to be the most disturbing thing that this show will make us watch. The thing about this suicide, the thing that makes it so disturbing, is that happens in front of our eyes in a very reaslitic way. Hannah is not balling her eyes out while she clumsily tries to get the shotgun shell into the actual shotgun. She is not also humming to herself. (which is something that I actually saw as a complaint against the show). Hannah runs the bath water and when it gets the level that she wants it to be, she gets into the bathtub and slices through her left wrist. Two things to note about this: 1.) Hannah slices through her wrist and down her arm, NOT across her arm like movies and TV have told us. 2.) She struggles to do the slicing. She finds that it is very painful and cries out as she is cutting herself. This is not only based on fact (they had a doctor as a consultant for this scene and the rape scene I talked about earlier). This also makes it incredibly disturbing to watch. I have never seen anything like this before, but I could look away.
Eventually, her parents find her because she left the bath water running and her parents open the door and run in, thinking that they could save her. This scene is done just right. We don't see her parents looking in the sky and saying something like "Why?" It is a scene of two parents who unwillingly and unknowingly enter the first stage of grief.
This next section I am going to use as an airing of my grievances towards the type of people who are blind to things that are right in front of their faces. 13 Reasons Why has started a conversation about depression and suicide (more about suicide, though, because there are people out there that think that the two are not intertwined). This is a good thing, but there are people out there who hate on everything and, most of the time, miss the point of the thing that they are bashing. The video that I am talking about is located here.
The sentences that are in italics are my responses to the remarks brought up by this YouTube video:
This video on YouTube that I mentioned earlier talked about how no one would take their time in the day or so that leads up to the actual suicide. To which I answered, "Really?". Of course time is taken. The person who is taking their own life has planned this shit out in advance. They have picked a day and a time and a location. They have picked out how they are going to kill themselves and have gotten a hold of whatever they are using to end their life. They also talk about how Hannah wouldn't make the tapes and, if she did, she wouldn't be happy and jokey on them. The day before a person commits suicide and sometimes the day of, the person will appear happy and cheerful. The reason for this is the fact that they have set up their solution and are close to making it a reality. To them all of their problems will be over soon and this lifts the weight off of their shoulders. This is a fact and has been documented many times.
This YouTube video also talks about how the show isn't realistic. They go on to explain that the photo that Justin sends around the school wouldn't be that big a deal because she could defend herself (which is something that she doesn't do). Also, in the social media world, where pictures are way more racy than an upskirt, it would be forgotten about and no one would care. This is horseshit. People are always on the lookout for something embarrassing about someone else. The fact that a popular person sent this makes it even worse because the popular ones are the "most trustworthy" ones in the school. People's reactions would be to mock her and bully her.
They then bring up how Hannah has had all of this stuff done to her, yet she never goes to anyone, including her parents, to talk about what is going on. No kid goes to their parent to talk about something like the events that have been happening to Hannah. Not only that, but she knows that her parents are having a hard time with their store and their focus is on trying to stay afloat. Hannah knows that, while her parents care about her, her problems would get pushed to the side in favor of talking about the store, with her parents saying something like "Hannah, can we talk about this later?"
They then bring up the fact that she goes to the school counselor and tells him about the rape. She is given multiple opportunities to tell the counselor the who's and the what's, but Hannah never takes them. He also stops her a few times, but eventually lets her leave because he can't force a student to stay against their will. SHE IS FUCKING DEPRESSED! It was a miracle that she was able to go into his office at all. It is very apparent that the people who made this video have either no clue what depression really is OR they "suffer" from it themselves and therefore know everything about what others would do in these situations. I'm sorry, but I have been suffering from depression my whole life and I can relate to a lot of the things that Hannah goes through. Telling someone about a rape is a big deal and would take all of the courage in the world to talk about it. She backs out because she doesn't want to go through the pain again.
They then talk about when she leaves the counselor's office, Hannah stands outside the office, hopping that the counselor will come out of his office and try to talk to her one last time. They say that she blames the counselor for not trying to save her. They also bring up the fact that she has done this before with Clay. She pushes him away when, in reality, she needs him. People who suffer from depression do this ALL THE TIME. It is one of the things that defines depression: Blaming others for our problems. That is what makes this show so good. It show people what depression really is. To me, the show isn't about a girl who killed herself. It is a show about how she needed help and everyone around her were focused on their own thing. Sure, she does seek help at the end, but the counselor does not ask the right questions. Sometimes the only way to get to the problem is not by asking any question, but by asking the RIGHT QUESTION. For Hannah, the counselor not only didn't ask the right question, but didn't seem to care. Whether he did or not is up for debate. It all comes down to how Hannah saw it.
I am not going to go through this whole video because this was supposed to be my thoughts about the show, but I will say this. It is very apparent that the person who did this video DOES NOT UNDERSTAND what depression is all about. Most people think that depression is about being sad. I have had multiple people in my life tell me to "cheer up" and "don't be sad, be happy" If it were only that easy. The same thing applies to this video. This video is the "cheer up" for 13 Reasons Why. The person in this video wants easy answers when there are none. They feel threatened by a show that makes you think, not just about life, but about their life. Suicide is a big deal and this show addressed that in a very mature way. Sure, there are some things that don't play out right, but this is a TV SHOW, so there has to be a bit of suspense. It is very clear to me that depression is still something that people don't understand and that is fine. Don't go posting videos about things that you don't understand and present them as truth. It is fine to analyze film and TV, but when you do it like this, it seems irresponsible. Someone could be going through some of the same things that Hannah did in the show and then they what this video and their depression grows deeper because some guy on YouTube said that this that and the other thing about depression, when in fact, this guy knows dick about it.
13 Reasons Why is the TV show that understands what depression is. It gets the closest to being able to explain what depression is and how it can affect people. Watching the show, I saw myself in both the Hannah and Clay characters. Clay feels guilty over Hannah's suicide, even after he finds out that he had nothing to do with it. The problem lies in the fact that ANYONE Hannah was friends with or went to her school had a small part in her suicide. The people who took pictures of her butt after she was voted as having the "best ass", the people who poked fun at her when she would lose her shit. The people that didn't care. They are accessories to her suicide. Their roles and importance to figuring out why she killed herself vary, but their what they did in certain situations DID affect Hannah and that just added to laundry list of things leaning her towards ending her life. Hannah took her own life because life was not kind to her, but also because suffering from depression is a one lane highway and even when you ask for help, you may not get it because most people don't understand what is going on with you. Had Clay or the counselor been more welcoming and attentive, they would have seen that Hannah was going through a lot of shit and that she needs some help. That is what this show is really about.