"Thirteen Reasons Why" - An Opinionated Review

May 31, 2018



13 Reasons Why Season Two Review:


Before we dive in, I'd like to begin by pointing out a fact that may seem obvious to some and not to others.   Normally, you'll never find me commenting on political or social issues publicly because I like to stay as objective as possible when writing.  Also, arguing with others regarding their opinions doesn't hold any appeal to me. We're each entitled to our own thoughts, opinions, and feelings. With that being said though ... you're going to find this blog post to be hypocritical to the above statement since spoiler, mental health is close to my heart and I find it impossible to keep my mouth shut regarding it.  So, I'm calling myself out in advance just so later, if any of you deem it necessary, you won't have too.  Yes, today I am being a hypocrite.  Now, with that out of the way, let's move forward.


WAIT! One more thing.  Let it be known that there are spoilers ahead.  I repeat, there will be mentions of spoilers regarding the show "13 Reasons Why."  Five. Four. Three. Two. One.  Okay, proceed at your own risk.

For those of you who don’t know, "Thirteen Reasons Why" is a Netflix original show.  The series itself is based off the book written by Jay Asher.  The premise revolves around a teenage girl in high school that commits suicide due to bullying and sexual assault.  In the book, the suicide method is due to an overdose where the main character, Hannah, intentionally swallows pills.  In the show, Hannah climbs into her parents bathtub fully clothed before taking a flat razor blade to her wrist and slitting them vertically.  She dies alone, bleeding out until she's discovered later.


Now, whether or not you follow the show, you might be aware of the backlash this scene caused in 2017.  Many people/viewers/parents demanded the show be cancelled because they felt it promoted suicide rather than demonize it.  Luckily, the show wasn't cancelled and in fact actually released season two this year.  As you can imagine though, there is again backlash due to a different scene involving male sexual assault.


Near the end of season two, a main character named Tyler, is sexually assaulted in a bathroom at school.  A group of athletes angry with him due to ruining their baseball season, accost Tyler in said bathroom. They begin by physically beating him before shoving his head into a toilet, essentially trying to drown him. They then proceed to hold him down against the toilet while one athletes grabs a mop and shoves it into Tyler's back end.  When it's all over, they leave and Tyler sits up on the bathroom floor and starts to cry.  You can see blood on the handle of the mop as the screen fades out.  The entire scene lasts no more than a minute but the residual effect from watching lasts much, much longer.


After it's season two release, the "termination" of the show from a mass of viewers was demanded, again.  Frankly, this pisses me


The endless requests to terminate this show due to its "graphic" nature is not only severely unjustified in my opinion but also founded by naivety.  When compared to other shows like "Game of Thrones," "West World," "Black Mirror," "The Handmaid's Tale" (to name a few big ones) and other movies/shows of equivalence, why is "Thirteen Reasons Why" viewed as so abhorrent? Is it because it's grounded more by reality where the others are founded in fiction? Or is it because teenagers and young adults alike watch it and relate to it on a fundamental level? And in turn, this relatability causes concerns in authority figures who are worried that it will illicit some natural need to engage in these graphic scenes? Because you know what, it should concern you. It should concern everyone.  This doesn't mean it should be cancelled.


Avoiding sensitive or graphic topics is the equivalent of running away from a problem.  Suicide, sexual assault, bullying, rape, physical/emotional abuse, and more are ALL topics that should NEVER be pushed aside.  Acting as if they don’t exist does not make them cease to exist.  In fact, it permits for the continuation of negligence.  It allows for the people engaging in these activities—whether the aggressor or victim—to not be represented or helped.


Viewers of "Thirteen Reasons Why" SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE watching these thankfully fictional scenes in these shows and they shouldn't shy away from them either.  Because at least after watching one can say, “I’m so glad this was a dramatization.”


Now, I want you to focus for a second and imagine you are someone who has gone through one of the events listed above in real life.  Victims of abuse could view this show as not only justification for trauma they have been through; but, it could potentially help them realize seeking/asking help is the best option. That remaining silent is not necessary anymore because there are people out there who will listen.  That the conversation regarding these "graphic" scenes is started and their input is wanted. 


Keep holding onto that idea that you're a victim. 


Okay, now imagine a show that could have helped you come to terms with what happened to you was cancelled because viewers were appalled by the suicide scene and the rape scene(s) since they believe people don't need to visualize, think of or speak about things of such nature.  If you were a victim, how would that make you feel? That a fictional show is cancelled because it was "too" much for society? I know I would feel like my trauma is considered inappropriate. Like I did something wrong to deserve it.  Events of this nature happen ALL the time across the world.  Just because we don't see it happen doesn't mean it's not.  As they emphasized in the show, many people who are hurting don't know where it hurts or how to verbally explain it. This show could be a tangible gateway for those who cannot speak.


So, I'm sure some of you are thinking that I'm putting too much emphasis on a television show to help others and if you feel that way, I understand why considering the topic of this post.  But I'm not. A fictional television show is just one medium among many that can help people feel safe enough to come forward. I think ALL formats should be available because we each feel, hurt and think differently.


The main take away from this post is this: Silencing shows like "Thirteen Reasons Why" that try to educate, connect and foster an understanding of sensitive issues is suggesting to people going through these things that they shouldn’t speak up.  What good does this do for anyone?  There needs to be a discussion so that they can be brought to light and maybe this show can be a start. No one can grow in perpetual shadows and we shouldn't let them either.



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K. J. Rocazella

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