Review of 13 Reasons Why


2017-08-27

I finally got around to binge-watching 13 Reasons Why this weekend while holed up with dogs and data. I have spent most of my life being varying degrees of suicidal and have attempted suicide on several occasions over the years starting in my early teens. This tv show has, what I suspect is, a good depiction of bullying, rape, and rape culture in the present day. Given the nature of all these topics, it's trigger heavy and is difficult to watch.

Of all the many characters, I found the parents of both the teenager that took her own life and the teenagers that are trying to cope or understand it the most interesting. All the adults in this show are often blithely unware or blissfully ignorant that their children are no longer children. I'm not sure what this says about suicide culture, but it's worth noting that their ignorance doesn't seem to change after the suicide or after more information becomes available. I think that presents a troubling take on the role of adults in modern coming-of-age stories.

While I believe this scenario as depicted, is both possible and could lead to the same outcome of suicide, I'm concerned about the creativity of this show. Even the storytelling element as placing blame on numerous characters over 7 cassette tapes leads towards elaborate art projects before suicide attempts. I do believe, as I have written a few, that suicide letters can be helpful in making you realize that you aren't ready to commit suicide. This is temporarily depicted in the show but then strengthens her resolve in the creative approach she takes to solve a very difficult and troubling year in her life. As if this creative project once finished can't be turned back from, as if it needs suicide to finish it.

I'd also mention that the main teenage boy character has a dutiful savior complex in all of this. He consistently needs to blame others for the suicide and also needs forgiveness for any role he himself played, but he's not quite sure what that role is. Even the depiction of entrapment for two different characters both the girl who commits suicide after what seems to be a, at least partially, staged cry for help (though it still was a cry for help) and later the boy who tracks down her rapist and coerces a confession. In the end, I'm not sure what this show ends up saying about suicide prevention, who to blame, or even rape culture. I think the lack of a coherent message is one of the ongoing problems for anyone thinking about suicide. "It gets better", for example, only works if you get get through the now. And honestly, suicide can seem so much more convenient.

As usual, if you want to talk privately about this topic. I'm always around.