* SPOILER ALERT *
Please do not read if you haven’t finished listening to the tapes.
If you don’t have Netflix and have no clue what I am talking about then read on…
Netflix has another fabulous original series, they seem to be really coming into their own with fantastic series’ including Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why is another one to add to their list. This series was dramatized from Jay Asher’s 2007 novel of the same title.
With a great cast of young actors and actresses, it is one of those dramas where you think the characters are real and instantly hate them – here I am thinking of Bryce. It is a hard-hitting, hard-watching and thought provoking series that makes you question your own actions and consider have you done enough?
Initially I thought an 18 rating for another one of those high school dramas was a bit ridiculous and thought what could possibly make it so high? The more I watched, the more I was glued to it, I started realising the vastness of real topics that were being tackled so subtly but graphically that you don’t realise how many of them until you reflect as I am doing now. Topics included sexual assault, stalking, queer identities and exploration, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, bullying, revenge porn, blackmailing, financial struggles, mental health, depression and ultimately suicide as the series is centred.
(I am sitting here listening to some of my own childhood favourites and Simple Plan’s ‘I’m Just a Kid’ is playing on shuffle and it is more than befitting for me to write about this series and listen to this …)
I’m just kid and life is a nightmare…
Hannah Baker. A typical high school girl. Desperate to fit in, to understand and explore her identity, wanting to know who she is as a person and as a woman. She records 13 cassette tapes of why she feels forced to end her life and cannot see another option out of the difficulties she is being forced to live through each day. She wants to escape the jibes, the insults and the loneliness she is enduring.
The cassette tapes are distributed to the individuals who are on them with the idea of passing them on and final doing the right thing by Hannah. The first tape looks at Justin Foley’s reason. An image of Hannah that was circulated and, taken out of context, may be construed as provocative. Hannah was subsequently labelled as, ‘easy’, ‘a slut’ and lost her best friend Jess as a result. This image then gave the boys at school the permission to provoke her by being suggestive behind her back and boys taking an interest in her so that she would put out on dates etc. The boy Justin who took the image and allowed it to be circulated is deemed as a hero. He is celebrated by his friends for going to third base with Hannah. Despite the pair only kissing in a park.
With that I am reluctant to go any further with the episodes as it needs to be seen (or read) to understand the twists and turns.
In the news recently the issues of revenge porn, consent and rape are only too common. It is usually put back to the woman for being too slutty for taking the naked picture of herself, for dressing provocatively and ‘asking for it’. It’s her fault she was too drunk to remember and regretted – even though she didn’t consent. Note how many times I wrote she and her in those sentences, it is never about the man who force himself onto the woman.
In February the TED Talk with Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger sparked interest particularly on social media. Thordis was raped by Tom in 1996 and did not tell authorities as she was frightened of not being believed. Tom now acknowledges what he did and accepted that he is a rapist in the eyes of Thordis, yet the pair go around talking about what happened from both the perspective of predator and victim. Although I don’t think I could do this if I was Thordis, it helps her and brings attention to rape and consent to others then surely it’s positive?
After watching the series – I finished it last night and was completely speechless – there was a 30 minute discussion with the cast and filming team including child and clinical psychologists. One thing that did stand out to me was discussed by Dr Rhonda Hu, who explained that the teenagers brain is not completely formed meaning that they cannot see beyond and they don’t think things can get better this results in (at times) spontaneous decisions and maybe self harm or suicide. Essentially the image of Hannah that was sent around sparked a myriad of different reasons that made her act on her depression and loneliness ranging from cat calling, being ignored, sexual identity and ultimately being raped.
The final straw for Hannah was when she asked Mr Porter the school councillor for support. This was responded with the truthfulness of Hannah’s confession being challenged and questioned with an implication that she had simply regretted her first sexual encounter.
I think that no one knows what is happening to another person. No one can relate or understand another person. Everybody has something going on with them. Communication and openness is paramount. Young people have to be aware that depression and mental health can be helped and they have to be taken seriously.
It is interesting because I was reading my Facebook and girls from my secondary school wrote how powerful the series was and how important it was to be supportive. These were some of the same people who would call other girls out or be disgusted by their sexual relationships. Maybe you get wiser as you get older and maybe you blank out your behaviour at school. Or maybe you think you were the perfect student…
No one’s perfect. It’s okay to not be okay BUT it’s always okay to ask for help.