April 28, 2017 Thirteen Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is a Novel by Jay Asher. It came out in 2007. Netflix released it as a 13 Episode Series on March 21, 2017. Since then, it has created much controversy. While many critics have praised it, parents and psychologists have voiced concerns that it glamorizes suicide.
I decided to watch it on Saturday April 22nd. I continued to binge watch it Sunday and Monday. Though I found it difficult to watch sometimes, I felt compelled to continue—much like Clay listening to Hannah’s tapes. I even cried several times while watching the last couple of episodes.
My initial reaction was emotional. I realized the show had its flaws, but overall it felt like a fairly accurate portrayal. I identified with Hannah’s loneliness, isolation, and her lack of control. I got it. I got how she felt and why she did what she did. I’ve been there. It seems like a lot of the criticism comes from those who have never experienced these things themselves. There is a fear, I think, that somehow suicide is contagious. Or maybe it is just the fear that suicidal people are too fragile to handle the truth or handle reality. I don’t know.
Honestly, I haven’t seen too many books, TV shows and movies on Suicide. And those that do deal with it are often from the point of view around the person. We rarely get an in depth look into the mind who commits act. Even 13 Reasons does this to some extent. Luckily, we get some of Hannah’s thoughts and experiences through the tapes.
The problem is we don’t get a clear picture of how she internalizes these events. We don’t hear her negative scripts running in her mind. Each of the reasons would have made her think that she was worthless or that she was somehow at fault. Depressed people tend to think of themselves as freaks or fuck-ups. They don’t see their true value. Their perception of things is distorted.
However, that doesn’t mean we should blame Hannah for being stupid or selfish. Hannah was bright and did care about others. But each time she felt invisible—each time she was cast aside—those negative voices in her head grew louder. Eventually those voices overwhelmed any sense of logic reality that might have given her proper prospective.
Her decision to go to Bryce’s Party was picked on as being a particularly stupid choice. No one in their right mind would have gone—or stayed once they realized whose house it was at least. That is the point though. Hannah wasn’t in her right mind. Her desire for punishment, even subconsciously, lured her there. It was as if she needed a reason to say, “Yep, this world sucks. I am so done with it.” And Bryce gave her that reason.
Certainly, she didn’t realize this consciously. But much of our actions are driven by unconscious fears and desires. It isn’t until much later that we are able to reflect and realize why we might have made the choice that we did. Hannah never had the time process it—to grieve, to heal and to reflect. She acted rashly.
As for the Revenge Fantasy, well, I just don’t see it. Hannah had a desire to be heard. She didn’t feel that she could do it in person though. Interactions with her former friends, foes and flames were next to impossible for her. Her tapes are her way of being heard. Her death is her way of taking control. It is Tony and Clay who feel compelled to take action for her. Hannah wanted everybody to hear and understand, but I don’t think she intended for them to suffer at her hands. Bryce is the only one who truly deserved punishment and some part of Hannah knew that I think.
If Hannah wanted revenge, there would have been better ways to do it. She could have framed Bryce for death or faked her death and came back. There are any number of scenarios that make better revenge fantasies than this one.
Depression is anger turned inward. Hannah had shouldered all the responsibility herself and it was just too much for her to bear alone. The tapes were an effort to lift some of that weight—to get rid of the burden she bore hidden away inside.
Murder, on the other hand, is anger turned outward. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions—the person blames everyone else. School shootings and mass murders are caused by the same anger as suicide. The only difference is the direction in which the anger flowed. Hannah killed herself—not her schoolmates. If she had wanted revenge, she would have killed them first and then herself later, if at all.
The trouble is, who do we blame for these tragedies? Some blame the victim and others blame society. No one wants the responsibility, but the truth is we are all responsible. Only when we realize this can we change things. That was message of 13 Reasons Why and that is a message I can get behind.