Hey, It's Char. Char Moff.
I know what you're thinking...here is another spiel about 13 Reasons Why and how it glorifies teen suicide in a Disney meets American Pie type fashion. But what I'm about to tell you, on this whatever device you are reading on, is all of the mistakes the show didn't make.
If you're reading this, you are one of the ones who have watched the series. Get a snack, settle in, and enjoy my tape.
Since its Netflix release on March 12, the show has caused a massive global stir. My Facebook has been absolutely bombarded with people chiming in with their two cents about the messages it does, or does not portray.
It seems to be one of those shows people either love and find saaaah relatable, or think is utter crap. Whatever your stance, I think we can all agree on it's highly thought provoking qualities. #ControversyForTheWin.
Whether you're convinced it's hit the mark or not, there are a number of very clear topics brought to our attention:
- To a young person, everything matters. "Everything affects everything."
- The domino affect that words or actions can have on someone without realising it.
- The struggles of being homosexual.
- The way young men treat and objectify females is not okay.
- We are a society of stalkers.
One thing the show does really well is highlight how a teenager's mind works.
Like everyone, I've gone through some tough times, but I've never been in a dark, suicidal head space like Hannah was. With that I simply cannot relate, or even pretend that I can relate to her or anyone else who may have been in a similar situation.
But what I can do is reflect on my teen years.
Being kiiinnnddaa newly out of teenagehood (24), but not quite what I'd call a 'real grown up' either, I feel as though I'm at a somewhat neutral position as far as reflecting goes.
I think at times adults forget that what may appear like nothing, or a "learning curve", can actually seem like the end of the world to a young adult.
"You've got your whole life ahead of you."
"In ten years time you will have forgotten all about that boy."
This offers no reassurance to a teenybop. I only cared about what was happening in my life at that very moment. At that stage in your life every let down or minor set back feels so permanent. It's not until you grow a little older until you start to feel a little more optimistic and find better ways to cope with things.
According to studies, and as mentioned in the behind the scenes episode, the brain doesn't fully finish maturing until you're at least 25. I really support this theory. And if we all had taken this into consideration before watching the show, putting ourselves in Hannah's adolescent shoes would have been a lot easier.
As an outsider we are guided down Hannah's struggle street with her, and I'll admit that there were times I thought 'that is not a big deal, she can get over that." Yes, in isolation, she probably could have gotten past that singular altercation, but it's the snowball affect which ultimately seals her fate.
We have no idea of the struggles or inner demons one may be battling day-to-day. "You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything affects everything."
With that, the show definitely does well to convey the 'what if we were all just a little a bit nicer' theme. I'll agree that the 'blame game' depicted in this series isn't necessarily fair (Bryce excluded), but for teens and even adults, the message we can take out of this is that you could be the one who makes a difference in someones life without even knowing it - be it positive or negative. You could be the one to reach out and check that their doing okay. Just be nice.
Homosexuality and the struggles that coincide with it are also highly present in the series. This issue is particularly apparent through the eyes of Courtney. Despite having two dads, she is ashamed of who she is and completely dissociates herself from the label "Gay."
In my schooling some 10 years ago, we were taught about the ins and outs ('scuse the pun) of female/male intercourse and relationships, but the idea of female/female or male/male intercourse was completely shafted ('scuse that pun also).
I'm aware that teens and preteens are starting to be well educated on these topics in NZ schools which is pleasing to hear. However, Courtney's tape confirms that there are pockets around the world who are far far behind.
Consensual sex for that matter is also something worth pondering as a result of the series. Healthy relationships are another topic discussed in health classes these days, but should there be more of an emphasis on what consensual sex actually looks like?
We quite explicitly witness two very sobering rape scenes. A hard watch. As a 24yo I found myself hiding behind the covers at the raw viewing of Jessica's lifeless body being plundered and Hannah's vacant face completely disconnecting from the trauma. I struggle to figure how someone much younger than me would cope watching these scenes; but perhaps the graphic nature is what's needed to convey the reality.
We also see countless occasions where young girls are objectified and rated in the form of 'hot lists.' To some teens, being branded in regards to their chests, bums, lips, and legs is flattering, but to a lot of females it is a complete invasion and violation.
Hannah is an exemplar victim of this type of harassment and sexual exploitation. Much out of her control, she is labeled as "the best ass", and not to mention an extremely intimate image of her goes viral across the school.
The teen bullying culture is something extremely present in our society, and we are all well aware of it. Especially in forms of online cyber bullying via social media platforms. The show reiterates that this is happening in schools everywhere, and kids are not counting these mistreatments as actual bullying which is a huge problem.
I've lost count of the amount of videos I've seen on the news of teenagers being victimized by their peers. The sad thing here is that others have just stood by and filmed the event and then shared it on Facebook. Smart move, pal.
One line that really spoke to me was “We are a society of stalkers.” This is so damn relevant. While old mate Tyler takes stalking to the next level, Hannah’s words here are bang on. We are all stalkers. So many of us waste copious amounts of time living through the lives of other people on social media. But as you’ll know the issue here is not the time wasted, it's the misleading depiction of how other people live.
Social media is a medium used to display our best moments. We don’t post pictures of ourselves when we have runny nose or a face full of pimples. We don’t put up posts discussing our lack of drive, or that we didn't get the job we wanted. So when you compare your life to the life of someone you follow on Instagram, it’s not surprising that you feel as though you drew the short straw.
A show, movie, documentary, or any form of media that confronts us with issues like suicide, rape, and sexuality is always going to receive some kind of backlash. It's a given. We do not comfortably discuss these topics over the office water cooler. They are controversial, deep, and open to a lot of conflicting opinions.
Yeah, there are things the producers probably didn't get 100 percent right, but that's down to opinion. We all comprehend things in different ways. Regardless, what they have really mastered is actually bringing these topics out of the dark and raising some kind of awareness.
We all watched it. We're all talking about it. And we're all probably going to watch season two.
...so let's see what's in store for us there to rip to shreds.
(Image via Pinterest)