This post has lotsa spoilers for the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why, which you definitely should watch before reading!
- First things first: I loved 13 Reasons Why but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. The criticism that must primacy? The episodes are far too long! With some tighter editing, every episode — or Side, in Hannah’s parlance — could have been 15 minutes shorter and the action considerably more intense, plus the narrative could have moved along with a faster clip, leaving less time for essentially meaningless furrowed-brow glances into the middle distance, so favoured by Clay and Tony.
- I can see why the Jensens loved Tony; he’s like a parent’s wet dream of their son’s best friend, but his dolorous visage and ridiculous hair immediately became one of my triggers. I was desperately hoping he would be the dude in the ambulance at the coda. And that rockclimbing scene was patently ridiculous. A friend of mine is well into rockclimbing, as in travels overseas to scale cliffs, and — I’m being serious here — have sent him a Trigger Warning so he doesn’t flip out when he watches it.
- After the first Side I was skeptical about this show’s unique sense of purpose, such was my worry that it would be normalising, even glorifying, suicide as a solution to problems, let alone teen problems. Whilst I am still troubled by some of the razor-sharp imagery and lofty discussions of Hannah’s life post her felo de sel, I am satisfied that the ultimate takeouts are that people do care, regardless of their propensity to be hurtful; and that suicide is absolutely never an acceptable outlet.
- But there are times when the lines are blurred and no amount of Content Warnings— no matter how woke — can disguise the reality that this program could give vulnerable people ideas about how to get back at those that have wronged them.
- The Content Warnings were a new feature for me. I’ve watched alotta TV in my puff and this is the first time I’ve seen them employed in their modern form, viz not mandated by law like you see for Sex, Language, Violence et cetera. Whilst they did kinda act as a spoiler, I was actually reassured by the CW preceding Side 13, as I am quite squeamish re exsanguination as I was able to emotionally armour myself against, say, at its extreme, nausea.
- 13RW did a great job showcasing the various shades of light and dark that live in all of us. Okay, so maybe Clay and Hannah were just a little too much on their side of perfect, but the teens in their orbit — Alex, Tyler, Jess, Ryan, Courtney, Sheri, even the verminous Justin (if we’re being forgiving), but obvs not Bryce (who is pure evil) — showcase the vacillating twists of kindness, hostility, selfishness, narcissism, generosity, studiousness, lassitude, sincerity and immaturity so prevalent in the teenage experience. At times their inability to Do The Right Thing was infuriating but they always came across as genuine manifestations of high school caprice, if stretched out to attenuated frontiers with faltering levels of verisimilitude.
- Bryce’s predation on Girls at Parties was a terrifying yet coruscantly effective depiction of why enthusiastic consent must be the minimum for sexual activity, and what its absence looks like. Myriad contemporary feminist thinkpieces have explained what it means as words upon a page, to varying degrees of success and reader comprehension (based on the comments underneath). Seeing Bryce initiate and fulfil rape upon Jess and Hannah, and then the way society (= patriarchy) post-facto justifies the behaviour, and attempts to excuse the devastating consequences, was as convincing as it was heartbreaking.
- The parental characters, and the teachers, authority figures and the general adult population of Liberty (ironic name, huh?) must be the dumbest people on the planet. How could all this be going down and yet they all seemed to have no clue? The parties, the drugs, the driving malfeasance, the comically unsecretive lapses into dipsomania: surely they would have some clue? On that note, I don’t think Mr Porter winning any Counsellor of the Years anytime soon, tho he must get credit for his colour-coded, matching shirt/sweater/tie combinations in muted off-primary palettes that were the height of sartorial elegance!
- Kate Walsh and Brian d’Arcy James were outstanding as Hannah’s parents. Interspersing past and present shots of the couple, before and after Hannah’s death, contrasting their physical and emotional wellbeing was a masterstroke of writing and directing. Mrs Baker definitely didn’t need a band-aid across her forehead so we could always tell when was then what is now.
- I follow the Arsenal, which is owned by Stan Kroenke, who has married into the Walton family, owners of Walmart. As such, the incessant jabs at Walplex and its destruction of small, family-owned businesses was particularly galling. I would be happy for Walmart to rule the world if those excess revenues directly or indirectly resulted in Arsenal signing Antoine Griezmann in the offseason. Okay, this point isn’t that much about 13 Reasons Why. To make up for it, how good was the music in 13RW? Vienna by Ultravox, Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, a smooth cover of Yazoo’s Only You, plus lotsa tracks from obscure indie bands to set the mood. I also noticed both Clay and Hannah had Arcade Fire posters on their bedroom walls, while the latter also had a Shins affiche: two of my personal faves. I picked Alex as being far too cool to have such a passé Unknown Pleasures motif up in his hideaway.
- The indoor baseball netting glimpsed in the final Side was a revelation. How cool was that?! Can one of my American readers please elucidate: are these common in high schools? I’ve never seen anything like them before!
- I haven’t so thoroughly enjoyed a bingewatch like this since discovering and devouring the first season of United States of Tara in one night back in 2009. It was as addictive as the codeine-and-pseudoephedrine pills I’ve been popping to treat this Tony Abbott Cold (it just won’t quit) I’ve been suffering from the past fortnight. Netflix makes it bones with these releases; it’s just so rewarding to hit the Play Next Episode tab and prevaricate on your other responsibilities. But I wonder, had this been a week-to-week HBO show, would it have generated a supremely rewarding online community, full of speculation, fan theories, memes and banter; superfans freezeframing scenes to pick up on the slightest of unlikely hints, in the manner of Game Of Thrones, Westworld and Big Little Lies. Netflix originals tend to generate a tsunami of attendant online activity in the week following their drops, but these communities soon become ghost towns once the carnival has moved on to the next series. 13 Reasons Why could easily have made for 13 terrific weeks of fandom.
- Please no second series! Some Concepts are just so High they demand and deserve multiple series, qv the prenominate Game Of Thrones, but others live much more complete and satisfying lives as a cleanly bookended anthology. Obvs there will be calls for an Alex Stendall-focus second series, no doubt tedious titled 14 Reasons Why, but I don’t think 13RW’s denouement requires one. Whether he lives or dies is ancillary information: that he was driven to self-harm is conclusion in and of itself. Violence begets violence. Hurt begets hurt. We all need to be nicer to each other. We all need to be on the lookout for warning signs. We all need to act.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US) 1-800-273-8255