After receiving a lot of flak in its pilot season for glamourising suicide, the new season of 13 Reasons Why continues to be in the news for many controversial reasons. The American Parental Council has called out Netflix to take down certain scenes from the series.
However, the series is also strongly emphasizing on several predicaments of a teenager’s everyday life, the peer pressure of associating with ‘lad’ culture, xenophobia and slut-shaming; in a hope to contribute to possible solutions.
Aptly put by Selena Gomez, who executive produces the series, said the show exists to be a “catalyst for conversation”. The show is accentuating major issues in a certain millennial manner that young adults as well as parents can relate to. Thereby opening a forum to initiate the dialogue and look out for possible signs of depression, even before it gets to extreme levels.
MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT THAT ARE UNREPORTED:
One of the highlights of the series was the character of Tyler Down (David Druid). He was a victim of bullying, social isolation and sexual assault that turns him to plan the most terrifying act of gun violence.
Rebecca Hedrick, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Cedars Sinai Hospital, said, “It’s harder for male victims to publicly talk about their assault as for boys & men it brings into question their own sense of masculinity and manhood. A lot of it goes unreported for these reasons”
While depicting the graphic of the entire scene is painful and pressurising for a young adult to view without adult supervision, it is lifting the taboo off this sensitive topic and attempts to educate the audience on when and how friends, schoolmates should intervene to help a troubled pal.
LIVING WITH PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS:
The very reason for Jessica Davis to not be able to talk about her rape in court the first time, was her self-denial of being called a victim. Alisha Boe, the character who plays Jessica Davis said, “She didn’t believe she was the right kind of victim, especially her day after the court. Jessica is black and it’s in a courtroom and it’s going against Bryce who’s this white kid, who is a baseball star, and his dad literally funds the school. Who’s going to believe her? The odds are already against her.”
BLAMING THE VICTIM FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT:
In episode 10, as Clay, Justin and Sheri are looking through the box of disturbing Polaroid’s they found at the clubhouse, Clay makes some really shallow comments. He says, “That’s the thing I don’t get. Why are these girls getting themselves into these situations in the first place?” Clay then tries to back up his claim and shows Sheri a picture of Nina Jones, a girl who looks like “she’s having fun.”
To which Sheri instantly intervenes to correct him, “Clay, you don’t know what was happening in this photo and you don’t know what happened after. Girls don’t get themselves into bad situations. Guys make the situations bad. You don’t know what it feels like, to be a girl in that room.”
What is surprising is that it comes from Clay – a character that represents a heroic image and yet institutionalises sexism.
SOCIAL REPUTATION MATTERS THE MOST:
Many instances in the series subtly portray how different is life of a high school girl vs boys. As Jessica puts it, girls are labelled while boys grab the chance to define themselves. Justin Foley in the new season confesses to falsely exaggerating his kiss with Hannah Baker in order to give an impetus to his social status. Justin may have enjoyed the social boost but Hannah’s reputation tumbles, making her vulnerable to bullying and slut shaming.
Joy Gormon Wettels, Executive Producer, said “Clubhouse is a metaphor for rape culture everywhere – in high schools, big organisations, anywhere where there is power dynamic. And the victims feel they will lose their job, their popularity, their baseball team if they speak up. And that is why the show portrays characters like Zach, Clay, Scott who are brave enough to speak up and dismantle it.”
“Language is such a great tool. Reaching out to teenagers with words like ‘consent’ or ‘bystander intervention’, is worthless. This isn’t the lingo of locker rooms. It is important for all the boys in the group to approach it collectively and say ‘We don’t do that!’ We can do something to make a difference and we are setting a higher expectation and standard for ourselves. We are still we but don’t be that guy!” said Alexis Jones, Founder, Protecther and Contributor to the series.
MENTAL WELLNESS – DEALING WITH PTSD
The after-math of Alex Standall’s failed suicide attempt is one to be reminisced for long. He now walks with a cane and there’s no telling how the trauma affected him mentally and emotionally. But he’s alive, which is important. Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler), on other hand, dedicates his major time to Alex, not allowing him to sulk in his mental pain, even though Alex continues to be shit to him.
Dr Christine Moutier, MD, American Foundation for suicide prevention said, “Parents & Friends play a pivotal role in a young adult’s life, especially after any traumatic incident. It’s a very discombobulating time, and then trying to work through that is sort of reintegrating with the world.”
Alisha Boe adds, “Parents want to help them so badly that they can be aggressive sometimes. But they just need to be patient and wait. And let them know they will be there for them whenever they are ready to talk.”
One of the scene in the series show a comforting act by Jessica’s father who tucks her in to bed. Alisha Boe commented, “That scene is so powerful because Jessica’s rape was on that bed. And that little act shows that she will now be okay to be there. And it just pours the love back into that bedroom where everything was taken away from her. It is this time when they need that kind of nurturing and support.”
The finale has a tender scene between Olivia Baker (Kate Walsh) handing over a letter of Hannah to Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette). It says “11 Reasons Why Not”. It is in this moment that empowers and urges every viewer to focus on things that will be your strength to keep fighting.
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix show, based on Jay Asher’s bestselling novel. It revolves around the suicide of a teenage girl – Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who left behind a series of cassette tapes chronicling her inner distress.