Online entertainment streaming service, Netflix has renewed very controversial series, that has created division among audiences and experts, with critics lamenting their disapproval of the way in which the show discusses the tough topics such as sexual assault, rape, bullying etc depicted in it.
The series, 13 Reasons Why, follows Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford), a high school student who took her own life and left 13 tapes that explained the reasons behind her suicide.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the reveal of a new season, we thought to quickly look at the reasons why we watch the show.
Diversity and representation
It’s refreshing to see a cast as diverse as this one, not the usual slap in two blacks here, one Latina here and an Asian over there.
Tackling hard hitting topics through school culture. High school teenage-targeted films or series are always the likes of Hannah Montana, High School Musical and if they’re at all tackling issues we get washed down versions such as Mean Girls and American Pie. But 13 Reasons Why gets into the nitty-gritty of things.
Dynamics of relationships and friendships
While these are not tough topics, they’re still a complex concept and it’s not easy to comprehend. Parent-child relationship in this show are exactly just that and so are the friendships. The take away though is that we get to learn about what not to do, like dismiss someone’s experience. Think back when Hannah told her mother that she thinks she is being stalked or when Jessica slapped her silly because she believed Hannah was the reason behind her and Alex’s break-up.
One of the most prevalent issue in schools and one often ignored. There are several types of bullying, these are explored through Hannah, Alex, Zach and Tyler. It all takes place right under the nose of adults and at times in their faces but they choose to ignore it.
Although Hannah didn’t tell anyone specifically that she was depressed, the signs were there. Unlike Skye, who physically harms herself, Hannah and Justin’s scars were on the inside. Spotting the signs is imperative. And we can only know about the signs when we understand depression and anxiety.
Alcohol and drug abuse
Brandon Flynn’s Justin ends up facing the same fate as his mother, who is hooked on drugs. Even after being adopted by the Jensen’s, Justin still struggles with drugs.
There’s this absurd misconception that a woman has to either say no or scream as proof that they do not consent. That silence means they are consenting. But how does a person who is unconscious consent?
Alisha Boe’s Jessica Chloe’s Anne Winters, Nina’s Samantha Logan and Tyler’s Devin Druid roles tackle sexual assault and rape in a few of its many forms. The reactions, actions thereafter. It looks at how they view their experiences and what they learn from it. Also a depiction of how many navigate their lives post-rape in different ways. As gruesome and graphic as the scenes are on the show, it’s an active illustration of how gruesome the act of rape is in reality. As the actor, Druid says, ‘It cannot be censored or sugar-coated.’
How many schools can really truly say they have an in-house effective counselling structure that is in place to assist students in their times of need?
There’s a large number of youth across the globe that commit suicide or at least think of committing suicide. Factors that lead to suicide are not limited to the reasons that made Hannah end her life nor those that made Alex, who attempted to commit suicide but only came short and came back more broken than before. And through the both of them, we learned that it is not an easy dialogue to start and it’s not always easy to spot the signs.
An important topic to tackle, even if not to completion or fullness. Particularly at a time when gun control is an issue, not only for America following various school shootings, but also for us here in South Africa, where gun violence is continuously spiralling out of control.
For many shows that are not directly meant for this community, we only see this minimally explored. It is also refreshing to see a gay character, Tony (played by Christian Navarro) that isn’t too feminine but more masculine. A character that many would call ‘looks too man-ish to be gay’ because being gay is about looks rather than a sexual preference.
Money and Power
Bryce Walker is a white heterosexual man, the odds are already in his favour, add to that the part about him coming from a wealthy family. So through him we learn that money and power is really the ultimate decider on whether one gets punished for their evil or not. Justice is a myth. People who have the money to pay top notch lawyers are never accountable for anything.
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