So last night I finished Thirteen Reasons Why. It has taken me about a week. You can find the first here. I was incredibly grateful for Chelsey being here whilst I watched it.
The tone became so much more sinister as I continued to watch from episode six. We went from sexism to sexual assault. To brutal, horrifying scenes of rape that made me cringe. To violence, and we watch as Bryce beats Clay to a pulp for asking the right questions. The second half of this series was even more painful to watch than the first.
There were so so many controversial scenes in these last seven episodes. Like why does Justin practically let Bryce rape his girlfriend? Justin lets that b****rd into the room, knowing that Jessica is drunk and vulnerable. Okay, so bro-culture?! Justin made it sound as though he had given Jessica to him, briefly, as a thank you for all that Bryce had done for him. For all the shoes he had bought him to play basketball in. No amount of shoes, or free lodgings, in the world could make me sell a loved one out in such a way. Then to deny it to Jessica? The transition in Jessica's character was astounding and she was played amazingly well. From the minute she is told that she has been raped, she starts to wear baggier clothing. to wear short skirts less and less. And she pushes Justin as far away from her as he can get. I would have liked to know what happened to Jessica.
I began to like, and have so much sympathy for Hannah Baker. I cried for her. I wanted the end to be different. I wanted her to not die. I also found that I had a favourite character; Tony. Tony was intent on carrying out this final act of distributing the tapes, for Hannah. It is Tony that aids Clay through processing his own tape. Tony is probably the only good person left alive in this series.
Did I hate anybody? Bryce. Who thinks that every girl in school is asking to be raped. Courtney. Ashamed to be gay. It was so easy to hate Courtney when female characters such as Sherri were facing up to their crimes. Sherri reports herself to the police, and faces a sentence! While Courtney conspires against a dead Hannah Baker in order to prevent her two homosexual parents from finding out that she might be, wait for it... gay! Good god. Courtney Crimson is one of most ridiculously disgusting characters I have ever come across. I also reserved a special spot for Mr Porter, the school counsellor who ignored the signs.
Mr Porter is the last person that Hannah Baker confides in and attempts to ask for help. Hannah opens the last episode, and her final tape with the statement that she has decided 'to give life one last try'. And even though I knew she had 'failed', as she put it, because we are listening to these tapes, I began to hope.
Instead, Mr Porter questions her about whether or not she asked her rapist to stop, or told him no. Then he states: 'maybe you consented and then changed your mind'. A young girl is sat at his desk, after being raped. And this is where I began to understand why these teens are so close knit. Why they insist on dealing with things on their own. Because either the adults don't understand, or don't want to understand. Before asking for the name of her attacker, Mr Porter questions whether or not Hannah has been around alcohol or drugs at the party. Okay, why is this relevant?! If a young woman is telling you that she has been raped, then you should be doing your best to help her. Not questioning the credibility of her statement. The victims are never 'asking for it' and to imply otherwise is damaging and a disgusting attitude to have. The victims are never to blame.
Both rapes that occur, those of Hannah and Jessica, are significant with regard to their cinematography in that they both prevent the male gaze. We see the true effects of Hannah's rape in extreme close ups of her clenched fist, that slowly releases itself as something dies inside her eyes. We see her face in a close up, with her eyes wide open as if they are taped that way. She is stuck, and does not move an inch. I am disgusted to think that the words 'no' or 'stop' are the only way a woman can express a refusal to have sex. She must verbalise these thoughts otherwise she has given consent. I'd say the fact that she tried to run away, and literally lay there motionless pretty strongly implies a lack of consent. Wouldn't you?!
Jessica's rape is shown from Hannah's point of view, and then from Jessica's point of view. The opportunity to see this as sexy has been removed and the brutality of rape shines through. I guess a lot of people are questioning whether the graphic nature of these scenes is really necessary. Jay Asher has admitted that they are quite graphic, and a little severe. But he does believe that this is necessary, because the very discussion of rape makes us uncomfortable. This, among many other reasons, is why victims are hesitant to come forward following an attack. I couldn't agree more. Maybe it is about time society stopped being so squeamish.
Thirteen Reasons why also handles the subject of self harm, very well I think. Skye, when talking to Clay, states that the rest of the teenagers handle their lives and get on with it, instead of killing themselves. Clay grabs her hand, and reveals her bloodied and scarred wrist. He declares that self harm is not coping. This made me smile a little bit. Thank god, finally somebody said it! Like rape, we are funny about issues of mental health. There is a hell of a lot of stigma still floating around, so to have this very clearly on camera was refreshing.
Episode Thirteen was an interesting one, for want of a better word. Ill warn you that it is graphic. Really graphic, and comes with a warning before the episode. I thought I'd cry. At first I covered my face with my hands, only to peak through my fingers. Not because I wanted to see Hannah's demise. But because I felt like I owed it to her, after all that I had seen. I felt as though, in a weird way, I needed to see it. As soon as she made that first cut, my body seized up. I drew my legs a little bit closer to my chest and everything locked. It was a pretty strange feeling at the time. I didn't know whether I wanted to cry, throw up or laugh awkwardly. Why would I want to laugh? Because I felt so uncomfortable, as if I was entreating on a private moment. I don't know what it was. But I know my entire body went through an experience whilst seeing Hannah Baker commit suicide. And I know that I never want to relive it. I will never rewatch this series, though I will reread the book after this.
My eyes only started to fill up when Mrs Baker finds her. She kids herself that her baby girl is still alive and it broke me. A literal blood bath.
I questioned in my first review, whether or not these kids were to blame. I think some of them are, yes. But not all. People like Sherri, who were just worried about saving their own skin. She did not mean to hurt Hannah. But Courtney Crimson, who even after Hannah's death is still willing to sell the girl out and blame her for her own suicide? She isn't even mature enough to accept that she might have been in the wrong somewhere along the line. Of course I blame characters like Bryce. I felt sympathy for characters like Clay.
But you have to question where they're skewered ideas come from. They are growing up in a world where women are 'asking for it' and slut shaming is very very difficult to avoid. I read this article from The Huffington Post today, and it discusses the effects of slut shaming. To call a woman a 'slut', a 'whore', or whatever, is to make her a target for sexual assault. Tanenbaum states that 'slut shaming is really just a catchy way to signify old-fashioned sexism'. It's wrong and one list declaring that Hannah Baker has the 'best ass' in her class ends up making several male characters thinking she is fair game. It ruins her high school experience and results in something very severe. I'm not suggesting that slut shaming drives people to suicide every day. But I am stating that it is a very dangerous concept. It just warrants some thought, I think.
There were so many unanswered questions at the end of the episode. But I find myself comfortable with these questions. I do not want them answering, and I feel I have seen enough. Though I can't help but wonder about the people that are stating, on social media, how much the show has touched them and had an impact on their opinions. I wonder how many of these people have said self harm is attention seeking. I wonder how many of them are the people I shared my break with a couple of weeks ago.
Thirteen Reasons Why is brutally honest and captures our wilful ignorance on camera, for once.