I binge watched the new season of 13 Reasons Why on Friday and I have quite a few thoughts to share about it. First and foremost…
If you have not watched the show, and still intend to, do not read this blog!
Now that I have that out of the way, I can get started. I want to start off by saying that I really got a lot out of the first season of this show. It approached mental illness and suicide head on and painted the real ugly picture of what suicide is and can do to an entire community. Those who have never lived through that hell needed that shock to wake them up and see what our kids could be going through right under our noses. It was difficult to watch, but necessary, in my opinion.
When I heard there was going to be a second season, I was excited to see how the kids could begin their journey towards healing. I thought it would be deeply profound and enlightening to show how so many damaged people could find their inner strength to rise up and seize life again. After watching the season, I was extremely disappointed. There was no healing, there was only more darkness heaped upon those kids’ shoulders, weighing them down even further. There was no happy ending for anybody. In short, I fully believe that season two of 13 Reasons Why is dangerous and I intend to tell you why.
None of the kids were in counseling – There was one brief mention of Alex seeing a counselor and it was never mentioned again. Clay was angry, sad, and confused – seeing Hannah everywhere and talking to her. Despite the obvious struggles he was having, his parents never put him into counseling. Jessica was raped. She felt so violated and unsafe that she slept on the floor in her parents’ bedroom. Yet her parents never sent her to counseling. Zach was literally begging his mother to talk to him and to listen to him, but she was telling him she couldn’t possibly be feeling those dark things and turned a blind eye to it. Tyler’s parents were obviously worried about him through the entire season; yet they never sent him to counseling until he was in a deep state of crisis and that wasn’t even counseling, it was a military school of some sort.
All of the kids who received a tape from Hannah desperately needed help. They were essentially blamed for their classmate and friend killing herself. That, in itself, would be a huge red flag waving in the air, screaming “HELP ME! I’M FALLING!” As a parent, I know I would grab my son up and run him straight into a counselor’s office for help. No child should ever have to fend for himself in such a traumatizing situation.
The adults were made to look useless – The kids took every situation into their own hands and never asked their parents for help. Yeah, I get that it is realistic that a lot of kids don’t think their parents can help them, but putting out a television show that backs that up? That is irresponsible. It puts forth the image that teenagers cannot rely on their parents to help them out of bad situations. We WANT our kids to come to us when there are problems. We don’t want to perpetuate their feelings that we can’t help, or can’t understand, or need to be protected. It is OUR JOB to protect them, not the other way around. That was a message that needed to be made.
There was no happy ending – The season ended on a dramatic cliffhanger with Tyler being dragged away from the school dance after threatening to shoot it up. Beyond that, none of the main characters we saw was given a chance at a happy ending. I wanted to see Jessica and Alex come together and heal with each other. I thought that was going to happen until Jessica had sex with Justin in the locker room, so there goes that idea. Then, the show made you think that there would be a happy ending, that the kids would find peace, but then they ripped it away with a text showing that Tyler was coming to the dance with an arsenal of guns to take everyone down. It ended with even more fear, even more drama that would be able to destroy these vulnerable children who have already faced so much. The show left the characters with nothing to look forward to, other than more darkness.
There was no justice – Yeah, our justice system regarding sexual assault is seriously fucked up. The victim has to live through her character being questioned and destroyed while having to prove that she was assaulted. Then, even if she’s successful (and that is a big if), she has to watch as her attacker is let off with an extremely light sentence. The attacker is let off easy, while the victim has to live with the fallout of what he had done to her for the rest of her life. It’s sickening. However, the show had an opportunity to show how justice can be achieved. They had the opportunity to show a history of assault in the character of Bryce through the polaroids that had been found. They conveniently removed that evidence so that Bryce would receive the lightest sentence possible. Why? To prove a point about our justice system? To build tension and drama?
It forced Jessica to continually have to go to school with the guy who attacked her, to have to relive that trauma every time she sees him. As a victim of sexual assault, myself, I know how terrifying it is to see my attacker after the fact. I only had to see him once, and that one time sent me into a panic attack of epic proportions. As a victim, I NEEDED to see that justice. I NEEDED to see that asshole get what he deserved. And that was just me.
The story kept going darker and darker – The drama never lets up. It was one dark situation leading to another darker situation, and so on, and so forth. It was an endless journey downward, giving no quarter and no resolution. It was exhausting to watch those kids suffer more and more trauma, without any reprieve. Even at the end, where you would expect to see a resolved conflict and the beginning of a path towards healing, there was none. They took it away. It left me feeling sick to my stomach.
I know the showrunners intended that teenagers watch this show with their parents, but the truth of the matter is that a lot of them won’t. Teenagers will watch this show and believe that adults are not able to help them with their problems. They will watch this show and see that there is no justice in the world. They will watch this show and not realize that there are resources available to them to help them face their own personal hell. Yeah, at the end of every episode, there was a website flashed on the screen and a disclaimer given, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to show a single website without also illustrating what kind of help is out there.
I’m very worried about what kind of message this show is putting out. It is not a message of hope or understanding, it is a message of despair and continual loss. Season two completely missed the mark here.
Next blog: My history of depression and how counseling has helped.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE