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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

13 Reasons Why

Its 8.30pm and I have just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. I started watching this morning at about 7am and have watched the whole season, plus the writers review episode.

Before I go on this post will include reference to the story so SPOILERS, it will also include reference to sexual violence and self harm, so TRIGGER WARNING.

Not since watching Lost have I sat and watched so many episodes in a row. Heck, Lost only got half a season, which was maybe a similar amount of time. Thinking... nope it wouldn't have been as long. I have watched all day almost non stop (bar about 15 minutes). Ive watched in bed, eating breakfast, sitting on the sofa, laying in bed, stood in the kitchen, sat in a chair, while having a bath, while making and eating dinner, hugging the cat and while having episodes / attacks.

Even while doing other things throughout the day the programme griped me. So much so that I didn't go out side to get sweets! I couldn't stop.

(Image from Official 13 Reasons Why Trailer)

The reason why I was watching was very much based on the fact that other people within my online community have been talking about the programme in the last week or so. There have been mixed reviews, but more good than bad. Knowing that the story was based around a girl killing herself and mental health illness was interesting to me. I felt that there would be parts of the story that I would associate with and maybe learn something from. At the very least to see a topic that is part of my life portrayed onscreen was something I had a desire to see. So much so in fact that I signed up to Netflix just to watch it.

The programme its self has many themes, topics and content which I am not going to fully get into.

One of those topics is cyberbullying, which I have previously written about, so Im not going to cover that too much.

Watching the programme was triggering for me, I did twitch quite a lot. On two occasions, one in particular I started to hit myself quite hard. Obviously this isn't great, however I think the topics that are triggering for me and for some other people are essential topics that should be... that need to be discussed.

We, as a society do not talk about self harm, suicide or rape. These 3 topics in particular have been mentioned by some as being triggering. I feel little bad saying this, but, I am glad these scenes and topics are in this show and the novel (written in 2007). I understand everyone will have their own opinion and thats ok, thats how it should be. Personally I am ok with the scenes that are depicted. However, I would have liked to see more warning and support.

While there is text displayed at the start of the episodes I would like there to have been more information. Relevant details for organisations like Samaritans should have been displayed at the start and end of all episodes. Additionally there could have been a warning icon in the scene prior to the rapes and self harm. This show seems to be very much about informing people and trying to indicate the support that is needed. So I am a little surprised that extra support was not in place. They (studios) surely know that many people watching the show will be people who have been affected by the very serious topics they are discussing. As such appropriate support and warning should have been in place.

Again I am surprised this was not the case as I did not get the feeling that the scenes were there to shock people and be 'dramatic tv' they were there to be an accurate representation of what, unfortunately, many people have been through.

Consent is an extremely important topic, however this programme is not so much about consent as it is about rape. There is no middle ground for me. We are not talking about two drunk people where one person thinks the other one is happy, but doesn't know their not down. It is about one guy sexual abusing two girls / women. It is about a predator abusing his role within the community. He abuses his relationship with his friend by raping his girlfriend. By making it seem acceptable or normalised when this is something it should never be.

Again for me this is an important topic, the 'Bro Code' is violated by the attacker. Being 'Bros' is about supporting each other. One of those two males should have done something differently. Either not attack, or stop your friend attacking someone else. Not to mention the fact that they both accept the rape and violation of someone else.

The hardest scene for me to watch was the suicide. I knew it was coming before I started watching the show. Yet I was not ready for the effect it had on me. I instantly started hitting my head and crying.

I have put a knife to my wrist before and started to push. In that moment I stopped thanks to a cat head nudge. Watching someone else do what I had thought about and started to do wasn't great for me. But again, I think for most people this is an important topic and scene. This is where the path can lead when mental health is not discussed. Hannah is affected by so many things; rape, PTSD, depression, anxiety, I can only imaging what I would do. Talking about our experiences is so important. Reaching out and really talking. Yet I only really see this happen twice in the whole season. Tony and Clay while Clay listens to his tape and Hannah and the Counsellor. Maybe there are others, but these are the only two that stuck in my mind. Given that Hannah is recording her discussion with the Counsellor I almost feel that she expects this to fail, yet she does reach out. In the other scene Tony is totally their for Clay providing his with the opportunity to talk and express his thoughts and opinions as well as being there for him to just react; to cry, to be emotional, to feel.

Again nothing will ever be agreed on by everyone, but that shouldnt mean we don't talk about it. Maybe the show could have been depicted slightly differently. Personally I do not think any scene was shocking in the 'I didn't see that coming' way. I believe the show was produced to promote discussion of topics that are hidden and considered taboo.

Two things I was not keen on.

One, the writers episode view of Hannah. This is something that I didn't really get from the season, but came across in the extra episode. They seemed to suggest that she could have done more. I guess we can always do more. But, damm. You have someone who has a disruptive home environment, a lack of any real close friends, a rape victim, who's attacker is a school celebrity, who's privacy has been violated (rumours times by more than one person) and who seeks help for a Counsellor but gets none. What more could she have done? Rather what more did she need to do!?

She reached out in poetry group, to her peer mentor (in poetry), Teachers were aware there was an issue, friends / acquaintances knew something was up and Counsellor was visited and informed of rape and suicidal thoughts.

My mind skips to how many people are around me but don't know the internal thoughts and struggles...

Two, the happy(ish) ending. Io understand the need to have a happy ending and to be able to make sense of it all. Like this could all be leading to saving the coffee shop girl. Thats a lot lighter than the reality that is set up but not shown. Alex likely dies, Justin likely kills himself, Jessica will battle addiction and have the ordeal of a rape trial. The other people involved will likely get off, but become outcasts within their own communities. The 'story' will be brushed under a carpet as the school tries to protect its reputation. The Counsellor will lose his job likely leading to his own struggles financially, with his mental health and with the relationship with his family.

Reason to be pleased, I have just seen that 13 Reasons Why was going to be a film, but got picked up by Netflix. I am so pleased! This story could not have been as powerful in a 120 minutes. The story needs and deserves the time it could be allowed in a tv show, that a movie could not provide. I am also pleased that there are no famous people in the show. I believe if the show was a film Selena Gomez would have played Hannah. That would not have been good. I was able to accept all actors as their characters partly because I didn't know them. I believe that was important in this show.

Wow, Ive written so much more than I planned, plus I only really decided as I watched the writers episode to write this post. Many to try and get through the emotions that I was feeling was the show ended. It has been a while since I have had an episode / attack like I had while watching the suicide scene. Writing has been a big help for me, its why I started writing Mike's Open Journal. So it felt important to write it out. To productively allow these thoughts, feelings and emotions flow out of my hands. By allowing myself to feel and in some way express them I hope I have been able to release those from my body and mind.

I also hope I have been able to make you think about the topics we don't and maybe should discuss. Maybe to very much disagree with my thoughts on 13 Reasons Why. Personally Im ok with that.

Im sure theres parts Ive missed or not spoken about enough, but for me, this is enough.

Thank you for reading.

13 Reasons Why is not a programme I would recommend. But thats not because its bad, I think its good. I just feel uneasy about recommending this programme to someone. I would rather reach out, ask them for a coffee (or in my case juice), I would rather give them my time and attention than signpost to the show.

If you have bee affected by anything in the show or by this post please talk about it. If you don't feel like you have someone around PLEASE talk to the Samaritans (UK).

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