13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series you've probably heard of based on a book of the same name you probably haven't read. (I haven't.) It's about a junior in high school who dies by suicide and leaves behind a set of cassette tapes (in the year of our Lord 2017) upon which she calls out a list of people who contributed to her demise. The tapes are passed, in order, from one to the next. And...yeah.
1. It's infuriating. My fury can be summed up with the name of one character: Tony. Tony is an Elvis-looking piece of shit. He's kind of tangential to the actual story--the guy everybody knows (the school's de facto DJ and car knower-abouter, oh, and Walkman-haver WTF), who's all of a sudden on a power trip because Dead Hannah left him her tapes (though he's not important enough to be on the tapes). He starts following Clay (the main character) around, which is never creepy, and when Clay asks him A) why in the hell are you following me and B) just tell me already why I'm on these tapes, Tony gets really cagey. Like, "Just listen to the tapes, man. THE TAPES." He even plays his hit song "Just Listen to the Tapes" for Hannah's mom and dad, when he hands over a thumb drive with all the recordings. Fuck you, Tony. Fuck you and your Elvis hair.
2. Tony's the worst, but he's not the only infuriating one. There are the other people who are "on the tapes," as the cool kids like to say. The crowd of them--jocks and cheerleaders and dweebs, alike--meet up to talk about "the tapes" and why they need to keep Clay in line, and it's just, like, unless you people literally ended up murdering Hannah, whatever's at the end of the tapes is going to be a letdown.
3. The two rapes. I'm not automatically against rape scenes, though they're usually a poor writing choice. I was annoyed about the most recent(?) rape scene (oh! and that other rape scene!) on Game of Thrones, but mostly because they seemed either out of character or inconsistent with the character's motivation. Rape as a plot device is usually lazy. It's shorthand for "this woman's life can't get any worse." I see why Jessica's rape was included in this show, I suppose--they needed SOME criminal reason for everyone to be all secretive and worried about Clay going to the police, but Hannah's rape at the eleventh hour felt to me like "uh-oh, people aren't going to believe this girl had it bad enough to take her own life, better add rape."
4. The two crimes at the party, and POOR JEFF, OMG Jeff. So, not only did Bryce rape Jessica at the party after her boyfriend basically told him to (terrible), but Sheri also inadvertently killed Jeff--sweet and sober Jeff!--by knocking over a stop sign and refusing to call the police. Of course Hannah witnessed this. And, I'm with Clay, here. By including this on her tape as to how Sheri's negligence contributed to Hannah's death, she made Jeff's accident all about her. Jeff is dead. Jeff was the best character on the show. He knew nothing, and was therefore hiding nothing from anyone. He made baseball puns. And absolutely no one talked about him after he died. RIP Jeff. You're the Barb of this show and I will remember you always.
5. The tapes themselves, part one. The fact that she uses cassette tapes to record her voice is very romantic and all, but so anachronistic. Kids born after 2000 do not have wistful feelings about making mix tapes on cassette. Gen X writers do.
6. The tapes themselves, part two. What an asshole thing to do, Hannah. While it ends up that she is telling the truth about the many, many crimes she witnessed, the jocks, cheerleaders, and dweebs are right--this is all from Hannah's perspective. The way she saw it. And now she's laying the blame for her death on people like Alex and Jessica and Zach, who maybe made poor decisions, but weren't horrible people out to ruin Hannah's life. (Also, at least the way Hannah tells it, she's an angel who is pure of heart and makes only good decisions, which I guess is an issue with the POV on this show. We're only getting her side. The worst thing she does is make the tapes.)
7. Clay never should've been on those tapes, and Tony is still an asshole. Clay's only crime is being too dumb/insecure/inexperienced to see that a girl liked him. They kissed, and she went off on him, kicking him out of the room. He respected her wishes--heeded the words coming out of her mouth, which credit to him is WHAT HE'S SUPPOSED TO DO, right, Bryce? Clay left her alone in the room (where she then witnessed Jessica's rape and got a ride home from Sheri, who caused RIP Jeff's death), like she asked him to. Tony, instead of being all "we all killed Hannah," should've said to Clay when he asked pointblank if he's the reason she's dead, "No, mang, you're good."
8. Clay staying would've been a band-aid. Now Clay's left thinking that IF ONLY he hadn't respected Hannah's wishes and stuck around to tell her how much he cared, she would still be alive (and Bryce never would've raped Jessica and RIP Jeff would still be alive). Okay, so maybe it is all Clay's fault. I think it's a good thing that he's come to the conclusion that telling people how you feel when you can is important, but staying with Hannah that night would've only worked for a time. Possibly. What if, in the future, Clay broke up with her or they had a fight or he did something else to slight her? Would the blame be back on him? A cute boy telling you he likes you is nice, but it's not the key to eternal happiness. Hannah's issues went way deeper than that, and I'm not sure Clay--or the show--has illustrated that yet.
9. Though, it tried to get there ALMOST in the final episode. When Clay goes in to talk to #13 on the tapes, poor school counselor Derek Luke, who could really use an assistant what with ALL the nonsense going on in this school, Clay puts the onus of Hannah's death on Luke's Mr. Porter. Mr. Porter, rightly, says this was Hannah's decision. Clay tells Mr. Porter that she came to talk to him and she recorded their conversation and Mr. Porter did not help her. I agree that Mr. Porter saying that Hannah needed to move on was probably not the BEST answer to her "I was raped" confession, but again, he's an overworked high school counselor who barely knew Hannah. And when he gave her the opportunity to come forward, she said no. She left his office and waited for him to come back out (basically after she told him everything was fine, which it was not, and maybe he should've recognized that and come out, but so much of Hannah's issues stem from her waiting for people to do the right thing instead of her being proactive and telling them what she wants). Ugh. I don't know.
10. Maybe it's infuriating because it is real. Teenagers don't always act rationally. There were many, MANY people to whom I never admitted my true feelings. I hardly ever talked about what was really bothering me. I let my friends excise me from our group senior year and left with a shrug, not fighting for my place among them, waiting for them to come back to me. What if I had been in the same mental space as Hannah at that moment? Would anyone have noticed?
11. It's infuriatingly watchable. I didn't binge this series. It took me a few weeks, but I kept coming back because I had to know how it ended, DAMN IT.
12. The ending. It's left kind of open, so maybe we're in for 13 more episodes? Did Alex record tapes before he shot himself in the head? Will Tyler leave tapes before he shoots up the school?
13. And I will totally watch it.
I wrote a book! It's YA novel, THE SOUND OF US. You can find the details right here! Kirkus calls it "a winning story about a teenage voice student that hits all the right notes."
I also wrote another book, Any Boy but You, (You've Got Mail in the Pokemon Go era). You can buy it here.
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