Here are my thoughts. Full and unedited because I don’t have the energy to think about this any more.
I read the book when I was fourteen and was not impressed. I found that, in trying to be ‘realistic’, the book managed only to convey the (despicable) message that power and influence can only be achieved posthumously.
Also that the protagonist who (spoiler alert) commits suicide chooses not to attempt to rebuild bridges or move on; instead, she leaves behind a collection of tapes, recorded in the safety and privacy of her own bedroom, before killing herself.
This is an extremely morbid equivalent of taking a shit in the middle of a busy restaurant and walking away.
Hannah Baker’s last words are bitter, malicious, and manipulative. They are delivered coldly. There are hints at god-like omniscience – ‘I’ll be watching’ etc etc – that make it difficult to see how this concept could be perceived as anything other than glorification of suicide. (And yes, I have seen the final scene. I thought it would be a good idea to desensitise myself so I watched the end first, on youtube. It looked like a how-to guide. And I felt sick that it had been allowed to broadcast.)
So from the beginning, I was not sold on the premise.
This is coming from somebody who has, as they say, been there. It’s probably a very different viewing experience for people who are not quite so close to the subject matter; I can see that another interpretation is the message that people should be Listened To, and that Your Actions Have An Effect On Others, and Be Nice To People, Don’t Be A Fucking Bully and all that bullshit that’s already saturating the media under various different aliases.
this show is not great.
The following is a hybrid of my own thoughts on the episode and the messenger conversation I had with Kara as I was watching it, and she has kindly allowed me to include her responses in this post (thanks Kara I love you). Right-align is me, left-align and bold is Kara, then for the second half of the episode, it’s just my thoughts that I wrote in microsoft word as it was happening.
(tbh I find it difficult because there’s a difference between ‘opening up the conversation’ and producing mental illness porn) (i didn’t enjoy the book i found it trite and oversimplistic) (but i’m trying to be open minded)
two people i particularly enjoy are involved in the series
brian yorkey, lyricist for broadway show next to normal
and brian d’arcy james, the original shrek on broadway
“””live and in stereo””” jesus christ
i promise you will hate a number of cliches that aren’t even relevant to the storyline
when you get to the star wars comment let me know
“””she was so pretty!!!1!!!!””” “”””totally!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!11!!!!!!!!!!!!!**!1!!!””” jESUS CHRIST
clay develops this saviour complex i found it quite nauseating
i’m with the guy who just said ‘it’s been a week can we move on’ because to be honest it would be really disturbing if a school fixated on it for more than a week like wow i would be so fucked up by the end of that week it would be so triggering?? i apologise if that sounds callous or disrespectful but i feel quite entitled to voice my opinions about this show in particular?????
my keys! ‘ oh cheers pal nice one real funny subtle humour
‘I even decided to like basketball for you, Justin.’
Imagine a world. A beautiful world. Where relationships are not dictated by shoving aside one’s own pursuits in favour of those held by your romantic interest. Where you like the things you like, and the partner likes the things they like, and there’s no sighing and pretending to care, there’s no shrugging of the shoulders and thinking ‘I guess I’ll try to feign interest, but I’ll be sure to let them know that this is a real bore for me and that I’m doing them a massive favour by even attempting to participate, I’ll do this for you but it’s really annoying.’ The sport trope and the video game trope are fantastic examples of the Boxes that Girls Are Required To Tick in Order To Be ‘Special’ or ‘Interesting’ or (god) ‘Not Like Other Girls’.
‘Is your dad also thin and nervous?’
Although the words are coming out of the mouth of a female actress, Hannah manages to channel the dialogue of a middle-aged man trying to mimic the speech patterns of a teenager. In fact, all of the characters speak like this. Nobody has a voice. All the dialogue blends. I doubt I’ll remember who said most of these quotes because nobody has any defining traits. Who are these people? What story are they trying to tell?
‘I can’t understand a thing Madam Steinberg says, it’s like she’s speaking German!’
Where did this come from. All these little quips. Probably intended to be witty. But delivered in the same absent monotone as the tapes and the rest of the dialogue. I don’t know what, or if, this show wants me to feel, but the juddering inconsistency of underlying emotion isn’t tantalising. It’s just lazy and poorly structured. It sounds like the stringing together of a bunch of 2am notes scribbled in a bedside notebook, annotated with ‘This will be funny!’ and ‘Fit this in somewhere!’. The dialogue is the stepsister’s foot shoved into Cinderella’s shoe.
‘I don’t take the bus either!!!!!’
So I feel like it’s trying to convey Hannah’s desire to shake off social expectations after a long and taxing day at high school, under the superficial (and already boring) nascent romantic plot. Her prank, putting the dude on the bus and conveniently hopping off herself just before it pulls away, isn’t funny, isn’t cute, isn’t anything more than obnoxious. I wish I could feel anything for these characters, but I don’t, which is why it’s so easy to slate.
‘I know what you’re all thinking. Hannah Baker…is a slut.’
Well, no, actually. I’m thinking there has not been sufficient foundation work done in terms of character construction for any of these actions or scenes to have any significance. All of these people are flat lines.
I’m thinking, Hannah Baker is a glutton of emotional provocation. (Almost sociopathic. But I’ve been informed that this show never makes any mention of specific mental illness or conditions, so all of this is, of course, conjecture.)
‘Hannah wanted it done like this.’
Ah. Here we go. The big guns.
Right. For a long time in literary heritage, the question of power in death has been explored.
Jesus is a popular example.
Ophelia in Hamlet is another. Hamlet, the prince, has flirted with Ophelia, chatted her up, and then proceeds to aggressively dismiss her. Ophelia’s father, Polonius, is stabbed by Hamlet, and dies. Ophelia is living in the court, where the atmosphere is heightened as the inhabitants are adjusting to the royal switcheroo from Hamlet Senior (glorified, and dead) to Claudius (not the most likeable of monarchs). Ophelia (arguably) becomes ill as a response to these things combined and, having minimal power over the situation given her position as a Young Woman Of The Time, her only option is suicide. This is the only way she is able to seize any power over her story. Her suicide makes sense.
This is not the case for Hannah Baker. 13RY is set in 2017, apparently (I don’t have the energy to discuss how mismatched the temporal context of this show is). The portrayal of, and discussion around, Hannah’s last wishes as they were recorded on the tapes, conveys a subtextual inference that in order to get what you want, which appears to be revenge rather than peace, you need to die, because dead people’s wishes are more powerful than those of the living. This is something that bothers me. This is not honouring the dead. This is using suicide as a form of manipulation. Hannah is dead, but the tapes reach back and grip the ankles of those forced/compelled/instructed to listen, and spark the flame of guilt in order to drag them down with Hannah.
Hannah’s elaborate post-suicide plan is not something that deserves to be executed. In choosing death, I believe, one denounces any power over the living; it is a choice to leave the world. Everything about the world. Suicide is a personal conclusion to a turbulent life. But it’s still a conclusion. You don’t get to reach back through these tapes and ask for more.
Leaving the tapes in circulation is furiously scrawling in Sharpie over the book of one’s own life, and then sending it around. Almost a juvenile attempt at getting the last word; a decisive, final, one-up on everyone that Hannah felt wronged by. As if suicide wasn’t enough, this one comes neatly packaged with a side of blame and a few sachets of spite.
‘Tony…am I side 2?’ *Tony walks away.*
Considering that this show is supposedly meant to open up dialogue about the array of complicated issues it tries to tackle, nobody seems particularly willing to talk about things. Keep festering in your guilt, Clay. It’s apparently what Hannah wanted.