13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why Missed the Mark

Val & Kendra get real about 13RW
Don’t read unless you have completed the Netflix show: 13 Reason Why.  ~Spoilers ahead~
Trigger warning: suicide, self-harm, sexual assault

1.   As a suicide survivor, 13RW was not relatable.  I understand that everyone has a different story, and mine may be unique; however I don’t feel that it captured the deep levels of loneliness and hopelessness. Additionally, by not seeing the internal struggle, we were forced to watch a horrendous series of outside forces taking Hannah down.

2.      One of the most heartbreaking fails that 13RW dishes out is the rape survivors fate.  The message here is that if you are assaulted you are given just two options: suicide or secrets. 

3.      Those struggling with mental illness: you aren’t represented within this series.  Characters are depicted as victims to their surroundings; they have a predisposed fate and lack of free will.  They are not succumbing rather they are unaware there is another way.  In reality 90 percent of suicides are linked to mental illness.

4.      Overall message: “be kind.” This is an oversimplification of what is truly at stake.  People are taking away different messages with the overarching being the most prevalent and perhaps the most useless.

5.      No protocol. For instance, Hannah’s teacher, counselor, and Zack all had very ominous interactions with Hannah and none of them notified anyone. Here’s what your school should be implementing:  
FIRST.      Parents should be notified.
SECOND.      Mental health resources should be provided (either through the family’s practitioner or a 3rd party mental health provider. Schools have MANY resources in this area.)
THRID.      Schools are NOT investigators; they are only reporters: MANDATORY REPORTERS.

6.      What the fuck, Justin?  That’s your girlfriend and not only did you allow a rape to occur you lied about it.  Justin has an awful living environment but that doesn’t outweigh the fact that he continually makes the wrong choice.  This is another area where I feel the show could have informed the audience that if they are living in this type of environment there is a way out.  Instead, in the final scene with Justin, he is walking off in the sunset with a duffel bag. Again, reinforcing the notion that there are only two options: running away or secrets.  

7.       Conversations about 13RW are being banned in schools and teacher are being told to use other resources. Our take is that as long as there is context and further information, there can be intelligent dialogues surrounding the series.  When has banning anything ever worked? Not to mention kids are going to watch this, but there definitely needs to be an adult with them; one who is willing to address all the questions that come up.

8.      Where were the parents?  Seriously, I know that in YA centric casts, parents are always the missing piece that everyone seems to conveniently forget. Parents allow for teens to dash off to Amsterdam or traipse all over the state for a school project, but in real life parents are around.  Especially in Hannah’s case. They just chose to be absent.  They were sending her out without asking where she was going or who with.  They lease her a new car for a dance but don’t bother to meet all of the friends she was going to be driving.  Clay’s parents seem more involved but they too ignore their child’s wants and do what they think is best often at odds with one another.  (I mean the police station scene, seriously?)  Zack’s mom never bothers to question why her son didn’t want to go to Clay’s house after his car was keyed.

9.  Sexual assault statistics.  Meaning the numbers speak for themselves.  We didn’t need to repeatedly be shown images of rape to understand that this is an issue that we have failed to eliminate in the U.S.

10.  More warnings.  13RW is a show that is filled with graphic images.  They are gratuitous, but more importantly they are dangerous.  As someone with a history of sexual violence, harassment, or self-harm, this show does little to warn you about what you are about to endure.  Be careful.

11.  More resources.  If the point of this endeavor is to reach teens who are facing these issues, why not have the contact information of organizations, designed to help, at the end of each episode?  There needs to be a level of accountability; and if you don’t feel that this is your responsibility, then make another new version of a Disney movie from my childhood and call it a day.  No one’s asking you to be a hero.
*If you or someone you know is suffering from an assault, harassment or dealing with mental illness here are some resources.

12.  When Justin’s (see what I mean now in number 6) video of Hannah began to be circulated around the school how has nothing been done by the school?  Cyberbullying/sexting is a huge issue that is completely overlooked.

13.  Friends?  Networks?  Social circles? Not only were the parents notably absent but there weren't any real friendships in this series. From the first scene, we see quite a bit of hatred among the cast of characters.  Hannah says multiple times how she just needed a friend.  Clay, who is supposedly in love with Hannah, constantly wanes between love-struck and unforgivable.  I understand pettiness but these characters are disgusting towards one another.  This plays into 13RW for making the world this big bad terrible place where the only way to survive is to get out.