13 Reasons Why (漢娜的遺言) and I

(long overdue writing exercise)

(Mild spoiler)

The latest Neflix series was so addictive that I finished watching all 13 episodes in about 3 days before I could stop and think about it. I felt it was a well-made show which was worthwhile to watch, and then I saw online posts about how wrong the show was in many levels. It would not be meaningful to attempt any debate, because the ways I reacted to the episodes were personal, and so were the perspectives of some of those critiques.

It was worth my time but it was a long and depressing process. It began with the lead actor Clay’s version of Hannah Baker’s story, but it was painful enough to watch Clay endure the truth he was not able to see before, let alone Hannah’s first person experience. It was agonising to watch Clay hesitate in the past, but it was the same witnessing him acting forward at present. That is because there was nothing he could have done to change that Hannah was gone. Thanks to the powerful screen-writing and directing, it was as if Hannah’s memory, Clay’s recollection and the present were three separate series being merged into one layer and played at Andante. The last episode only finally explained the existance of episode one – we already knew what happened we just did not know how. The tension was tremendous but there was little suspense, because there were no surprise, or any sense of relief or exiting at the end. And just like that, Hannah gradually lost her courage to sail through the shadowed mist, and the storytelling got colder and colder.

I realised how far away school life was from my life, and how irrelevant most of the story was to me: attending classes, trying to make friends, living with parents. Maybe I have not realised this before, because I am still in and out of university. Yet, bullying/abuse happens in adulthood too, even though adults are “supposed” to be better at protecting themselves and the vulnerable. Hannah did not protect herself well enough although she has the awareness. Living in a house with professional adults and compulsory property insurance was supposed to be 100% safe too, and I can respect that people are all different, and deal with the unwashed cookware, door slamming and cupboard theft. However, I was not expecting the creation of hatred and division, and silly game of authority, in an otherwise perfectly harmonic household. Adults have nobody to blame – they are expected to be fully functional, tough, alert, able to make their stance and able to seek help.

Steering back to the series, it was believed by some that the road to suicide should not be appreciated as a story and made into entertainment. However, it was clear that the series was not just a short memoir of Hannah’s, but also how small things that we believed to be harmless that we allowed to happen could have a butterfly effect on other’s life (I wrote this then remembered it was Hannah’s exact words). It was not about Hannah returning as tapes to haunt the living and take revenge – her voice-over, as well as Clay’s frowning, falling over, sweating, hallucinating, were the media/settings through which the fictional life of a high school student was depicted. It was heavy on campus social life this time, but it could be at home, or at work next, in any situation that one cannot simply jump out of.

The show did not give an impression that anyone could die to make a statement/ solve a problem, as some comments suggested. Otherwise they may also say, Marvel films promote violence or Harry Potter promotes a false sense that magic is the answer to our daily problems. 13 Reasons Why did not show how the the lawsuit developed or if anyone involved received legal consequences.

Finally, look out for the Tony’s in our life, and never let them go.


Featured Image “Immotal Monocot” – finished around Easter 2012. Used as it was original so I can avoid Copyright issues; was sharing the greyscale theme with 13 Reasons Why; and was how I once got through tough time.

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