This weekend, while nursing a drunk karaoke hangover from the night before, I decided to see what this whole 13 Reasons Why thing was all about. You know, to keep in touch with what the kids are watching these days. I’d seen about a million think pieces about the show’s portrayal of teen suicide, and whether or not it was good or bad for kids, and thought “eh, maybe I’ll fuck with it.”
So, after 13 hours of binge watching unrealistically attractive high school students (played by 30-year-olds) try to work through Hannah Baker’s untimely death, I have come to one conclusion about the show’s portrayal of teen suicide: it doesn’t matter because the show is garbage.
Trash that is so hot that it’s on fire.
Trash that is so on fire the someone will tweet a picture of it and use it as a metaphor for our current political situation.
Just a hot, hot trash fire of a show, that I spent my entire Saturday hate-watching (yes, I could have stopped watching at any time, but then we wouldn’t have this amazing think piece, would we?). By the end of my binge, I was so angry that I’d wasted an entire hangover on that I almost slit my—well, okay let’s not go there. I’m not going to kill myself over some teenage drama. I didn’t do it in high school, and I’m not doing it now. But, nevertheless:
13 Reasons Why, welcome to your tape.
TAPE 1, SIDE A: Hannah Baker Is Annoying AF
Holy shit. Could someone be more extra from the grave? I have never hated a tragically dead girl more than I hated Hannah Baker. From the first moment she said “Hey, it’s me…” I knew this tape shit was going to annoy me, which is a problem because it’s like, the entire conceit of the show. Hannah is so annoying throughout the show that it’s hard not to agree with the characters who say she creates her own drama. That’s not to say she deserves the worst shit that happened to her, but the categorization of her as a “drama queen” is not that far off. And don’t even get me started on all her pithy little quotes. “Once again, you and the point are complete strangers.” Give me a fucking break. Also, she realizes that she could just ask Clay out herself, right? Like, Bumble exists now. Girls can make the first move. This girl spends the entire series talking about how she has no friends, when in fact she makes a new friend every goddamn episode and dates like every member of the basketball team. She has friends at school. She has friends at work. She attends literally every school party and function. If this chick is an “unpopular loner” then what the fuck does that make me in high school? Ugh actually don’t answer that.
TAPE 1, SIDE B: WHO TF WOULDN’T LISTEN TO ALL OF THE TAPES?!?
Clay Jensen, this one’s for you. Who the fuck wouldn’t listen to all of the tapes? Again, I understand that this is a major plot device in the show, but I’m just not buying it. Oh, you get “panic attacks” when you listen to them? Then take a fucking Xanax, grab a glass of wine, and get that shit done. Nobody in their right mind wouldn’t listen to all of the tapes immediately, no matter how much a “special guy” you are. If Clay was half as “smart” and “good” as the show was trying to claim that he was, he would have listened to the tapes immediately, or at least fast forwarded until he got to his own name, and then turned that shit into the police because the tapes literally say he didn’t do anything.
TAPE 2, SIDE A: This High School Should Be Shut Down By The Government
Okay so what the fuck is going on at this high school? Students are allowed to illegally distribute “zines” and teachers will just use that shit for lessons in class? The Cheerleaders are allowed to set up students and give out their personal phone numbers for a dollar? One girl kills herself and another boy with a perpetual cut on his forehead starts showing serious signs of mental illness and nobody does shit? Hannah literally told multiple teachers she wanted to kill herself, and none of them piece that together until a few weeks later? Hey principal, remember in episode 1 when I said I had never talked to Hannah Baker, well, come to think of it she actually came into my office and told me she was sexually assaulted and going to commit suicide, do you think that could be something? Kids on campus are drinking alcohol out of water bottles in the middle of the day, and straight up disappearing to go rock climbing with Gay Mexican The Fonz and nobody even calls home? Wtf is this school? The only explanation I can think of is all of this is supposed to take place in November of 2017, so the whole thing is a result of Betsy DeVos becoming Secretary of Education.
TAPE 2, SIDE B: Clay’s Fucking Forehead
Clay Jensen spends 90% of the show riding around on his bike injuring himself, but nothing compares to the injury he sustains when he straight up gets hit by a car and busts his face open, creating wound that will follow his dumb ass throughout the entire show. Every episode this wound gets more and more disgusting and yet causes no alarm to any of the adults around him. Seriously. Not even one person says, “Hey Clay, the giant vagina of a wound across your forehead appears to be giving you jaundice, have you considered getting stitches?” Clearly the other kids on the tape were hoping that if their scare tactics wouldn’t stop Clay from releasing the tapes, then he’d die from the obvious infection on his face.
TAPE 3, SIDE A: I Shouldn’t Have To Say This, But Rape Is Worse Than Slapping Someone
So uh…anybody else notice that one thing on the tapes was not like the others? Like, yes, it was rude for that boy to publish Hannah’s poem without her permission, and Jessica probably should not have slapped Hannah at Monty’s, but that is all some pretty typical high school shit compared to the fact that Bryce is an actual fucking rapist. And sure, this point gets brought up a few times on the show, but it’s always met with someone (usually The Real Slim Shady Alex or Gay Mexican The Fonz) saying cryptically that “we all killed Hannah.” But guess what—no you fucking didn’t! I mean maybe a little, but there’s a pretty vast difference between circulating a list where you say someone has the best ass in school (why would you even be upset about that tho), and being a serial sexual assailant who has victimized multiple women on campus. And sure, Sheri probably should have called about that downed stop sign, but I think the police are going to be fairly willing to overlook that once they get to the two allegations of sexual assault that led to a suicide. The fact that every character didn’t immediately say, “Oh nobody is going to GAF that Courtney is gay once they hear about the fact that Bryce is literally raping people,” is probably the show’s biggest flaw, and that’s saying a lot. Seriously, if you want to make a show about the effect misogyny and rape culture can have on young girls, do that. Do that all day. But know that when you do that you’re going to also have to do the emotional and moral legwork to go with it, and certainly don’t sit here and pretend like a guy stealing your notes out of the compliment jar is on the same level.
Also, what the fuck is a compliment jar?
TAPE 3, SIDE B: FML Forever
“FML forever” is a phrase coined by Alex, Hannah, and Jessica during their meetings at Monty’s and it is perhaps one of the most egregious crimes committed on the show (apart from Bryce and stalking). As soon as I heard it uttered as words in episode 2, I should have known that the show was going to be bullshit. While it does perfectly encapsulate the feeling of watching 13 Reasons Why, no teenager on Earth would ever say it out loud. Its inclusion in the show is your biggest hint that the whole thing was written by a 41-year-old man.
TAPE 4, SIDE A: That Fucker With The Camera
Good Lord this kid was annoying. As far as I recall from high school, members of the yearbook committee were not allowed to photograph other students from the window of the bathroom. They were also required to take classes other than photography, and their desire to help create a nice catalogue of all the school’s memories didn’t correspond to being a literal stalker who circulates photos of students hooking up around the school. Also, you’re “in love” with Hannah? What the fuck are you talking about? You have literally no interaction until she catches you hiding in the bushes trying to take photos of her changing. I’d throw a rock through this dude’s window whether a bunch of dead girl’s tapes told me to or not.
TAPE 4, SIDE B: Gay Mexican The Fonz
I could not, for the life of me, understand this character. So, he dresses like a 1950s tough guy, has a nice car, is gay, speaks Spanish occasionally, and is also close enough to Hannah that she would entrust him with her suicide tapes, yet not close enough to Hannah for her to consider him when she says she has “no friends.” He’s the moral heart of the show, but at no point during his first listen to the tapes did he ever think, “fuck what this clearly mentally unstable person wants, these tapes contain serious allegations about assault and school misconduct and I owe to this girl’s parents, society, and the student body at large to report them.” Nope. Instead he’s just like, “I’ll just stalk everyone in my nice-ass car just like this girl on the brink of suicide’s instructions say that I should.”
TAPE 5, SIDE A: Communications Class
What is this? Has anyone ever heard of this? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but has literally anyone on Earth ever taken a class like this? And I’m not talking about some hippie school your cousin went to where they don’t get grades, I’m talking about a public high school. Apart from the fact that this class exists exactly nowhere, it seems like it’s the source of a huge amount of trouble for the school and very little learning. Like, who could have guessed that class that appears to be entirely predicated on high schoolers sending anonymous letters to each other would have disastrous consequences? This teacher had one job, and it was to report the time a student anonymously told her they wanted to commit suicide, and she didn’t do it. Oh, that and watching the compliments jar, which she also failed to do.
TAPE 5, SIDE B: Jessica
How are we supposed to feel about Jessica in this show? On the one hand, she slapped Hannah, which is mean. On the other hand, she’s been driven to premature alcoholism by the suppressed memories of being assaulted by the captain of the Basketball team. Like, I kind of give the slapping a pass? Also, isn’t Hannah kind of a dick for including her as a “reason” why she committed suicide given the fact that Jessica kind of has more of a reason to be mad at Hannah than Hannah has to be mad at her? Like, I’m sorry but you can’t roast someone in Tape 2 and then reveal that you were complicit in their assault on Tape 5.
TAPE 6, SIDE A: One Of The Characters Is Named Montgomery De La Cruz
Nope. Nah. Hard pass here. How did no one look at the script for this show and say, “Hey guys, there’s a character in this show named Montgomery De La Cruz, and that’s just not a real name that a human teenager has.” The fact that this character does anything in the show besides justify his completely insane name, or fill out paperwork to have it legally changed, is one of the show’s most glaring inaccuracies.
TAPE 6, SIDE B: Alex’s Hair
Why? Just why? We’re supposed to believe that this dude has dated the two hottest women in school and regularly hangs out with the basketball team while rocking the same hairstyle as early ‘90s Eminem? Again, this shit is just not believable.
TAPE 7, SIDE A: Who Invited The Librarian?
Okay, first things first, why the fuck is there some 30-year-old hipster at the college fair just representing the concept of being a librarian? I honestly feel like this dude wasn’t invited to the college fair at all, and he just rolled up with a bunch of dusty-ass books and sat down because the school, as we’ve previously discussed, has no fucking clue what’s going on within its walls. If this guy really wanted to help Hannah he would have told her to get to Sallie Mae and take out some fucking loans because to become a librarian you need an MFA in library sciences. Also, and I hate to break it to all the “I only read real books” people out there, but the only difference between reading Infinite Jest on a Kindle and reading Infinite Jest as a book is the back pain you’re going to get from carrying that shit in your backpack all day.
Honestly, there is more to say about this show’s depiction of teen suicide and whether or not it’s good for kids (it’s not), but those analyses are better left to people who are like, experts and shit. For me, this show didn’t even have the time to let me down with its irresponsible depictions of suicide because it was so busy disappointing me in its ability to just be a show that makes sense.
Next time I decide to dedicate an entire day to binge-watching a show, I’ll be sure to make sure that show is actually good before getting too invested to stop.
Actually, who am I kidding. No I won’t.