13 reasons why 13 Reasons Why is still great (even though season two isn’t perfect)

1. It’s hard for girls to come forward about rape and sexual assault, but it’s even harder for boys

Jessica’s pain of hiding her story haunts the whole of season two. She is not the perfect victim so how can she possibly win against the popular, rich athlete? 13 Reasons Why (both seasons) made me simultaneously angry and sad whilst admiring how it mirrors real-life to make its points. Rape cases against athletes, for instance Brock Turner, who are let off with short sentences, happen all too often. There is a documentary on Netflix called Audrie and Daisy which follows three teenage girls through rape cases. It’s an infuriating insight into how often the rapist is protected, not the victim.

2. Victim blaming

When Bryce Walker was on trial the judge said it was a “tragedy all round” which was simply not the case. This would imply that Bryce was not deserving of his situation when he was, in fact, he was the only one that did anything wrong. Jessica was in no way at fault, not for being drunk or for any other reason. This is known as victim blaming and was used in the case of both Hannah and Jessica, implying that because they’d slept with other guys, drank alcohol and took drugs, that it was fully or partly their own fault. Another example of this in real life is the way people say women are ‘asking for it’ if they wear revealing clothes. It’s no surprise women are scared of speaking out when they know there’s a good chance that they’ll be slut-shamed instead of believed. However, the ambiguous and blurred lines around rape have finally started to become more apparent. It used to just be that rapists were seen as inherently bad men that lurked in alleyways; a stranger jumping out on a girl in the middle of the night. But most cases don’t have that clear distinction.

3. Blame

In Beyond the Reasons (at the end of season two), it was explained that the writers were torn in blaming the school or not. This seemed to come through in the way they portrayed it; although the school was found not guilty, it left room for opinion. I personally feel the school is not solely responsible, there are things they could have done better but then there was always more that everyone could do. However, when there’s a suicide there is often no fault, and in fact it’s not helping placing the blame anywhere. The person had complex mental health issues and decided to take their own life. There are things we can all do to help people with mental health problems who might be feeling suicidal, and talking about it is one.

4. Silencing and censorship

Liberty High’s way of dealing with suicide was to shut it down completely by banning everyone from talking about it. I wondered if this was dealing with criticism following season one of 13 Reasons Why and the possible risk of suicide contagion, meaning the worry that seeing or talking about suicide can promote copycats. But how would not talking about it help? It only worsens the problem by building the stigma around it. Following my first blog post, I was asked to speak on the radio/TV opposite suicide prevention professionals. I get the impression I was expected to counter their arguments, but I wouldn’t ever want to disagree with them, they’re the experts after all. However, I got the sense that most of them hadn’t even watched the 13 Reasons Why.

5. Take responsibility

The truth is, I had to look away during the rape scenes, the suicide scene and especially the horrendous Tyler scene at the end of season two, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they should show them. 13 Reasons Why definitely stepped up their trigger warnings for the second season, but we all know the trigger warnings don’t really mean much now. It’s just a selling point for most people. Those who are likely to be triggered by it are likely to be intrigued by it too. If you’re told not to watch something, you instantly want to.

6. Masculinity is oh so fragile

I already mentioned the demands imposed on boys to be “manly”. Tyler’s terrible experience could be seen as one of the most emasculating acts, which will make it near impossible for him to come forward. The anger that some men display when they don’t get what they want is terrifying. Bryce and the other jocks represent all those guys whose grown-up to believe that they are deserving of power and that they should always get what they want. A woman is just another object that they feel entitled to.

7. Anger vs emotion

Women are allowed to feel emotional, right? So how do men channel their difficulties? The Bryce types of this world take what they want, but then there are the Tyler types; angry because they don’t have the same power. So after Tyler’s ordeal, it makes sense that he would channel it into anger. It was clearly a ‘final straw’ for him as throughout the season he was showing all the signs of potentially doing something big…like a school shooting.

8. The importance of community and friendship

Another issue which added to Tyler’s outburst at the end with his lack of friends. The support network Clay, Jessica and the others create is quite beautiful, especially in the dance scene at the end. Tyler briefly makes friends but ultimately ends up with no support. With no friends, and not being able to talk to his parents or the school, Tyler is alone with his pain. In real life, many men like this find themselves in online forums (this is often the way for incels) to find that sense of community. It’s a way of reaching out for help, but it doesn’t necessarily lead them to the healthiest of places. Many of the recent school shooters have been linked to Men’s Rights Activist, Incel or Red Pill communities. It’s important that we start taking these communities seriously. Some men in them have proved to be very dangerous.

9. Setting a good example

The 13 Reasons Why style is usually to confront the problem, mirroring real life. However, in the second season there were also demonstrations of how people can change, showing how it maybe should be done in the case of school counsellor, Mr Porter. He took full responsibility for his actions, and was trying his best to do the right thing, despite taking it a little too far because of how much he blamed himself.

10. The same backlash is happening again, proving the point is still being missed

The backlash to season two is literally the same as the first one. You’d think that if people didn’t like the first one they wouldn’t watch the second. Plus there’s less an excuse for complaints — you’re aware of the nature of the show and know that it can be a difficult watch. Some people have asked for it to be cancelled, saying that it’s gone too far and it’s just brutal for the sake of being brutal. There are many violent films and TV shows out there that are gratuitously violent for entertainment. For me, this is more damaging. 13 Reasons Why is there to make its audience confront issues in society: bullying, rape and sexual assault, and gender expectations and inequalities.

11. We need TV shows and films that challenge and confront these issues

We need to start admitting that gender and power imbalances are causing major issues in our society. There are hardly any female shooters and terrorists and we can’t keep ignoring this. I’m not saying we should be blaming men — we should be helping them. Men’s Rights Activists often see feminists as being anti-men, but in fact most probably want to help alleviate the issues that the patriarchy created for everyone. Teaching girls that it’s okay to be emotional but not men can be dangerous. We have to show boys (and everyone!) that being emotional and empathic is not a sign of weakness.

12. Compliance

One of the problems highlighted in season two is Bryce’s friends, the jocks, being compliant. You get a sense of how trapped they feel, too scared to be able to stand up to him. In Justin’s case, Bryce looked after him and needed him. Bryce has this immense power over everybody. It comes back to the sense of community again, and being part of a sports team validates their masculinity and tell them that ‘the boys have got your back’.

13. It’s bold and brave shows like 13 Reasons Why that can really make a difference

Our hope lies in the teenagers watching the show. They may be more willing to learn and to create a kinder world. Movements like #metoo are wonderful. It proves we’re listening as a society and making positive change. Social media, for all its downsides, can also be used to make an amazing impact.



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