The book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher was as graphic as a suicide note should be. And many of the readers felt the glorification of suicide as seen in the book was reinterpreted and made into a completely different and unanticipated as an attack on the writer of the suicide note ‘Hannah Baker‘ in the adaptation. In the first season we see the characters in the light of Hannah’s own words. And these words are quite accusational.
The depiction of Hannah is done as if she was a vengeful, defeated teenager looking to torture the perpetrators of her pain in the never ending loop of the cassettes that she leaves behind. Many viewers felt this depiction of a character suffering from mental illness and suicidal tendencies was apathetic to the people actually suffering from such problems.
The second season of Thirteen Reasons Why on the other hand sheds light on the lives of these characters that Hannah accused on her tapes. It also brings fresh perspective on how bullying, slut shaming and rape are dealt with in the real world in court rooms and on the media. In the second season we see more victims, we see more predators and what makes it all more interesting is that we see a mix of both.
Below are 10 things that make the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why better than the first (and the book):
- We see the school system being held responsible for bullying. A few years back you wouldn’t see the school being dragged into court for the consequences of boys being mean to girls on a TV show. That kind of thing was dismissed as harmless, childish behavior even when it was clearly bordering on physical abuse. It’s tremendous to see this shift in pop culture towards bullying and its actual consequences.
- We see women struggling to speak about rape for the right reasons. It wouldn’t be right to show Jessica Davis as someone that easily walked up to the stand and named her rapist. We see the characters getting discouraged due to numerous factors such as race and color and the stigma they would have to face if they were branded rape ‘survivors’. Not to mention the triggers that constant chatter about rape can lead to as well the lack of safety from other predators once highlighted.
- We see the justice system failing rape victims by sentencing a human sanctity violator to only a few months’ probation. We see the law put scholarship and career of the rapist above any sense of retribution that it owes the victim and all these things that we see on the TV show are not that strange and unheard of. As we can that more a more Rape trials are being settled in favor of the defendant, more and more alleged rapists are either being acquitted or being given menial sentences. While women protest death sentences for their attackers in marches it seems the law is shaping up to become even more hostile than it was before.
- We have heard of this time and again that rape or harassment shouldn’t be romanticized. It shouldn’t be appropriated and it really shouldn’t be made into a ‘women’s issue’ because there are male victims we would be ignoring in that case. Showing that men get raped by the same people that rape women in a TV Show is one way to show the ground realities of a social issue.
- We see the (Not so) punk rock culture and it pays homage to Hairstyles of the damned. It is very important for a show to talk about bullying and to discuss that even people who get bullied, bully other people.
- The show emphasizes the importance of having a student counselor so as to deal with the troubled kids, depressed kids and simply just kids with pent up emotions. The show tries to start a conversation about why it’s not just hormones with teenagers and why you really need to do more than ignore their rage.
- We see more of Hannah Baker’s writing. And it’s beautiful.
- The show Thirteen Reasons Why draws a clear line between consensual and non-consensual sex that likes of which haven’t been seen before on television.
- The show deserved credit for talking about virginity. For showing the audience a rare image of a man lying about his sexual encounters because it’s so shameful for them to be inexperienced. It also shows how women live under a constant shadow of their sexual encounters and the way sex is presumably supposed to change them. And this is why we actually have a reason to like Justin Foley this time. Unlike our precious Clay Jensen who cries himself to sleep when he finds out that Hannah Baker actually had good, consensual sex for once, Justin Foley isn’t a man with double standards. He thinks it’s alright if Hannah had a crush, a kiss and sex with three different people. He isn’t quick to think of her as less or feel less motivated in his quest for bringing Hannah justice, unlike Clay.
- It is beautiful how the producers of Thirteen Reasons Why managed to take a suicide note and turn it into something relatable for rape victims, for bullying and lastly to address an issue even more pressing: school shootings.
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featured image credit: Paris Match