‘13 Reasons Why’ Offers A Hard Look At Suicidal Thoughts, Depression and Bullying

Posted by Arpita Sahai in Culture-Vulture
June 3, 2017

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet, we push it just the same.”

 ‘13 Reasons Why’ is founded on Hannah Baker’s ‘states’ of mind, wherein each differs from the other and yet contributes to the larger thematic concern – that of alienation and a departure from a sense of belonging. Hannah’s withdrawal, however, is a coerced one; one that propels her into the peripheries of spatial occupancy, undeterred by her abiding attempts to come to the centre and refurbish the state of affairs in her life.

The functionality of the protagonist is that of a working memory, seeping deep into the consciousness of her listeners. Jessica’s perpetual denial through deliberate delusion, merely to safeguard herself from the unpalatable truth, until it becomes an impossibility; Clay’s ceaseless efforts to be morally correct; Courtney’s denial of truth , unlike Jeff’s, as a defense mechanism to  maintain her own secret; Marcus’ burying of his abuse of Hannah, to masquerade under conventional morality; Tyler’s sincere acceptance of his voyeurism — everyone, with their own behavioral patterns, indicate towards how, at the end of the day, they are puppets at the hands of an inanimate object that has a life of its own.

A conscious mind, no matter how attentive, has a limited power of knowing. It cannot occupy two places at the same time and hence, an acute and absolute observation is beyond the bounds of possibility.  This is valid for any given modality. ‘13 Reasons Why’ invalidates this theory and provides a vantage point for all to know all.

Omniscience, more or less, leads to an objective resolution and exempts us from critical constraints. The constant back and forth between the story’s present and past effectively builds suspense as the flashbacks at first intensify and eventually unravel mysteries.

‘13 Reasons Why’ offers an excellent insight into the suicidal psyche and tackles the issue front-to-back. Death permeates the show through and through. In fact, the show begins in media res — Hannah Baker is already dead. Whatever ensues after that is tainted by her death. As the show progresses, it intensifies in graphic details with an explicit exhibition of sexual and physical violence. Hannah’s suicide, unexpectedly, is not assumed and deducible. On the contrary, it is revealed in comprehensive detail.

The myth of the glorification of suicide must be demystified. The show’s dedication to the staging of traumas — the rasp of the blade through flesh, the thorough visual display of abuse – sexual and otherwise, the hedonistic tendencies which go to the extent of self-annihilation — may all seem to justify the deplorable lifestyle of high school students. However, in my opinion, the show has been successful in maintaining youth appeal for all the reasons but the above. It has enlightened youngsters on depression, insidious bullying, suicide and triggers. It has engendered a sense of compassion for one’s fellow beings.

From the very outset, there are secrets waiting to be unearthed and as much as I’d like to put forth a few spoilers, I won’t. There was an unceasing sense of restlessness and vexation at Clay for not listening to the tapes any faster. The show is emotionally manipulative and at the same time, intellectually coherent. The rumours may be doing their rounds but ‘13 Reasons Why’ is, certainly, not a love story. In fact, as much as Hannah craves it, her life is bereft of love.

Many questions may be ruminated upon: Why do Hannah’s decisions always have dark consequences? Must her judgmental capacities be also brought into question? Is there a standard pattern to them? Have Mr and Mrs Bakers failed as parents? Has Hannah metaphorically murdered Alex? Why does she confide in Tony with her secrets when they have barely interacted?

The audience function as onlookers who witness an occurrence and get to decide the closure for themselves. When the first season winds up without justice granted or denied, one is left with the question, ‘what are we to do with the truth?’. Post-modern theory, which sheds light on the interpretation of truth through power-politics, makes it a difficult one to answer since multiple narratives come into play and it all relies on who is deconstructing the narrative.

Image Credit: 13 Reasons Why via Facebook