I heard a lot of buzz surrounding this show, so I decided to take some time off from half-watching Switched at Birth while cleaning, which has been my usual routine of late (great show if you know or are learning sign language btw and if schmaltzy teen drama is your guilty pleasure). I read Jay Asher’s book 13 Reasons Why years ago and I don’t remember it being all that good, but damn did it translate to screen well. I think it was written a decade ahead of its time and now is when the cyber bullying thematic really resonates.
From the appearance of the very first cassette tape this show gripped me in a way that made me an emotionally negligent parent. Instead of engaging the poor kid in stimulating play involving wooden toys and like, a math bear or something I was counting down to her next nap so I could listen to the next tape.
The show does a really good job of balancing the how-bad-can-your-life-be-its-only-high-school mentality with the realization that for a teenager, that’s really all there is. If you’ve seen Michael Moore’s newest doc Where Should We Invade Next? You’ll know that Finland has one of the highest ranked education systems in the world and this is attributed in his film primarily to the fact that the kids are given little to no homework. Homework is a commonly used excuse in 13 Reasons for alienating the parents. Its used as an umbrella term for don’t-bother-me and it works because homework is seen as this necessary component of learning. As one teen in Moore’s film explains (with more eloquence than the average Western Society Adult despite his only going to school a few times a week) when your free time is truly your own, you are much more driven to learn during school hours. Its like how they say you shouldn’t mess around on your computer in bed or shit where you eat. With the former you are telling your brain that the bedroom is a stimulating place of activity, therefore its harder to get to sleep. With the latter its just unsanitary mostly, but you see my point. If you keep school work within the boundaries of school, than after school kids are free to expand their horizons, make friends outside of that bubble, connect with their parents and just generally see that there is a light at the end of the four year long tunnel that is high school.
The name of the high school in 13 Reasons is hard to miss. There’s a heavy sense of irony in a place called Liberty feeling like such a prison. As the titular character of the show Hannah says, “Dream big they say. Shoot for the stars. Then they lock us away for 12 years and tell us where to sit, when to pee and what to think.” I hate the idea of my kid growing up in that kind of vacuum, and I hate the idea of her thinking I’m part of the ‘they’ that think it’s a good idea. That’s why despite the controversy about it’s glorifying teen suicide, I think this show is important. I think every parent should watch it and try to remember what it felt like to be in high school without any real concept that there was anything beyond it worth waiting for.
Clay’s hallucinations and fantasies about how he wishes things had played out versus how they actually did become very tiresome by the halfway mark in the series. And Its almost like someone told the director this because they ease off at this point and the story becomes much more engaging. I wish someone had also told him that Tony the Unhelpful Yoda as Clay succinctly names him looks way too old to be a high school student. In the scene where he and Clay are playing volleyball in gym class I literally laughed out loud at the sight of his school issued gym shorts and woke up the baby.
Can I borrow some sleeves? Mine are back in the nineties, along with my youth
Was anyone else psyched to see Lane from Gilmore Girls and Ricky Vasquez from My So-Called Life back in a high school, but dealing with stuff from the other side? My first thought was, “Damn, they got old” and my second thought was “Well shit, that means I did too.” The teachers and principals (seriously, why is a vice principal even a thing?) at this school were truly stunning in their incompetence. Its no wonder there was so much bullying, underage drinking and rape taking place. There were so many guns in the hands of so many drunk adolescents that Chekhov must have been having a flash sale.
Page 1: Give every character a gun
Three separate people in three separate conversations have said to me “I just need to power through the last few episodes of this show so I can get my life back” and I am right there with them. Normally when I start watching a show, I’ll watch one episode a day split between two hour long baby naps so I also have time to read and clean whatever needs to be cleaned. This show took up every minute of both naps and some of the evening too, which is ridiculous considering the tiny window of time in the evening that is free to do something with the hubby. I tried to get him to watch with me, but he turned his nose up at the subject matter and I really don’t blame him. He’s totally going to be the type of father that sits on the front porch cleaning his shotgun when our daughter brings a boy home and he’ll have a blanket moratorium on drugs, drinking, tattoos, boys, foul play, rough housing, and ritual animal slaughtering of any kind. Me, I’m going to try hard to hold on to the teenage me so I can see my daughter’s problems as she does. When she screams at me that I’m ruining her life because I won’t let her go to a party when she just failed a test, hopefully I’ll be able to remember how small her universe is and how, in the context of her life, I am ruining it in that moment. If I can manage to hold on to that perspective and not laugh at her for being dramatic or shrug it off because I know its not the end of the world, I think we’ll be ok. These shows always show the parents as being part of another world, people too old to possibly understand the teenage plight. Interacting with them is just another challenge to be faced.
That’s my point of reference? God, I really am old, aren’t I?
When I finally got to the final half hour of the series, I told my SO and LO that they were on their own and that they could stay up eating junk food and pooping in the tub for all I cared (3 nights in a row one of them has done that, not saying who). The build up to those final moments was so intense that when the credits rolled I found myself saying “wait…what?” Clearly the show is getting a second season, but I feel cheated by a Season ending that depends upon it. There were about a dozen unanswered questions and dammit if I’m not going to have to ignore my family for yet another two-week span when Season Two comes out.