Outrage at a brilliant drama
In The Guardian today, Denis Campbell summarises the 'professional' criticism of Netflix's new drama, 13 Reasons Why. The article is worth reading, but how many of those who criticised the drama actually watched it, in sequence, all through? Any?
This writer and his family did watch over the Easter period. The drama is compelling. It is not horrific, in the sense of a 'horror story'. It is horrific to be presented, dramatically, with the way in which the teenage years are a universe unto themselves, and how fraught they can be for many of us, and difficult to pass through unscathed.
Yet the Guardian review suggested in its headline here that it is a 'horror show'. It is not. It explores, through drama, the impact when a young person in a small community (a school) takes her life.
As is clear from the first episode, the suicide could be described as a 'revenge suicide'. Indeed the whole story is predicated on the missing teenager Hannah Baker, leaving a series of tapes explaining the "13 Reasons Why".
In a previous professional incarnation, this writer taught exactly the age group presented in the story, namely 16 - 19 year olds. As it happens, the topic of Suicide came up as part of the Sociology syllabus. One class, when asked if they had ever contemplated suicide – not as a likely option but as a possibility – everyone, except one student, said "yes" (and that included their teacher). The one student who had not was asked by his peers, "really?" They were surprised anyone could get to 16 or 17 and not have thought about it, at least in theory, as applying to themselves.
One class is not a scientific study, but suicide is something teenagers do ponder, and at times of great pain, do consider.
Powerful and thought provoking ...
The Netflix drama is very well acted. It has the feel of ensemble acting, and all the cast seemed able to carry the necessary emotional intensity, while at the same time avoiding a descent into melodrama. Is the story believable? Not entirely, but then that applies to just about every other drama on Netflix or anywhere else. Is it credible? Yes.
As the thirteen reasons unfold, we see the pain of Hannah Baker's life through her interactions with her peers, parents and teachers. We do so through the eyes of Clay (shown in the picture above) a boy more challenged than most with his inability to express himself to both parents and peers.
Hannah has taken her life. The consequences to other people's lives are shown through the drama, very realistically. The more sensitive of her peers absorb the guilt they bear and it plays out in their own lives. The staff, who missed Hannah's fall into despair, are not unfeeling monsters, but busy adults who are simply human. The school counsellor is not the ultimate fall guy for missing Hannah's call for help; the drama, early on, points out that his training (like many school counsellors) is limited. Others might have picked up Hannah's despair, through better training or through innate ability and empathy. But 221 times in the UK last year, people missed the signs for this age group.
It would not be fair to give away the twists and turns of the story. By the end we do, indeed, understand why Hannah makes the decision she does, even though we can see (in a way she cannot) that even this will pass.
The Netflix series covers a large number of teenage issues, not least being gay and sexual harassment. It will be discussed by teenagers, parents and teachers alike. Hopefully, it will form the centrepiece of good classroom explorations. Certainly, it will allow the more perceptive of this age group to understand how casual cruelty can be devastating if you are on the receiving end.
But, it shows you how to do it
Yes. It does.
And it does so in a way that is moving and absolutely suggests it is not an easy way out.
Hannah is an intelligent (very) girl. It took me ten seconds (that is 10 seconds) to get an answer to how to successfully commit suicide by cutting your wrists. I used Google. You don't have to sit through 13 episodes of a drama to learn how. I learned several things I did not know.
The criticisms are spurious.
The Netflix drama is not perfect, as a drama, or as a social statement, but it is a powerful evocation of how life and love can and should triumph over despair and death. I expect even the Samaritans will quietly add it to their list of what their volunteers should watch.
Hats off to the author and all the actors, and to Netflix for having the courage to show this. No credit at all to those calling for censorship.
Here is a link to the original book
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
Posts can be reproduced in other blogs provided they are copied in full with a link back to this site.
When a teenage priestess, living 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, connects with Rhory, an English schoolboy visiting the British Museum, she puts herself and him in grave danger.
Click here to learn more about M C Morison's time slip book
Is our History Simply Wrong
The World's Oldest City
Is God Fair
Queen Nefertiti and Treasure in Turkey
Dark Deeds - Mind Lab
Darwin and the Mousetrap
One eyed monsters
Do Angels have wings
Psyche Soul and Mind 2
Psyche Soul and Mind 1
Atlantis Old and New 2
Atlantis Old and New 1
Secret space programme
Spirit and spirits
Awareness and Higher mind
The fake news war
Citizens hearings on disclosure
Understanding the Goddess
Thrive - did you miss this
Fake news and the alt media
Ascension Part 2
Ascension Part 1
Mundi - a mind trap
The Mundane and mundi 2
The Mundane and mundi 1