(13 reasons why is) creating a movement (of its own)
It is 2018 - and this isn’t the 1960s anymore. Yet with so developing many movements and activist-groups pushing the envelope, today, to make our societies better, I am reminded of the counterculturalism that the 1960s were known for.
And as you can expect, a systematic way that movements of today express their views is through art. Sometimes, the movements inspire the art. Other times, the movement is influenced by the art - and yet, many at times, the art is the movement.
Netflix’s series, 13 Reasons Why, is - in some ways - creating a movement of its own. I’m not exactly sure what to call that movement but I think it would be something about teenage awareness. The series is about a girl named Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford) who commits suicide and leaves 13 tape-recordings that sort-of explain her decision to kill herself. The unraveling of each tape opens deeper wounds and leads to discussions about more complex issues.
The series does its best to share stories about the lives of young adults and how they struggle with mental health, sexual assault, bully, sexuality and a host of several other issues.
The creator of the series, Brian Yorkey, recently told Vulture.com that “[13 Reasons Why is committed] to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can.”
Like several forms of socially-conscious art, the series is not without controversy. It has sparked moral outrage about some of its graphic depictions of assault and the series is believed to have been the inspiration for some real-life copycat suicides.
In fact, personally, I didn’t think the series was going to be back for a second season but about a week ago, Netflix released the second season of 13 Reasons Why and after binge-watching the new season, I am convinced the series is indeed creating a movement of its own.
In season one, 13 Reasons Why tackles themes of suicide, bullying and sexual assault but the series did that in a way that is more descriptive than informative. It merely created an awareness of these issues but didn’t really provide much in the way of content warning or guidelines to help deal with the sort of situations the characters were experiencing. In season one, the storyline was prioritized over the themes it tackled.
Season two is a glaring contrast from that. Season two is all about the issues young adults go through and the search for resolutions. The new season tackles everything from suicide, rape, toxic masculinity, bullying, school mass shootings, peer pressure, relationships, to divorce - amongst several other issues. The producers also add public service announcements in each episode that point people who may be going through any of the aforementioned issues in the right direction. The 13reasonswhy.info website provides a lot of resourceful contents including a series of videos where the cast address these issues.
However, it is the way the second season depicted the issue of rape that stood out to me the most.
In the season’s very last episode, we see one of the characters - Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) - who was a victim of rape in the first season - standing before a judge to testify against her rapist. As Jessica tells her story, the camera pans around and we see that she is not alone. For the very first time, we begin to hear other characters share their own stories of sexual assault.
With this scene, 13 Reasons Why joined the #MeTooMovement - the movement that has brought the atrocities of several Hollywood personalities to light.
With season two, 13 Reasons Why not only creates awareness for important issues that teenagers or young adults go through, it goes deeper to provide more context and possible resolutions for these issues. In some ways, the series is more than a representation of an era of movement. It is forming a movement of its own by sharing stories that raise awareness for teenage issues.
It is for that reason, I believe it is one of the best teenage drama series we have seen in awhile.