Angst Angst everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Or something like that.
Living with another human with only one TV means sometimes I’m forced to endure her choice of television. I could get up and sit in another room, but I’m a prisoner of my own laziness and alcoholism.
The latest Netflix Original that is being forced into my retinas is 13 Reasons Why. I would say something “clever” like “13 Reasons why you should watch something else!” Hoho! But then most critics have beaten me to it, though much to my chagrin they’ve been saying “13 Reasons Why you should be watching this show”.
Words like “powerful” have been thrown about, which is a strange word in terms of critiquing something. The Nazis were powerful, they were still shit. Stupid Nazis. It’s based on a book apparently – 13 Reasons Why that is, though the Nazis were also based on a book so legend has it.
The premise is thus. A girl (Hannah something) commits suicide, because her life at the age of 17 isn’t going quite as she would like, but before she does it she records 13 tapes describing why she killed herself, naming and shaming all those who contributed to the decline of her life and mental health. Which in some ways is the main issue with the whole thing, as in my mind, these are the actions of an unstable person who would probably have ended up killing herself or someone else. Each episode we see Hannah’s life and all the shittiness that comes with it as well as those dealing with the repercussions of her frankly short sighted and selfish act except with the added pressure of these tapes.
There are a myriad of issues with setting a drama series in an American high school with mostly teenagers as the focal characters. One is real life teenagers are awful. They’re the worst things in the world. The second is, for the sake of drama, TV Teenagers are unlike any real life teenager, but are equally as awful.
Now, one of the main characters name is Clay and I refuse to acknowledge that there’s anyone in the world called Clay. What a fucking ridiculous name. The others I couldn’t be bothered to remember, so they’ll just be referred to as a number, which is just as well, as each seems to represent a teenaged trope and have nothing else.
So there’s the friend who has a lesbian experience with Hannah and then is like ‘oh shit, everyone has seen a picture of our lesbian experience I’m so embarrassed, my life is destroyed, never mind that it’s the twenty-first century and we’re all a bit more open about this shit.’ There’s the tough guy whose every piece of dialogue is something like ‘game’s changed.’ Or ‘I’m going to use my fists to punch that guy’s head and then everything will probably be okay after that.’ There’s the basketball guy, who plays basketball. There’s the cheerleader. There’s a poetry man. There’s the pervy stalker who is conveniently the photographer, and everyone knows he’s a pervy stalker, but no one seems that bothered and let him photograph away. And then there’s this weird guy who has a mob like family and seems to play the role of aged wise guide.
No one seems to have sat these kids down and told them that what they’re feeling, these feelings of melancholy, rage and constant uncertainty is just life and it’s only going to get worse. No one seems to say ‘fuck at least we don’t pay taxes’.
The worst character however, is Hannah, I’m sort of glad she’s dead, but outraged that in death she’s still the most annoying character. She’s apparently an outcast, despite being fairly attractive and socially aware. She writes a poem, because of course she does. Writers it seems are so bitter about the fact that no one liked them when they were young that every protagonist they write turns to the written word for solace and for incredibly forced moments of profundity.
There’s a concept in literature, films and TV known as ‘The Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ the quirky outcast that changes the lives of the dull miserable men. They’re really fucking irritating. Hannah is sort of this, but worse, more obnoxious. She has monologues about how school makes you conform and takes away your ability to make decisions, ironically played as she peruses a number of different stands there to give information so she can make a decision as to what university, college or career to go into.
She tries to apply for a top university, is told that only those with the best grades get the financial help to join and then rants about how it’s only available for those with money and doesn’t for an instant think ‘maybe I should work on my fucking grades’.
Sure, there’s a certain elitism to the education system that can be exploited by those with money. But that’s not the point. The point is, why does this girl feel so entitled? Other than the fact she’s a teenager? How can I feel empathy with a girl that feels life isn’t worth living because a few people have called her names and not liked her poetry? There’s one scene that really sticks out.
He with the stupid name is reading the poem and says ‘I like this poem.’ And Hannah says something obnoxious. And Clay says ‘Whoever wrote this is a dark person, I like the poem, but I’m not sure I’d like to hang out with her.’ At which point Hannah looks sad and wanders off. Why doesn’t she just say, “I wrote that poem?” I mean she’s already had it confirmed that he likes it, and they already hang out, so he’d go “oh, cool, wanna talk about it?” and then the choice would be hers.
Just once, I would love to watch a show portraying a “social outcast” who truly is socially inept and at the very least plain looking. And just once I’d like to see a drama centred around teenagers where someone says ‘IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER! So people laughed at your poem, that’s what you get for doing something as stupid as writing a fucking poem, get over it, there’s children out there who are living in war zones and don’t have any food, deal with that you arrogant, self-obsessed pieces of shit!’
But that may be just because my teenaged years flitted by in a drunken haze, I was in a band and shit and we didn’t really take it seriously… we won Hertfordshire under 18s battle of the bands. No one wanted to have sex with me and that’s okay because that’s their choice, and I’m a fucking moron, so it’s all good. My teenaged years were boring, maybe if they had some drama I’d feel differently, but I can’t help but feel Teenagers are misrepresented in the media.
What was I talking about?
Right. So, why should I care that this obnoxious middleclass white teenager died because other teenagers said they didn’t like her or her poetry and there was some bullying? Thousands of teenagers go through that, it’s really mundane.
The whole show is poorly written, it’s angst, angst and more angst. None of the characters are likeable. Yet, people are enjoying it, so I guess that’s the main thing.