I’m watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix currently. It is a teen drama that centers around the suicide of a teenage girl. This may include spoilers, I’m not totally sure.
A few days ago I started watching 13 Reasons Why, and I am just now a few minutes in to episode three. I actually paused the episode to write this. I’m only watching one episode at a time, so far. It is because I love/hate this show already.
I love that it is engaging and intriguing. The frame narrative is a fun way to emphasize the notion of the unreliable narrator. And an unreliable narrator always makes things more fun. And it is fun without being light or flippant.
But I hate how fun it is.
I hate that I am enjoying myself. I shouldn’t be so enthralled by the questions: Was Hannah crazy? Is she a liar? Was her suicide justified? Is she vindictive or insane? That’s the mystery for me at this point: Is Hannah mentally ill or going to become mentally ill? Or is this all teenage trauma porn? I hate all of these questions because I feel like I’m trying to figure out a game that ended before it began.
And I wonder–is this what my peers were doing after I tried to kill myself? Were their parents worried? Did my classes, school, or sorority address it or try to ignore it?
I saw my friends from my dorm once after my suicide attempt–one week after–when I went to pack up my stuff. My high school friends who were there were mostly devastated, but my newer, college friends just seemed uncomfortable as I told them that I had severe depression and was leaving school. They were closed off. Scared. Uncomfortable around me. Quiet and distant. The first feeling I felt was that it would have been better if I had never come back to see them and explain. They would have preferred that. Then I felt sorry for them that they had to be around me. I was so awful. I never wanted to return, and I didn’t feel that I would ever be welcome among them again.
And I wonder–did my peers think I was crazy or something else? Did they wonder about my sanity or did they judge me as selfish or weak?
I had several friends who called afterwards to hear me tell my story, but they never called back. I had friends disappear forever. And I had friends too scared to do anything. But curiosity, judgement, coldness, or silence were the last things I needed. They cheapen my struggle. I take offense at the thought that my suicide would be a juicy piece of gossip to chew on. To mull over.
And I realize that I am taking this all too personally. I am trying to figure out where to identify; where do I fit in? I’m trying to stop feeling guilty for being so entertained–Hannah is just a fictional character. And she’s not really dead because she was never alive.
But what bothers me is that when I am ill the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred by abstract thinking. I could metaphorically say the same about myself at times: “she’s not really dead because she was never alive.” That’s great fodder for suicidal thinking. When I feel so dead that I figure I might as well be–when my actual life feels less significant than that of a fictional character–that is why I know that my guilt about the show is real. I’m not the only one feeling how I feel–seeing myself in Hannah simply because I know what it is like to give in. And it is traumatic and tragic. Suicidal thinking is a curse. An unbearable burden.
And I’m only a quarter of the way through the third episode. Whew!
Tell me NOTHING. I am so serious. Don’t even say, “Just wait…” or “Keep watching.” Don’t tell me if I am right or wrong. I will take it in at my own pace and gain my own understanding as I do. But I thought that it could be insightful to give you some of my initial thoughts. I won’t recommend the show as I am still too early on, and I promise to report back once I finish, if not before. Back to episode three!