Thirteen Reasons Why Irresponsibly and Selectively Lectures Us How to Feel About Suicide

Earlier this year, a local middle schooler committed suicide. To put it kindly, our school district has been in hot water, but the community put together a Go Fund Me page for the family to help defray funeral costs, and grief counselors were sent to the school to talk with students.

A friend of mine, who’s an administrator at a school in a neighboring district, says the school, although it’s not mandated by our state, has an action plan in place should such a situation occur.


Photo credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

We’re never told exactly where Liberty High, the fictional setting for Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why, is located, but after student Hannah Baker kills herself, the school administration slapped up some suicide awareness posters, allowed fellow students to enshrine Hannah’s locker, paid some lip service to being available if needed and called it a day.

As if anticipating this tepid response to a very real and tragic problem, Hannah helpfully and lovingly crafts charmingly retro audiocassette tapes that soon consume her guilt-ridden and shell-shocked fellow students as they struggle to cope with her death.

I didn’t read the YA novel upon which the series is based, but Hannah is repeatedly betrayed, humiliated and shamed during her two years at Liberty High. A compromising picture is broadcast throughout the school. She loses friends. She’s named Best Ass in a version of a slam book. She’s stalked, groped and eventually raped.

That’s a lot for any girl to deal with. But her melodramatic, passive-aggressive, manipulative tapes send earnest Clay Jensen on a macabre scavenger hunt as he desperately tries to find someone and everyone to blame for Hannah’s death, instead of putting it exactly where it belongs: with Hannah.

Thirteen Reasons Why, honestly, should have been called We All Let Hannah Down. Each of the other students featured on the tapes were dealing with their own problems–alcoholism, poverty, parental neglect, homosexuality, addiction, overbearing parents–but they all take a back seat to Hannah’s issues. Indeed, more than one angrily tell Clay that Hannah killed herself; she alone made that choice; but it’s portrayed as a defensive reaction instead of a very real and reasonable response. The anger, it seems, should only be directed inward.

Likewise, we’re made to believe that Hannah’s version of events are The One Real Truth instead of merely a perspective. By virtue of being dead, Hannah does not get challenged although she makes some incredibly poor choices (and, incidentally, is a pretty terrible friend) herself.

The series has graphic rape and sexual assault scenes, and the suicide is not only graphically described but also shown in all its glory, a horrifying instructional video.

For all the high-fives and headpats the creators are giving themselves, I didn’t see a single suicide hotline number, website or any other helpful advice prominently displayed for kids watching the show who might decide Hannah Baker is a role model instead of a cautionary tale. (It might have had text after the credits but I never watched that far.) Instead, the show glorified Hannah Baker’s revenge against her community, as if killing yourself is merely a way to get your point across.

Thirteen Reasons Why Irresponsibly and Selectively Lectures Us How to Feel About Suicide

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters

Both Young Adult series The Magicians and Shadowhunters have strayed so far from their source material that I gave up comparing the TV shows to the books and just enjoyed the ride.

Shadowhunters had a bit more substance this season with meeting new characters (especially fierce and formidable females) and making series regulars more enriched and complex. It’s finally revealed why Clary is so special and important. We meet the Iron Sisters, who develop and test all weapons for the Shadowhunters. There is a full-fledged gay relationship that is addressed front and center, not treated like a subplot or ignored entirely after a smooch last season. A character develops an addiction. The second half of the season starts in a couple months, with a secret son and I hope, a trip to Idris to explore that world.


(Image source: Syfy.com)

Speaking of new worlds, The Magicians delivered in spades. We spent a lot of time in Fillory (a place that was thought to exist solely in novels but in fact is real) this season. My expectations for this show are a lot higher, and this season was uneven (people in Fillory singing show tunes from Les Miserables on the way to battle another kingdom made my eyes roll so hard) but everyone was committed, I give them that. 

Only one character, Margo, remains stubbornly one-dimensional despite being Fillory’s sole ruler for a good chunk of time. The actress’ delivery of lines is slow and deliberate and caustic. 

My favorite places are The Library, where Penny works to pay off a debt; and Brakebills South, a facility in Antarctica where the school’s most brilliant magician has been outcast.

The season ends with the total eradication of magic in both worlds. The show has been renewed for a third season; I hope time travel–the lazy way out– is not involved in restoring magic to both Earth and Fillory.

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters

I Missed the Biggest Story of Spring Training


In what was surely inevitable, Major League Baseball is teaming up with Game of Thrones for a big promotional hootenanny.

I came across this story this afternoon on the Twitters, where I first learned Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will have a walk-on role on this season of Game of Thrones. (He was available to film in November because the Mets lost their sole play-off game hahahahahaha #soblessed.)

As a surprise to no one, I have some ideas on how to incorporate the Game of Thrones world into baseball games.

1. Introducing the players and their positions. Use the GoT music and title sequence to announce fielders, with each player having his own sigil and his position having a construction similar to places in GoT.

2. Quotes for different situations:

  • Bottom of the ninth inning: “What is dead shall never die.”
  • Substitutions, especially during the game: “His watch has ended.”
  • Refer to a particularly brutal inning as the Red Wedding.
  • Referring to the umps: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

3. Recite lineups like Arya Stark’s list of revenge. 

4. DRAGONS! (I haven’t thought this one through yet.)

5. DIREWOLVES! (Ditto.)

I Missed the Biggest Story of Spring Training

The Fall of The Fall

Late last year I watched the final season of The Fall.

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(Image source: BBC)

Tangent: Fifty Shades Darker, the second of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, opened this weekend, starring Jamie Dornan, who catapulted to stardom with his role as Paul Spector in The Fall. Dornan shows us in the first series of The Fall that not only can he deftly handle disturbing material, but that he’s capable of genuine charisma and chemistry even when portraying a serial killer. TL;DR: Jamie Dornan is sex on two legs in The Fall. He… is … not in Fifty Shades. (I haven’t seen Darker, and the only reason I saw Fifty Shades was out of love for a friend. She knows who she is.)

I didn’t know what to make of the third series of The Fall. The first series was excellent and the second was very good, in spite of some missteps. I thought, like Broadchurch, that the third series would be about Spector’s trial. And there are some moments in a few of the episodes that I saw a glimpse of what that would have looked like: a high-powered defense attorney setting his sights on the extremely inappropriate relationship Spector had with his nemesis, Stella Gibson. The Belfast PD uncovering evidence of Spector’s devastating time as a student at a school rampant with abuse, as well as discovering evidence of some of his earliest victims. (Gibson also had inappropriate relationships with her superior, a subordinate, a fellow officer on the force and very nearly the medical examiner because apparently Gibon’s Tinder only worked in her very own office building.) We had Spector’s almost-protege violating her parole to try and see him and also start a cycle of her own violence, a first step to an eventual copycat of his crimes.

But instead, for the first two episodes, we got amnesia. Spector in the hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound, with amnesia. I mean, I was thankful for Delicious Topless Dornan, but I was momentarily transported to a cross between General Hospital and ER. There were whole chunks of dialogue that were merely regurgitation of medical jargon. There was the transport of one of his victims to the very same hospital, and they very briefly crossed paths, which is gobsmacking to me, but maybe the Belfast PD had a groupon for emergency care, I don’t know.

There were several intriguing storylines that could have been picked up but were merely teased and then dropped. Spector’s protective, compassionate nurse fit the physical profile of his victims, but … nothing happened. Spector’s wife Sally pulled a Susan Smith and tried to drown herself and their children in the car. She was dramatically rescued and ended up in the same hospital (does Belfast not have more than one hospital? I hear it’s a pretty big city) and then is never mentioned again.

In a frightening confrontation, Spector, provoked by Gibson, brutally attacks her, underscoring his hatred for women, specifically powerful women. He ends up in a mental institution (#amnesia), where he proceeds to manipulate another resident and eventually kills himself. It’s a wholly unsatisfying ending to a show that was originally billed (and for the first two seasons, lived up to) a cat and mouse game. Instead, I just felt, as a viewer, that I was batted around by the cat.

The Fall of The Fall

Stranger Things: A Love Letter to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg

Now that the kids are back in school, I’ve been making nearly daily trips to my bulk store to stock up on bon-bons and catching up on books and television.

Late in the summer, Stranger Things got a LOT of hype online and elsewhere, so much so that I was afraid when I watched it I would be really disappointed. To the contrary, I loved everything about it, mainly because I loved everything that inspired the show.66.0.jpg

If it were a mathematical formula:

(Stand By Me)(E.T.) /Goonies + (X-Files)(Freaks and Geeks)/IT = Stranger Things

In a nutshell: Some social outcasts band together against an all-powerful government agency to rescue a friend and destroy an alternate dimension.

Someone was literally reading Cujo at one point, a nod to the horror of Stephen King’s early work, but the good-versus-evil/kids-against-adults themes are also present in his stories, from The Body (on which Stand By Me was based) and IT to The Stand. The kids all rode bikes around, an homage to Elliott and his friends in ET. The kids look like real kids, kids I would see in my neighborhood, like those cast in Freaks and Geeks. There is an epic quest to conquer a monster, like IT.

Whoever did set design and wardrobe should get an award. The show was set in the 1980s and I swear I saw my old living room furniture from my childhood home. The hat that Dustin is wearing above was the same hat my dad wore from 1984 to 1988 (it came from McDonalds and had the Olympic logo on it, from when the Games were in LA) until he wore a softball cap. (My parents would have noticed IMMEDIATELY if we were pilfering waffles to feed a homeless kid in the basement, though.)

The character development was exceptional. Jim Hopper’s eventual transition from loser cop to paranoid hero–Fox Mulder would have taken him out for drinks at the very least–was a satisfying slow-moving avalanche. Eleven blossomed from a shell-shocked experiment subject into a fierce and dedicated friend. Nancy shed her self-involved world after unsung hero Barb’s death to align with Will’s older brother Jonathan and make a significant contribution to the discovery of the Demogorgon. The show even side-stepped cliched relationships that could have sprung up as a result of all the drama: Nancy doesn’t hook up with Jonathan; Hopper and Joyce remain friends and nothing more. All the kids were phenomenal, but I’m partial to Dustin (it’s the hat) and Eleven (it’s the Eggos). My only quibble with the actors is Winona Ryder, who had the same expression on her face in every episode, all episode long.

I don’t know what Season Two is going to bring; I thought the show ended on a satisfactory note and I’m worried about too much of a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Stranger Things: A Love Letter to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg

A Bad Mom Olympic Moment

Proctor & Gamble is laying it on real thick during these past two Olympic Games, tugging heartstrings with Pixar-worthy commercials illustrating all the sacrifices moms of athletes make to ensure their children’s success. You know, wrap their entire existence around that of their children so nothing is left except their mom-ness. It’s a great message.

But this morning I came across this broadcasting gem from the 2004 Olympiad and I’m about to invite Mary Carillo over for some drinks. Because this? This is what my childhood was like and what my mom-hood is like now. 

A Bad Mom Olympic Moment

The Entitled Fan

I came across this gem of a story via Twitter yesterday, right after I learned Disney ordered a reshoot of the upcoming Star Wars film Rogue Nation.

I consider myself a nerd–not nearly cool enough to be a geek–but I operate on a rather narrow slice of nerd-dom. I like some science fiction, a handful of popular television shows and movies. I’ve never been to a con. For the most part*, I don’t even visit websites for shows or look for spoilers because I genuinely want to be surprised. 

(*The exception is the X-Files, because it peaked during the early days of the Internet and I had unlimited access to the Internet at college. I eventually disliked the way the show was going so I read more than my share of fan fiction that was devoted to Mulder and Scully NOT having a relationship.)

The article really made me think about what it means to be a fan and what I should expect as a fan.


Annie Wilkes is a character in Misery, a Stephen King novel. Kathy Bates went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Wilkes in the film adaptation. In the story, a writer gets into a car crash and is kept captive by a nurse who is his biggest fan. During his rehabilitation, she forces him to resurrect a character he killed off and write a new novel dedicated to her.

Over the years and with the advent of social media, fans have more access to their favorite shows. People who like The Magicians can explore a website dedicated to Brakebills, the fictional school that the characters attend. Casts of Orphan Black, Shadowhunters and the Magicians all tweet and interact with fans while episodes air. Like Breaking Bad, Orphan Black has a behind-the-scenes show following every episode with cast members, writers, extra footage and more. That’s not including Comicon and other appearances, plus promotion tours and the like.

So with all the fan outreach to promote and encourage viewership of shows, fans can end up feeling as though they should be able to dictate plot development, casting decisions and more. When he was playing Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher, Wil Wheaton was excoriated at public appearances by fans of the show who were annoyed by the character. To put it another way, people lashed out at a real, live actor because they didn’t like the pretend person he portrayed.

I’m not going to lie:  If George R.R. Martin were to get in an accident near my house and I had to shelter him during a storm, I’d at least ask him about Winds of Winter. My daughter, who just finished the fifth Harry Potter book, has said on more than one occasion that if she ever met J.K. Rowling, she’d ask for a novel (or series) about Severus Snape, easily the most misunderstood character in the series.

But people tend to flock to the Internet, like newspapers before it, only if they really hate or really love something. That’s what I love about the article: exploring the good and bad sides of extreme fandom.

The Entitled Fan