Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
A good friend of mine would often say “every scapegoat applies for the position”, and I think that definitely applies to the Hannah Baker story.
What I’m about to say here, isn’t gonna make me very popular! I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me, and some of you might be offended, but these are my thoughts on the subject….
I know everyone is watching the show and focusing on how horrible teen bullying is and how we should all do more to protect kids, and I agree on both points!!!!! Like many other adults, I too am concerned that the show glorifies suicide, but I’m even more concerned that the show glorifies a victim view point on life.
YES INTERNET BULLYING IS A REAL THING, AND IT’S HORRIBLE. But, there is another more complex cultural issue at play here as well. These days, everyone is quick to point fingers at each other when a teenager is having a problem. We think it’s the “bad influence friends”, or the “mean bullies at school”, or the “incompetent school staff”, and of course we think it must be the “neglectful parents”. If a kid is failing a class the parents often blame the teachers, because the teacher is a “bad teacher” or doesn’t know how to relate to their kid, or heaven forbid they didn’t warn the parents that the kid had an upcoming test! (Yes that’s Sarcasm, in case you didn’t pick up my tone in the writing) The teachers blame the parents for not keeping on top of what’s going on at school, etc…the cycle of blame just continues. The problem is that we have forgotten that the teenager has some responsibility for solving their own problems.
The thing this show does best is illustrate our society’s tendency to shift blame and fall into self pity. The major problem in the story isn’t a “serous lack of mental health resources”, it’s the fact that the character doesn’t help herself or accept the help and support that others try to offer.
After taking a look at what other bloggers/writers are saying, it seems that parents, professionals, and school officials are expressing a lot of concern that this Netflix series glorifies suicide (and I totally agree that it does!), but I also have a few other concerns about what’s being portrayed in the show and also how people are responding to it.
I’ve worked with teens for a very long time, including, almost 10 years at an acute care psychiatric facility. Most of the teens that were admitted were experiencing Suicidal Idealization, so I have some experience with the subject. While I do appreciate the concerns being expressed by adults about this show, I feel there are some deeper, more difficult, and complex issues that need to be addressed.
I love to play “devils advocate” so lets look at this from a different perspective. To be completely honest, I felt more sorry for the people Hannah left the tapes for than I did for Hannah (with the exception of the character Bryce Walker).
These first 8 things that happen to Hannah definitely suck, but to be honest I would say that it’s not that far out of the norm for the “normal amount of suck” that most teens go through. For a more detailed description of all the “13 Reasons Why” check out this article http://www.shmoop.com/thirteen-reasons-why/summary.html.
Reasons 9-13 didn’t really make me feel sorry for “Hannah Baker”, in fact they made me angry at her!
#9. Hannah feels sorry for herself for the lack of respect and boundaries demonstrated by her peers. In “reason #9”, she blames Clay because he does the right thing and respects her boundaries by backing off when she yelled at him to go away (which was most definitely the right thing to do). If anyone is a victim in this incident it’s Clay!
#10. Hannah blames, Justin Foley, for letting his friend rape Jessica while she was passed out. However, she didn’t do anything to stop it either (she hid in the room and watched it happen). She didn’t try to intervene. She didn’t run for help. She didn’t tell an adult. She just made herself out to be the victim of Jessica’s rape.
#11. I’m honestly not even sure why Hannah feels sorry for herself in this event???? She was wasted at a party, and got into a car with another teen who had been drinking. They ran over a stop sign, the teen driver didn’t want to call the cops, so Hannah went into a convenience store and called the cops .
OKAY, YOU ARE REALLY GONNA HATE WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY NEXT!!!
#12. I would definitely agree that Bryce Walker (the character) was a narcissistic a-hole rapist, but come on Hannah…. You knew Bryce was a rapist and you took yourself to his house, got into his hot tube and then stayed there after everyone had left!
And finally, the thing that upsets me most!!!!!
#13. Hannah goes into the school counselors office and 28discloses the rape, but she was purposefully evasive, and was for sure setting the counselor up to fail. As a counselor myself, the “school counselor” did a pretty good job of trying to make her feel like she mattered. He refused to answer any calls and devoted himself entirely to listening to her. He tried to get her to open up more or to disclose the name of the student. By this point in the story, she had already made up her mind and she was justifying her decision to herself. Seriously Hannah, you go outside the office and stand there to see if he chases you down the hall!!!!!!
She could have gone to the counselors office at any point in the story and say she was getting bullied, or ask for help in some sort of way. Instead, it seems that she was mostly just trying to set the counselor up for failure. I don’t think she would have taped the session, if she would have really wanted help (not to mention, she was ultra vague!). She just wanted one last piece of evidence to justify a decision she had already made. Click here to read more about how people justify their decisions.
I’m guessing (or maybe just hoping) that in the second season of the show, it becomes more apparent to the audience that Hannah is also a bully, and that there’s more to the story than just her perspective about how things happened.