May 13 – I was annoyed after watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix drama on a teenager committing suicide and leaving behind 13 tapes to explain why she killed herself.
The first season received a lot of flak for graphically showing Hannah Baker slitting her wrists in a bathtub, wincing in pain when the blades cut into her flesh and her breathing slowing after that, as if she was at peace, as the water turned red.
Spoilers after this, so stop reading if you haven’t watched Season 2 yet, though you should probably save your time and just skip it.
The second season of 13 Reasons Why depicted a character – who was also badly bullied by his schoolmates like Hannah – with an arsenal of guns and a love for shooting.
As his bullying became more vicious throughout the season, it was obvious that the show was setting him up for a school shooting.
Yet, despite 13 Reasons Why introducing a literal Chekhov’s Gun, the gun never goes off.
The show probably wanted to avoid a backlash amid actual school shootings in the United States, like the Parkland shooting last February that killed 17 people and sparked mass protests for gun control.
But why should a fictional TV show be politically correct?
Although turning a victim of school bullying into a gun-toting villain on a TV show may appear to portray mass shooters in a sympathetic light, we should remember that television has nothing to do with real life.
It would be foolish to assume that a TV show was making a definitive statement on reality.
This is because fiction must follow rules. Truth is stranger than fiction because in fiction, the plot must make sense and characters must have understandable motivations. All elements in storytelling must have a purpose.
So if a gun-loving male character wants to turn his aggression outward (as opposed to inward like suicide), especially after a significant incident like sexual assault, the logical satisfying conclusion would be a mass shooting where he kills his abusers and bullies.
Fiction should not be expected to teach people values or what happens in the real world. There are non-fiction books and documentaries for those.
While improving diversity in film and books is a noble cause, minorities and people with liberal values shouldn’t be randomly inserted as characters or made protagonists just for the sake of it. Fiction should be open to anything and everything, with a spectrum of values.
It is fine to advocate against sexism, racism and homophobia, but silencing dissent and censoring offensive opinions will not likely persuade others to change their minds about these things.
If we really want to change mindsets, then we must be brave enough to confront opposing views and address them logically, not shut them down instantly by calling people racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, xenophobic, homophobic, bigots, misogynists, and other labels.
Demanding protection from offensive opinions through so-called “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, for even literary classics like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, only makes it difficult to have honest conversations about prejudice and reinforces the divide between people of different ideologies.
Censorship of anything, whether it is left-wing or right-wing beliefs, is bad for democracy.
Of course, minorities face a great deal of challenges in life, such as workplace discrimination, harassment, assault etc. But the solution surely isn’t to shame the other side into silence, or to demand representation in bad movies, TV shows, or books.
It is to wrest power for ourselves and to show our strength so that we dictate the agenda.