Blog 062 What Can We Take Out Of A TV Series?

20 Minute Read
SPOILER ALERT – Thirteen Reasons Why – TV Series plot exposure.

There’s something to be learnt in everything. Through our daily battles with finding answers to the many questions that never have spoken answers. Television shows offer us an alternate universe with a lot of life lessons which we can take onboard and grow from. Today’s chat is with regards to a TV series that I binge watched yesterday. Reflecting on the concept of television as a means of chilling out, as a means of entertainment. But what value does that chill time have?

I remember when I was a younger, sitting at home on a wintery Sundays morning. Sketching perspectives of my dream house whilst my mum would be writing her thesis in the lounge. She would always listen to Twilight in the background, so would I. For hours these series of movies would play and the entire time my eyes never watched the screen. Though my eyes never made contact with the screen, I could still rattle off the entire film’s plot, from the main characters all the way to the concept of the film. Now call me weird but this was always a way in which I learned things. Like being on a plane and only listening to a movie would your head pressed into the seat. Like doing something mundane like working out and listening to music. I find it’s easier to soak up a message when you’re doing something that requires little thought. In the case of watching Twilight at home, the thought processed is reversed. That I could draw a much better picture because I was focusing on how cool it would be to be a vampire. That the concept of a TV series on Netflix would be easily taken on board because we are only concerned about how much food we have left in the cupboard, that we are warm enough, have enough to drink.

I can’t speak for your views on learning something. But it seems to me that a lot can be garnered by watching a show. Our creative engine is sparked up. We wouldn’t be watching it if we thought it was trash. So what’s keeping us there is that we know we are gaining something through our interest in the show. That there is something we can gain from watching this show. That there is something that we invest interest into because we’re trying to learn something valuable to us. Whether that’s personal development or a reflection of a memory which we might regret, or if there is something intrinsic in our behaviour that we secretly want to satisfy, there is an important discussion to be had regarding what we are actually taking out of something mundane like watching a television show. From my point of view, there are specific goals in mind when a person watches a TV series. But one of the angles in which I’m particularly referring to is the human desire of seeking out what other people do behind closed doors. To get that voyeuristic fix from the perspective of a director who uses an attractive cast to portray social investments. Basically, to make people mess around with each other and then in their tangled world make them figure out a resolution, or to put it bluntly termed as social politics. We can invest in that because there are stories within these social politics that we can abstractly relate to.

But what if a director saw that as an opportunity? If he knew that people passively use Netflix as a way of seeing into the lives of others. If he recognised all of our guilty pleasures, set up this elaborate plot, and portrayed it in a way that resonates with our deepest values, that we all deserve to be treated its respect and that everybody deserves the attention of being loved. A casual movie night with the boys turns into an ethics lesson transfixed on exposing how childish we are. That in this passive way, a person we have never met, in an unknown location, a director, has made ripples in our lives right beneath our noses.

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Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

Now, this isn’t some English lesson that devises a cunning plan to make you believe that the colour of the decor in the opening scene reflects sadness or anything. But more of a whole picture thing. Out of my curiosity last Friday night when I became infatuated by a series called “Thirteen Reasons Why.” I didn’t know why it interested me so much because I’m usually the thriller/action genre type. I want to think but watching stuff get blown up is exciting too. I wanted to get to the bottom of this curiosity, wanted to know why we spend so long stuck behind these black mirror screens trying so hard to peer into somebody else perception of funny, or sad, or meaningful, or sentimental. For me, growing up has been so informed by the visions of these directors who teach us the relevance of various social issues that we don’t get taught in our schools, that we don’t get told by our parents. The kind of shit we only get told by our friends because they also watched last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. That in a weird sort of convoluted way we as people have made this odd form of magic that we can chill out on a cold wintery day and take an interest in.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a story about a girl who kills herself. Based on a novel written by the author Jay Asher, about a girl who is socially ridiculed by who school mates, is sexually abused, socially exposed and is ignored by her school. If you’re thinking to yourself that it sounds like another cliche story regarding teenage suicide then you’d be right. But isn’t that the point? From the authors perspective, they’ve taken the most basic case of teen suicide, something that we can all relate too, and have made a book about it. But no book ever written in the 21st Century can only cover something that ewe already know is a problem. There must be a plot to the book that encapsulates our attention, something that we didn’t expect to make us think about a concept that we are already aware of. To make any ripples in our lives the author had to think of a creative solution that would interest us, the readers.

Thirteen Reasons Why took its name because it was about a girl who killed herself and then left thirteen reasons why within thirteen different recordings on seven tapes either side. If you’re doing the math you’ll know that there are fourteen sides to seven tapes, go and watch it if you really want to know. In a strange but clever way, the entire sequence outlines thirteen different types of people who were all responsible for the death of the girl. Basically, the author came up with a way of making us all relate to the story. From the school cheerleader to the captain of the basketball team, to the school weirdo, even the school nobody. The author thought up this epic slammer that covers the most taboo concept of youth suicide, something that we normally bow our heads in condolences, and then ratifies this creative plan that identifies thirteen different kinds of personalities that identify with us, the people who worry more about how much popcorn is left in the bowl instead of a very real and very invisible illness that is concerning people all around us all the time.

But the realisation doesn’t stop there. This blog talks about the invisible something that we all gain from spending hours watching these TV series. Thirteen Reasons Why is my primary aim today because it’s a series that takes something completely taboo, through the ideology of an author. A guy who wanted to expose the entire idea of youth suicide and write a book that exposes the truth behind it. In a way that we can relate to by making thirteen personality types. This idea has somehow magically made its way into the hands of a directing guru, Brian Yorkey, who takes it a step further which I’ll talk about in just a second. Isn’t it amazing though, how we all have these gifts to create an idea in such a way that navigates through our social barriers, like the author who writes a story about a girl  who is tormented by her peers and reveals the various perceptions in 288 pages of  what is basically a rant about how shit we are as people for not realising. That it can be received by us, the reader, the viewer, the audience, simply because we were curious? But why were we curious in the first place? What made us scroll through Netflix and stop at this show? Was it the fact that it came up first in the new releases column? Or was it because Netflix actually put it at the forefront of their site because they knew it was an important drama that applied to the audience?

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Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

I can’t say why for sure. But being a guy, I could see that seeing a really attractive cast for starters might be a reason why, likewise for girls, but the gender stereotypes conversation is for another blog on a different day. Thirteen Reasons Why is directed by Brian Yorkey, who adapts the original novel to react to the different audience. He uses typical cinematography to outline the fact that we like to sexualise people because it makes us more interested in the film. But then he slams us by the realisation that rape culture is disgusting by using that component of the series as a means to sabotage our own interpretation of trivialising sexual abuse. It’s a big a sinister topic, but it’s masterminded in a way necessary to hear because it’s a very real thing and has very strong control over many people’s lives. I’m not going to mention how the screenplay producer visualised this, but what I will say is that this series delivers an important message regarding youth suicide and rape culture. That it delivers the message in a way in which we can feel disgusted by our participation of normalising rape culture and teen suicide by trivialising on it rather than actually doing squat to change it.

That is a really powerful message and it is something that I gained last Friday, couped up in my room while there was a party going on downstairs after the series being recommended by my awesome flatmate Lauren. I wasn’t able to take my eyes away from the screen, unlike Twilight. But the key message is that it made ripples, it made me notice the contrast between hearing about a person passing away due to “unnatural circumstances” out of the respect for their family. But it takes on a different approach where we can have a hard conversation in a way that is so passive, that strikes us out where we take invested interest in, like other peoples lives.

It then raises the question why it is completely inappropriate to allow the world to know when somebody commits suicide. It’s got to make you think that it’s important that we reflect on our part played in the process of somebody dying. That although we shouldn’t blame ourselves for somebody else’s death or sexual abuse, we should always be accountable for making sure that it never occurs in the future. That the grim reality is that suicide and rape occur every day. That it is a huge problem that we can’t beat around the bushes with. That if we’re going to talk about it then it needs to be a straight up, no bullshit conversation that people in power need to open up and get off their high horses about. That at a human level it’s just not good enough. There are no excuses, and it should never exist in the first place.

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It is amazing that something as mundane as watching Netflix can actually be a route for change. That in a climate where so many youths are stuck to their phones, hidden beneath the lids of their MacBooks, that it is such an important conversation to have. That although the show was portrayed in a very American setting, it is still applicable universally within every year level of our life.

Maybe that’s something you could take out of a TV series on Netflix, I’m sure that’s what I got from it. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of series that is typical for your everyday teenage melodrama, but at the end of the day, we all want to gain something from our Netflix and chill.

End.
This in regards to watching a series called Thirteen Reasons Why, if you would like a bit more of a plot synopsis then I would suggest visiting this link below to a well known critic who talks about the show in-depth and reflects on its key messages.

The Ringer – Critical review of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Asides from that this has been a really long afternoon chat! But it’s always easy when you have a passion for writing about it. Thanks for reading up guys i appreciate it. Tomorrows chat will be in regards to Abortion and then later in the week we’ll talk about student suicide. Watch this space.

And as always…
Thanks for checking in!

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