13 Reasons Why His Voice Matters More

13reasonswhyWhile it is my voice you hear, it is through his that you listen. He tells you my story with his moods, his flaws and revelations. If he feels too sad, tired, or defeated to listen, you’ll be deprived of what I have to say. At one point, he puts the Walkman down and frees you of me. It is then that he realizes that I’m a ghost haunting him and everything he knows, and the only way to exorcise me is to finish with me.

It all becomes real only once he retraces my steps, sits where I sat and stands where I stood. Otherwise the places don’t exist, and I’m nowhere.

He wrote two words about my body, and they reverberated throughout the school. These would define me, as I could not open to my mouth to speak.

My friend and I were raped, and it made me distrust all boys, even the good ones. I could have been loved, but my failure to distinguish the touch of the good from the bad had left me alone. Together, we had both been weak; but separated from me he garnered the strength to finally say he loved me, but I was already gone.

I owe him the life he still gives me in his mind, which has been made tougher and more alive with the memories I stir in him. Still: he should have been less thoughtless and more vocal then, and maybe I’d still be alive.

He was the kind of person I would like to be and invited me to a poetry group, encouraging that I write. That I was possibly good at it frightened me, and I never returned, even when he made one last smiling plea.

My poem was just mine until he published it, forcing me to be brave. Courage overwhelmed me, and I never wrote another poem again.

He was the counselor; and if he didn’t help me, I couldn’t be helped. His paralysis at reaching out to me confirmed the truth: they all deserved to lose me, as I deserved to be lost to them.

He was entrusted with distributing my tapes to protect my legacy. Without his guardianship, no one would know why I had to die. He broke silence, in the end, so that justice could be served. I did not understand the justice of the law or justice for my parents, only the one amongst us: the kids. It was enough that they knew, that they wrestled with it, that they… I’m not sure quite what.

They heard what I said and called me a liar, but he stood up for me, making them all see my truth. He stared them down and threatened to expose them. My tapes were meant to enclose us together in our terrifying secrets and lies. He set out to free us of them.

The other boy egged him on, giving him confidence. I waited for him to speak to me at the party, and he finally did. Their brotherhood allowed me this small breath of joy.

I told him to leave, but he should have not listened to me and stayed. Why did he leave? Why did he listen to me? Doesn’t he know I can’t say what I really want? Doesn’t he know that it’s his job to decipher me, because alone I speak in riddles only more riddles can unlock.

I am the sphinx, and he is the hero who banishes me. Except it’s quiet now without me. So he fills the void with his newly found voice. He calls out to another girl, and she listens. My dead, whispering voice in his ear has given him the strength to call out to the girls he likes. Go forth, hero, and live the life I could not.

I wrote this post in reaction to what I saw as an objectification of the female lead of 13 Reasons Why. While there are many positives to the well-made seriesone of the glaring negatives is its total subjection of this woman to the whims, troubles, and insecurities of the men she encounters. Her conflicting characterizations — a strong, capable woman who nevertheless falters at every turn — feel unearned and in mere service to the plot contrivances, primarily that of showing the personal development of the male lead. While I support the show’s insistence on exposing the dehumanizing (particularly of women) but sadly normalized practices of teenagers, echoing the selfish musings of the adults, I wish it had done so on a less contrived basis, at the sacrifice of its woman heroine, dehumanizing her in the process.

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