Subjectivity and the male gaze: in defense of that controversial scene in 13 Reasons Why

SPOILERS FOR 13 REASONS WHY ABOUND!

The controversies surrounding 13 Reasons Why have been numerous and well-enumerated; critics claim that the show glorifies teen suicide by presenting it as a suitable revenge for bullying, that portraying teen suicide at all (especially using attractive young actors) is irresponsible, and that Hannah’s rape scene is triggering for victims. But arguably the biggest point of contention is Hannah’s suicide scene, which is incredibly disturbing. It’s one thing to hear about a child slitting their wrists, it’s another thing altogether to see it happen in graphic detail.

But does the graphic nature of the scene automatically make it irresponsible? I’m not a mental health professional, so I can’t comment about whether the show is responsible about suicide on the whole. But in regards to this particular scene, I tend to agree with 13 Reasons Why writer (and suicide attempt survivor) Nic Sheff, who wrote in Vanity Fair that they included as much detail about the act of suicide as possible in order to shatter the “myth and mystique” surrounding suicide, and especially to “dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off.” For those who are worried that the show “glamorizes” suicide, if nothing else, that scene definitely showed viewers that there is nothing glamorous–or peaceful–about the act itself. Continue reading →

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The best books we read in 2016

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Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

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I’ll be honest: I expected to hate Sons and Lovers. I wanted to finally read D.H. Lawrence for the first time, but a 19th century novel about a young man who is emotionally stunted by his overbearing mother sounded far too pseudo-Freudian for my taste. But I was surprised to find that within the first fifty pages, all of the characters were meticulously drawn at a nearly Jamesian level of psychological nuance, and that the “overbearing mother” was the most sympathetic and fascinating character of the piece. Sons and Lovers is, ostensibly, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age, but really, it’s a story about the fallibility of family bonds, in which they are as fragile yet sticky as strands in a spider web.

Acquired: at a flea market in Iceland, where Sons and Lovers was the only Lawrence novel they had. Continue reading →

A Running List of Clichés in Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here I Am”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest, Here I Am, has received decidedly mixed reviews, and with good reason. While there are flashes of insight here and there, the struggles of the central family are fairly trite, and considering that Foer is regarded as one of the foremost literary novelists writing today, the prose is riddled with clichés. Here is the first installment of my running list documenting the most cringeworthy lines, from pretentious pontificating about the fact that “aloneness isn’t loneliness” (duh) to awkwardly sexist characterizations of teenage girls. Continue reading →

The Mirror Thief – Martin Seay

“Turn, you stern merchants of forgetfulness,
you mincing forgetters of consequence, turn!
Tend to your sad taxonomy, your numb ontology,
your proud happenstance of secular wheels!”

The Mirror Thief

Martin Seay’s big, intricate debut novel, The Mirror Thief, came out earlier this year to much anticipation (at least in the insular world of people who read Publishers Weekly). Continue reading →

Links We Loved This Week — 9/23/16

Joss Whedon got basically his whole stable of actors to film an irreverent PSA on exercising your civic rights to vote. (This should hardly need saying, but don’t read the comments.)

“Do we want to just be the white male anti-hero network? We need to try to broaden out.”
–an FX exec, on turning down Breaking Bad

At Hitfix, Alan Sepinwall writes about the ascendancy of FX, which is apparently due in large part to the creative direction of the network head, John Landgraf. (via Longform.org)

AV Club wrote a great review of This Is Us, but it paled in comparison to this delightful Gilmore Girls-related exchange in the comments:

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Elliott Holt writes on the return of omniscient narrators in contemporary fiction, comparing them not to God, but to a smartphone (via the NYTimes)

Writing Beautifully About Nazis: The Strange Failures of All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr’s body of work is filled with characters who have extraordinary gifts. In his earlier novel About Grace, a man could dream the future. In his short story collection The Shell Collector, people were gifted with everything from metal-eating to speaking with the dead. In his most recent work, the Pulitzer-prize-winning World War II novel All the Light We Cannot See, a young German boy has a preternatural ability to work with radios. And if Doerr himself has a near-magical gift, it is that of spinning sentences that each have the lush beauty and soft sheen of a perfect pearl—a gift on full display in All the Light We Cannot See.

Continue reading →

Links We Loved This Week — 5/6/16

In the LA Review of Books, GD Dess holds up the failure of Purity as evidence that Jonathan Franzen is part of kitsch culture.

The tale at this juncture finally transmogrifies from a so-called realistic social novel into a novel of what James Wood has called “hysterical realism,” in which the conventions of realism are not abolished but, “on the contrary, exhausted, and overworked.” …Franzen has abdicated his writerly duty, and this dereliction demonstrates a certain authorial contempt for his readers.

Turns out Walt Whitman was really into “manly health” and cutting down on carbs way before it was cool.

Person of Interest executive producer Jonathan Nolan doesn’t just believe that Facebook will destroy the world, he takes it as a given (via AV Club):

A lot of things that Samaritan espouses are believed by the people who work for Samaritan, the same way that I’m sure people who work for Facebook don’t believe that they’re working for the company that will destroy the world. But, you know, they are. And everyone gets through the day rationalizing their own existence.

 

As you may know, The Good Wife will have its final episode this Sunday. Here are some of the best articles and interviews making sense of its incredible first few seasons, and (by almost all accounts) its struggling seventh:

  • Alan Sepinwall at HitFix takes a look at The Good Wife as the last prestige network drama. “no show has dealt with the struggle to defy societal expectations and keep one’s feelings under tight wraps as often, or as well, as The Good Wife,” he writes. (Ignore the part where he says that Parenthood was a rival for this show. I just watched the whole thing. It wasn’t.)
  • Salon jumps on the “there will never be a great broadcast drama after The Good Wife” bandwagon.
  • At the New York Times, Christine Baranski has a very surprising favorite scene from the show; Michael J. Fox and other cast members also weigh in.
  • Also in the NYT, James Poniewozik writes a good-bye-Good-Wife article notable for describing Jason as a “laconic, bearded sex cowboy.”
  • The Kings looked back at the show. Robert King says, “On our show, no one’s really shooting at each other. Their words are the guns.”