10 reasons why Tyler’s story mattered
-a brief commentary on 13 Reasons Why (the Netflix show)
If you haven’t heard of 13 Reasons Why by now, you most like live under a rock, or more realistically, you don’t care for book adaptations depicting teenage drama. The show is about a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who takes her life and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining why she did so (the events that led her to do so). About a year ago, I watched the first season of 13 Reasons on Netflix. I was a senior in high school at the time and all of my peers were talking about the show and how important it is to watch it, so I gave it a go. Also at the time, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety which brought on suicidal thoughts every now and then. I wanted to see for myself how the show approached the subject of mental illness and the affect of people actions. While watching it I noticed things that a lot of people weren’t picking out during that time, the fact that Hannah didn’t show signs leading up to her suicide (which I guess was later “corrected” in the second season), the fact that she didn’t show signs of Anxiety or Depression severe enough to lead to a suicide as gruesome as hers, and she left behind tapes which placed blame (or reason) on 13 people (non of which were her parents which was later revealed to be a reason in S2. Her dad was having an affair which she witnessed which added to her sadness, and her mom made commentary every now and then about her looks which contributed to Hannah’s low self esteem). I could go more into depth about this, but I wanted to talk more about one of the shows characters and one of the people on Hannah’s tapes-Tyler.
One of the social commentaries that the show was trying to teach was to be aware of the affect that you have on the people around you (so always be kind), to showcase a story of suicide/mental illness/assault, to open a discussion on these issues, and to entertain audiences. The second season of 13 Reasons was more about after Hannah’s death and if the school was responsible for not being enough to stop it. Her mother didn’t think that the school provided a safe enough space and enough resources that could’ve saved her daughters life, so she sued them. It was also about the Baseball team of Liberty High and how the team members (all men) had bad behavior, such as rape and bullying, that were overlooked because they were jocks and received special treatment. The second season also went into detail (showed the in between events that added on to the reason why Hannah took her life.
This article today is about the story of Tyler. Tyler was talked about on Hannah’s tape for apparently stalking her and taking pictures of her through her bedroom window. He was often bullied by the jocks and students (some of which were also called out for causing Hannah’s death like Alex and Justin) because they believed that he was a perv for taking pictures of Hannah. The audience was then lead to believe that Tyler was in fact a pervert and was weird and uncool enough to be made fun of. Because he was this way, the turmoil that he faced was often overlooked and justified throughout the show.
What I think a whole lot of people overlooked when it came to the character of Tyler was that he was actually a good kid who got the worse of the bullying, simply for being different. In the 2nd season of the show, it shows the whole story of how Tyler ended up in Hannah’s front yard and how he took a photo of her.
Tyler was one of the first students to introduce himself to Hannah at the beginning of the school year. He offered to give her a photo shoot and she accepted. During the photo shoot he noticed how beautiful she was. He went over her house to drop off the photos from the photo shoot to show her how beautiful she was because earlier in the day Hannah was upset about the rumor going around with her and Justin (there was a photo of Hannah going down the slide that showed her underwear and made it look as if she showed it to Justin during their date). Tyler’s mistake was asking Hannah for a second photo shoot while she was dealing with the issue of the embarrassing photo that was spread around the school. It was in bad taste and Hannah thought Tyler was just asking to take photos of her because she was “easy” when in reality Tyler wanted to help her because of the rumor. He thought having a 2nd photo shoot would show her how beautiful she was and would help the situation. Take note that Tyler shows signs of some form of either autism or social impair which isn’t really addressed directly on the show but the signs are clear. He’s a little OCD as described by his friend Cyrus when they are vandalizing the school yard and Tyler outlines Rapist on the grass before lighting it with gasoline and when he wanted butter on specifically half of his popcorn while on a date to the movies, Tyler mentioned that he doesn’t get irony one time, he often speaks in a monotoned or unsure voice, he says things that people misunderstand (like when he asked Hannah for a second photo shoot) because of the way he phrases the sentence, he doesn’t get a lot of social cues which is why he takes a lot of photos of students and which is why when he talks to a lot of students he is teased after, photography is the one subject that he is good at and in which he enjoys, it isn’t easy for him to make friends and when he does he adapts to their characteristics as he did when he became friends with Cyrus, the Punk rock poser.
1. The message of the show is to be nicer to others and this causes the characters (Hannah’s friends and the people who knew her) to question what they did wrong that could’ve led to her suicide. With this in mind, most of the characters still act the same after the tapes and her suicide personality wise (which proves their actions were hurtful to Hannah given their individual situation but didn’t directly cause her to kill herself). They even continue to bully and yell at Tyler as if he was alone in causing Hannah to take her life. An example of this was Alex’s birthday party. When Tyler showed up because he was invited by Alex, Zach yells at him to leave and calls him a perv. He is called a pervert several times throughout both seasons and is the main cause of his bullying. Everyone seems to think that Tyler photographing Hannah, although wrong, is worthy of constant teasing and isolation. The kids aren’t nicer to Tyler. In fact, they don’t question how their actions could affect Tyler (which later on leads to him planning to shoot up the school).
2. Although Tyler was in the tapes, he isn’t included in their friend group. Jessica, Justin (who we will talk about in a little bit), Alex, Zach, and Clay to name some, have basically formed a group to discuss Hannah’s death and to move on after everything that has happened. They all did something that Hannah thought was worthy of getting a tape (or reason) yet they aren’t blamed as much as Tyler. They stick together (maybe not at first but later on in the seasons) through everything and deal with their conflicts together often having each other’s backs, while Tyler has no one and is still being bullied for what he did.
3. Justin was on Hannah’s tapes for allowing Bryce to send a photo around to the whole school of her going down the slide in her underwear. The reason Justin hasn’t gotten much hate compared to Tyler is because he’s the “sad boy” of the group and everything he does is justified because of his relationship with Jessica and his unfortunate upbringing. He comes from a broken home, dated Jessica (and was involved in her rape which I’ll talk about next), and is best friend with Bryce who is a bully and a rapist (although they fall apart later on after Bryce rapes Jessica). The problem with Justin is that people never blame him hard enough for the things he committed, although he didn’t try hard enough to stop Jessica’s rape because he was afraid of losing his friendship with Bryce (which caused Jessica so much pain). Then he convinced Jessica that they were the ones who had sex the next day after her rape and covered up for Bryce until he was forced to admit what happened. In that moment, he decided that his friendship with Bryce meant more than his then girlfriend being raped. He tried to stop it but gave up and cried instead of calling the police or alerting someone, and he gave up simply because he didn’t want his friendship with Bryce to end. He did an incredibly selfish and horrible thing but was allowed back in the group and was later forgiven by Jessica (they even hooked up again at the school dance) because their fucked up relationship is idealized. He even stole money from his moms boyfriend twice and the second time he did it his mom told him that it can get her killed once her boyfriend (who’d a drug dealer) finds out, but he did it anyway and left her with $200 to get away out of like 2,000 bucks (knowing his mom had a history of not being able to leave this guy). When asked by Justin if they can both leave together she says she can’t because “he loves me” referring to her drug dealing boyfriend. We aren’t sure what happened with his mom, but most likely she got murdered or beaten by the boyfriend because Justin stole money again to run away again. Again he does a selfish thing under the excuse of being “broken” and troubled, as if his actions doesn’t have consequences. Justin gets away with stuff because the audience of the show is suppose to ship his and Jessica’s relationship although he was an accessory to her rape, covered it up after it happened, and played the “broken home” card to get Jessica to keep loving him instead of giving her space to heal.
4. Tyler isn’t a crazy gun fanatic. He owns a lot of guns, but he’s responsible enough to store them away, and put on the safety when he isn’t shooting. He is a little irresponsible with them though, but not at a super dangerous level. He doesn’t get the idea to shoot the school, until after his gruesome assault (although he mentioned it earlier while with his friend Cyrus, he wasn’t going to go through with it, especially since he finished his behavior program and was ready to change for the better). He did shoot a bird which showed recklessness with his guns (but that was more him being lost and a punk teenage boy than him wanting to harm animals. Even Cyrus asks him in an interested voice if he hit the bird), but after the program he changed and put all of his weapons in his basement, removing them from his bedroom as if to say that he wanted to move on and get better.
5. Tyler isn’t a bad kid. After finishing his behavior program that he had to take for vandalizing the school’s sports field with his friend, he came back a happier and changed kid. He realized his wrong doings and wanted to move forward. But upon returning he was bullied and assaulted, also his only friend Cyrus didn’t want to hang with him anymore and his ex girlfriend, Cyrus’ sister, starting dating someone else. Although he was friendless and without love, he was still optimistic.
6. Tyler was lonely. There’s a whole episode dedicated to loneliness and how Hannah was lonely which is why she remained in contact with Justin. Despite making friends easily and easier than most kids and having a strong personality, Hannah’s loneliness is emphasized greatly, while Tyler’s loneliness and lack of identity is overlooked. Tyler is lonely, and we can see this when he meets Cyrus and feels as if he finally belongs to a group. When Cyrus dumps him as a friend, and Cyrus’ sister dumps him as a girlfriend (after she told her unreliable friend about Tyler’s embarrassing jizz incident on their date which caused him to get bullied some more) he feels lonely again. He even asks Cyrus if he’s still his friend and Cyrus says “totally” but it’s obvious it’s not true based on his tone. He lost his only friend group. Tyler’s inability to recognize when he’s being socially awkward makes him an easier target for bullying. It also makes it harder to keep friends when he has them. He doesn’t have any friends and spends a lot of time in the dark room developing his pictures, taking pictures, or shooting guns alone in the woods. When he finally has a friend, he tried really hard to not mess it up but falls for his friends sister which makes things complicated.
7. Tyler’s assault. When I watched the first season of this show, I knew Hannah’s suicide scene was coming up. It was gruesome, along with her and Jessica’s rape scene. But nothing affected me more than Tyler’s assault. I feel as if the the audience was suppose to see Tyler as a creep, but when he returned back from his program it was clear he wanted a change. But while in the restroom he was ambushed by some jocks. His head was smashed on the mirror then smashed on the hard ceramic sink. He was then dragged on the floor into the bathroom stall where his head was pushed inside the toilet (he was basically drowned in dirty toilet water) and he was sexually assaulted with a broom stick for about 30secs. It was extremely hard to watch. And my stomached sinked. It’s easy to see Tyler as the scapegoat to perviness, when in reality he was a misunderstood kid who didn’t deserve half of the hate that he received.
8. When Tyler planned on shooting the school it was his way of wanting to die while also getting revenge on the school that made his life hell. If anything, Tyler was the real victim of the school’s lax policy on bullying, not Hannah. Although he didn’t get to shoot up the dance, thank god, it showed that he had so much anger and a death wish on top of it, justifiably so given what happened to him in the bathroom. We got to see his story, despite Hannah’s narrative still being pushed. He wasn’t just an isolated school shooter, he was unnecessarily bullied, misunderstood, and sexually assaulted to the point of bleeding anally. At this point, I was still confused as to how Hannah’s tapes was more important than the suffering of the now, than Tyler’s story. Which brings me to my next point.
9. After Hannah’s death, so much crap was happening in the school. Alex’s suicide attempt, rape brought on by the Jocks, and Tyler’s bullying, but not any of that mattered because we as an audience still had to care about who was to really blame for Hannah’s death. The answer to that is no one. Yes, horrible things happened to Hannah, as yes she may have suffered some kind of mental illness that led to her decision, but her death seemed in vain when after all of it, people weren’t actually changing the way they affected people, but were instead trying to figure out what trivial things they did to make Hannah kill herself. When it came down to it, Hannah made a decision that negatively impacted people way after her death, a lot more than it had to. It divided the people on her tapes (including her parents) by making them wonder what they did wrong, made Clay go crazy (and although his medical condition isn’t clear, he was suffering and blaming himself for not being enough to save Hannah, although it wasn’t his fault, which is seen with his girlfriend who has bipolar disorder. She tells clay something that Hannah should’ve realized before giving him or anyone a tape, it isn’t his fault and that she has to fix her problem starting with her choice to get help as difficult as it is. No one could’ve saved her but herself and that’s the hard part and the irony of it all). Although people did things that led to Hannah’s death according to Hannah, no one expect maybe Bryce was truly to blame for what she did to herself. She was feeling pain and she made the choice to end her life. What she should’ve done is left a note or not do it at all and held on a little longer for help although it’s hard, what she did though was leave tapes behind which made people feel as if her death was their fault.
10. Tyler was the only character, with the exception of Zach and Alex, who showed real character change and development. He started off isolated, did some stupid stuff, was bullied, decided to get back at his bullies before deciding to change his ways, only to continue to get bullied then assaulted, until he snapped. He wasn’t given a break, although his life was a total hell to live. When he was sexually assaulted in the bathroom, it erased all of the progress he made and in his head it made sense to get revenge. Heck, Tyler needs his own set of tapes lol. With that being said, I have a lot to say about the social commentary and message of this show, but what I noticed the most is that Tyler did not deserve what happened because of his actions. Nobody did (except Bryce and maybe Justin-basically all the jocks), And although the showed never really gave him a chance, I noticed how hard Tyler tried.