“13 Reasons Why” Season 2: The Show Needed To Go Beyond Hannah’s Story

Many doubted the decision by Netflix to release the series, “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the book of the same name, the first season chronicles the events preceding high school student Hannah Baker committing suicide. After the finale, the book’s plot was complete. Even so, Netflix released the second season on May 18.

Although the first season received mixed reviews, even those in support of the series believed that a second season was unnecessary. However, the second season of “13 Reasons Why” speaks to many more social issues than the first season was able to address.

Power dynamics was a central theme in the second season. Throughout the 13 episodes, viewers witness whose story is told and heard, as well as who controls the narrative.

One of the most notable stories belongs to Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). Davis deals with judgmental peers when returning to Lincoln High School after learning that she was sexually assaulted by classmate and star athlete Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice).

During Davis’ absence, Walker and other students spin the narrative that Davis came onto him and “called rape” because she “regretted cheating” on her then boyfriend Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn). As the season progresses, Davis feels that she is not only not ready to “tell her truth,” but also that she is unable to do so.

After all, she claims, Baker accused Walker of raping her on tapes that she left behind explaining the reasons for her suicide. Even with evidence, still no one made efforts to prosecute Walker.

How could Davis, who argues that she is not the “perfect victim” since she is black and Baker is white, expect any better results?

The writers of the second season touch upon the important reality that women are judged and often ridiculed when they identify their attackers. More so, women of color are disproportionately less believed than white women, especially given the historical and racist sexualization of black women.

While power and who possesses it in the public arena is a constant theme, another overarching theme is gun violence. Liberty High students are shown possessing firearms at different points in the series.

At the conclusion of the first season, Alex Standall (Miles Heizer) attempts suicide by shooting himself in the head. While his attempt is unsuccessful, his access to a firearm is discussed in the context of his father who is a police officer. The latter notes his own guilt for Standall being capable of getting a firearm.

Additionally, the first season shows Tyler Down (Devin Druid) purchasing a firearm on the streets, presumably to protect himself from school bullies. However, the timeliness of the show discussing access to firearms and gun violence is most notable in the second season’s finale.

After being sexually assaulted, Down is later seen preparing his firearms and getting into his car to go to the school dance. While there is no justification for Down’s intended actions, the entire season is yet another parallel to our current culture of mass school shootings. Additionally, the show reveals the apathy from those with the legislative power to enact change and instead only offer “thoughts and prayers.”

It is also worth noting that throughout the season, Down fits the demographic for how mass shooters are described — the white, “academic, quiet loner.” He was marked by the former guidance counselor as someone to watch and the warning signs were present.

However, these realities are overlooked and the second season of “13 Reasons Why” reveals how it was almost too late.

Personally, I believe that many of those who are opposed to the second season of “13 Reasons Why” missed the point of the first season. There are so many prevalent issues that we refuse to discuss because they are considered too delicate or controversial. However, we only perpetuate these issues when we ignore them.

Yes, Hannah Baker’s story technically ended after the first season of “13 Reasons Why.” Even so, if you watched the series, then you know that her story and others like it are much bigger than one person.

Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo
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Do Our Personalities Change With Our Instagram Aesthetics?

Given the reality that social media is an integral part of our lives, how we let others perceive us on Instagram constantly shifts. Undeniably, our focus on having the perfect “aesthetic” is joined by the reality that we only show what we want others to see.

So, I find myself with a couple of questions: First, do our Instagram aesthetics reflect us? If not, do we redesign our personalities to accommodate our fluctuating online personas?

I think that is hard to answer, especially since we all have different ideas about what is the most visually pleasing. There are accounts I follow that only post selfies. These people tend to tag all of their brands and hope for collaborations. In that regard, I think that the aesthetic does reflect the person since these people tend to be confident using their face to market themselves.

Therefore, it is fairly unlikely that the individual will redesign his or her personality to maintain that Instagram image.

Alternatively, there are people who post nature shots. The nature aesthetic is much easier to incorporate, even if you are not constantly in the woods. Sunrises are popular, as well as any setting that involves bright colors. Moreover, the aesthetic does not require anyone to change their fundamental characteristics primarily because they are not the subject of the images.

Finally, the increasingly common aesthetic that I have seen people use and I have adopted is posting three similar, yet slightly different photos. The photos are from the same day and the three-photo theme provides each row with a different story.

The one requirement is being comfortable posing in a multitude of ways. As someone who does not enjoy posing as people walk by or asking a friend to take my photo, it requires a conscious environmental desensitization. So, I personally argue that in the last case, there is a degree of reinventing necessary to fit the image.

What does it all mean, though? Some argue that it is harmful to alter one’s personality simply to appear a certain way online and in some cases, it is true. However, all of these aesthetics can be beneficial and are not necessarily misleading.

Selfies are valid if the person is showing their makeup or hopes to become a social media brand influencer. Separately, nature shots are ideal if the individual wants to pursue photography and share their photos on a popular platform. Lastly, the three-photo aesthetic is beneficial for those who travel or go new places and want to highlight these adventures.

However, even if none of these are the reason for one’s aesthetic, it can be OK. After all, there is something to be said for embracing the notion of “art for art’s sake.”

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Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ Shames Bisexual Experimentation

When Rita Ora released her third single, “Girls (feat. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha & Charli XCX)” on May 11, she experienced backlash from queer female musicians.

The song, which features high profile female musicians, was reportedly intended by Ora to “be a bisexual anthem,” according to BBC News. However, musicians like Hayley Kiyoko and the girl group MUNA have taken exception to the lyrics and accused the song of “exploiting bisexuality” and “belittling same-sex relationships.”

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After listening to the, quite frankly, unremarkable song, I find myself of two minds. On the one hand, I would like to believe that the artists featured on the song had no intention of mocking same-sex relationships, particularly between bisexual women.

However, intention and delivery do not necessarily align, and the message in “Girls” is only slightly less troubling than the one presented 10 years prior in Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” While “Girls” is arguably less vagrantly offensive, both songs share the theme of needing alcohol or drugs to give an “extra push” to consider having a sexual encounter with a woman.

The inherent message being sent, then, is that one drunken night is OK because it can be chalked up to experimentation, and it was simply for laughs.

Incidentally, there are better messages to be sent in regards to sexual exploration, and these songs do exist from female musicians. However, they will not get the airplay “Girls” will likely receive since they are either not attached to a big name or they are not as “scandalous.”

One such song is King Princess’ debut track, “1950.” I wrote a review of “1950” in March about how the song views queer relationships and how there is additional pressure since queer love was once forced to be hidden. I also noted how King Princess “offers a refreshingly hopeful tone that is otherwise absent in the established despondency of contemporary pop music.”

Alternatively, the lackluster reaction about “Girls” despite its apparent upbeat nature indicates that queer female musicians and their fans seek songs that do not shame experimentation. More so, they seek songs that do not play to most heterosexual men’s fantasies and more specifically, the male gaze that same-sex female relationships are subject to in pop culture.

After listening to “Girls”, I was reminded of an instance in my sophomore year of college with a former friend. She was the type who partied often and did so to attract attention — two qualities that differentiated our college experiences tremendously.

During a conversation between myself, her and our mutual friend, she somehow got onto the topic and asked us whether she was sexually attracted to women. She further elaborated by explaining how she would often kiss girls when she was drunk and I later learned that she had kissed girls at parties for the benefit of the guys around her. Although it was not necessarily a homophobic question, there is no denying that it was certainly tone-deaf, not unlike “Girls.”

As a whole, musicians have the ability to promote positive messages to the public. However, they are also capable of knowingly or not perpetuating negative ones. Therefore, rather than producing music to rally sexual minorities — especially as individuals who do not necessarily identify as part of the LGBTQ community — these musicians should stick to familiar territory.

After all, the most authentic art is a product of what the artist knows.

Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo

‘A Quiet Place’ Seamlessly Incorporates American Sign Language

One of the first lessons I learned in an introductory film course is that fear is driven by sound. When you watch a horror film, my professor instructed, cover your ears rather than your eyes. While my professor’s advice was practical for traditional horror films, it was questioned during my recent viewing of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place.

Krasinski’s horror film, based on the story by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, follows an American family on the run from a creature that hunts by sound. Set in the near future, the family consists of Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), and their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward).

At the film’s inception, the audience is captivated as the family silently loots an abandoned convenience store. The silence, only punctuated by the fumbling actions of four-year-old Beau, sets the tone of the film.

These children are being raised as survivors, but they have not lost their childish propensities.

As much is evident when Regan, who is congenitally deaf, returns a toy rocket to Beau. Earlier, their father confiscated it because it was too loud. The usually harmless sibling camaraderie is a threat, though, by her unawareness that he also reinserts the batteries that their father removed.

What happens next can be described as the most predictable, yet jarring moment of the film.

As they travel home, Beau activates the toy rocket and triggers a response from the creature that is effectively wiping out all humans. Beau becomes the creature’s next victim.

While the plot depicts the family’s constant state of alertness, the focus when watching the film should be on what silence and sound convey. Throughout the film, silence is used as a form of protection, while sound is also utilized as a method of survival.

The most notable incorporation of the dichotomy is through the use of American Sign Language and by extension, Regan’s cochlear implant.

The family’s knowledge of American Sign Language is key to their survival and sets the film apart from others of its genre. During key moments when gestures are not enough to depict necessary actions — such as when Lee instructs a terrified Marcus to create a diversion — American Sign Language and the family’s extensive knowledge of it protects them from danger.

However, sound is also used in the final moments of the film as a method of survival. Krasinski, Woods and Beck use dramatic irony to make Regan unaware that the feedback from her cochlear implant triggers a piercing, high-frequency that the creature detests. So, when she finally realizes the usefulness of her cochlear implant as the creatures surround them, she is effectively able to utilize sound as the creature’s weakness.

While A Quiet Place distinguishes itself in the horror genre for its unique plot and use of sound, it is also noteworthy for how it portrays American Sign Language and the deaf community. It does not depict Regan as the weak member of the family. Rather, she is shown as the family member whose distinct differences prolong their safety.

Additionally, Krasinski’s purposeful decision to cast a deaf actress to portray Regan is highly significant and an excellent directorial choice. In an interview with IGN, Krasinski said:

“First, I knew I needed a girl who was deaf for the role of the daughter, who is deaf in the movie. And for many reasons, I didn’t want a non-deaf actress pretending to be deaf. Most importantly though, because a deaf actress would help my knowledge and my understanding of the situations tenfold. I wanted someone who lives it and who could teach me about it on set.”

Simmonds’ casting stands in contrast to a history of films that frequently feature hearing actors in deaf roles, such as Dummy (1979), The Good Shepherd (2006) or Hush (2016). Therefore, her casting not only added insight to the family’s dynamic in the film, but also served as positive representation for young deaf actors.

Simmonds, who stressed that she originally did not consider becoming an actress “because I never saw deaf people in TV or movies,” affirmed that the representation is crucial. In a Teen Vogue op-ed, she wrote:

“I think it was important to show a hearing family that all signed with their deaf family member because many families that have deaf kids never learn the language. I think it’s important to show that it’s [OK] to learn ASL … To really understand a deaf person’s experience, you need someone that is deaf to be able to tell you what their experience is.”

A Quiet Place is not the first film to incorporate a deaf actor, but it does so seamlessly. The film uses American Sign Language in a way that hopefully encourages more people to consider the usefulness of learning the language.

Moreover, the film reinvents the classic theme of suspense and keeps the audience alert for the slightest nuances of facial expressions, which drive the film’s plot.

Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo

Melania Trump’s “Be Best” Is Threatened By Donald Trump’s Twitter

First Lady Melania Trump announced her official platform, “Be Best” on May 7 at a White House Rose Garden event. The platform’s purpose is to focus on well-being, opioid abuse and social media positivity, according to CNN. At the event, Trump said, “As we all know, social media can both positively and negatively affect our children. But too often, it is used in negative ways.” She added that when younger children are exposed to positive social media behavior, more “positive change” can be seen.

Despite Trump’s proposal, CNN reported that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked earlier in the day whether Trump’s husband, President Donald Trump, has encouraged cyberbullying. Although she unsurprisingly rejected the notion, Sanders overlooked the president’s effect when she said that cyberbullying is solely a long-term issue. Despite pre-dating the president, his presence on Twitter has perpetuated the issue. More so, his rhetoric threatens the success of Trump’s program if accountability does not start at the top.

Trump stated during her speech that adults must take accountability for educating children on “[choosing] their words wisely and [speaking] with respect and compassion.” She asserted that the lesson is valid both verbally and online. Nonetheless, we have seen over the last three years how her husband uses Twitter to verbally attack those who oppose him. The president’s social media outbursts, which are often discussed based on their sporadic and vitriolic natures, place him apart from other Twitter users. Unlike public users, he acts and is treated as though he is above the Twitter Rules, which claim to monitor behavior that “crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.”

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Therefore, while Sanders is correct to say that cyberbullying did not originate with the current president, he has not lessened its frequency. Rather, he and those closest to him normalize it and rebuke those who accuse him of promoting abusive behavior. By doing so, they endeavor to silence political or social opposition, and intimidate people into compliance. Therefore, they are not unlike schoolyard bullies who incite fear and demand respect — or else — and their lack of repercussions only encourages young people to do the same. After all, when there are no consequences for the actions of the person in the highest office, it is only natural that children will start asking, “If the president can say it, why can’t I?”

Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo

Syria Strikes a Start to a Solution

The United States, with the help of Britain and France, launched airstrikes on April 13 near the Syrian capital — Damascus — and west of Homs. The airstrikes were in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus on April 7. The attack resulted in the deaths of over 40 people, reported The New York Times. The United States’ latest response targeted facilities for Syrian research, storage and military, and according to The New York Times, put the country in conflict with Syria, Russia and Iran — both of whom support Assad militarily. The decision to get further involved in Syria is viewed with trepidation by some given the possible repercussions from the three countries. However, if President Donald Trump’s administration maintains that they will only launch attacks on “chemical weapons-type targets,” I think that it is beneficial to eliminate the resources used to harm Syrian citizens.

According to The New York Times, Trump addressed the nation on his reasoning for ordering strikes on Syria. He said, “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.” He also condemned the leaders of Russia and Iran for their complacency, stating, “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.” While my political views often oppose Trump’s, I agree that Russia and Iran need to create a distance from Syria and, more specifically, Assad. However, it works both ways; those who deal directly with Russia and Iran must apply pressure to encourage them to cut ties with Assad. To do so, the United States should consider the mutual trade partners it has with Russia and Iran, such as China, and put its own pressure on the mutual partners to limit or cease trade with these countries. By applying pressure, even though China has supported the Syrian government, China and similar countries would be forced to consider which allies it values to maintain their economy — democratic or totalitarian ones.

Read full article on The Fairfield Mirror.
Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo

Sometimes Our Favorite Movies Age Poorly

On April 6, actress Molly Ringwald wrote an Op-Ed in the New Yorker entitled, “What About ‘The Breakfast Club’?” In the article, Ringwald – a member of the “Brat Pack,” young actors who starred in coming-of-age films together throughout the 1980s – points to the works of John Hughes. Ringwald acknowledges that, while Hughes’ works gave teenagers screen time and validation as thoughtful individuals, some of the films’ cultural elements do not stand the test of time. More specifically, the rise of the #MeToo movement after sexual misconduct allegations were directed at film producer Harvey Weinstein called to question the behavior of boys in Hughes’ films. She also pointed to how we as a society laugh off abusive behavior and sexual misconduct aimed at girls. Moreover, Ringwald argues that while the 80’s coming-of-age films are still vital cultural landmarks to preserve, we must also consider that the social tone has shifted. So, while we can still enjoy our favorite movies, we can also recognize that some have aged badly and should be discussed, in part, regarding their troublesome content.

Read full article on The Fairfield Mirror.
Follow Ariana Puzzo on Twitter @ari_puzzo