tv series

TV shows ‘Riverdale’ and ‘13 Reasons Why’ prove that it takes a village to kill a child

Dark themes of murder, abuse and drug addiction course through the shows, both of which are set in American high schools.

Being a teenager is terrifying. Not only is your body and mind going through all sorts of changes, but often, it looks like everyone around you is doing a better job of handling what you are struggling with.

This is a tale as old as time, and one that television has told time and again. The high school show takes different shapes: comedy (Freaks and Geeks being great examples), drama (Friday Night Lights), a delightful blend of the two (Gossip Girl and The OC), even supernatural and paranormal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries). Newer entrants Riverdale, based on the characters from the classic Archie comics, and Netflix’s sobering 13 Reasons Why are more serious-minded than some of their forebears, falling along the thin line between drama and angst. What unites these otherwise disparate shows about teenage girl gangs and outsiders looking to fit in are the narratives of loss, confusion and the manner in which the community is paradoxically, simultaneously weakened and strengthened.

Both Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why are set in small towns, with the majority of their characters being in high school. Both open with death: in Riverdale, Jason Blossom’s staged death ends up being an actual one, while 13 Reasons Why opens with the suicide of Hannah Baker, who has left behind cassettes telling stories of the 13 people she believes have driven her to take this step. The show opens with the tapes coming to Clay Jensen, number 11 on the list.

Play
13 Reasons Why.

The deaths of Jason and Hannah leave the characters of their respective shows reeling. In the case of Riverdale, the safe, decent and innocent facade of the small town is blown off spectacularly. The show’s narrator, Jughead Jones, constantly reminds viewers that “things changed forever” with the discovery of Jason’s body. Factions come to light along with old feuds between picture-perfect families. Friends fight and turn their backs on one another, but at the same time, new alliances are formed, with characters like Betty Cooper and Jughead, the good girl next door and the mopey hipster, coming together to solve the various mysteries that suddenly pepper their existence.

13 Reasons Why is more explicit in its denouncement of community as killer. Hannah Baker arrives at a new high school in sophomore year, and her tragedy begins almost immediately. She hangs out with the popular jock, Justin Foley, who slaps on her the reputation of being easy. Interactions and friendships each come to a depressing halt, usually because of one misplaced word or action. Hannah’s tapes make their way through the chain of people, mostly fellow students who have had some impact on her life and decision. In her absence, they bind those same students together, each watching the other to make sure no one spills the truth of Hannah’s life.

13 Reasons Why is based on a bestselling young adult novel of the same name. Its tone couldn’t be more unlike the Archie comics, falling more in line with cult classic The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is dark and deals with some of the dark realities of high school – the more sinister side of bullying and its fallout, slut shaming, suicide and finally and perhaps most horrifyingly, rape and sexual assault. Riverdale also attempts to shoehorn these issues into its storyline, but perhaps because of the writing, they come across as preachy extraneous and something done to check things off a list.

Play
Riverdale.

The examination of the ramifications of sexual and substance abuse in 13 Reasons Why makes it clear that these are not only integral to its characters’ motivations; indeed, other, more adult-oriented shows could take a page out of its book when it comes to similar portrayals.

There’s a popular adage that it takes a village to raise a child. If we are to believe the lessons of Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why, it also takes a village to kill one.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.