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 

From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.