13 Reasons Why--Netflix's thirteen episode teen-suicide-as-super-cool-vengeance-to-make-everyone-love-you-and-miss-you-and-be-very-sorry-that-they-abused-you-as-a-living-teenager-show was released to the delight of teens and horror of adults and suicide prevention hotlines everywhere. 13 Reasons Why breaks all the rules about depicting suicide. And that’s great, or bad, whichever. Really I don't care because I was a teenager in the 1990s and I know what true teenage suicide drama looks like: BAZ LUHRMANN’S ROMEO + JULIET.
This movie came out in 1996. It stars Leonardo ”Babyface Pumpkinhead” DiCaprio and Claire “Champion of the Ugly Cry” Danes. Cast your mind back to your teenagehood, heauxs, and remember seeing this movie for the first time, 16 and horned up and so depressed because you live in the desert. LOOK AT HOW BEAUTIFUL EVERYTHING IS ALL THE TIME
Watching this movie as a grown ass woman makes me feel like I am on the best kind of drugs that make me feel 16 exactly. I don’t know if those specific drugs exist, but it doesn’t matter because this movie can get you there substance free.
This movie has it all: teenage marriage, parents that just don’t understand, guns, blood-feuds, Paul Rudd, secret potions, RADIOHEAD! It is crazy and over-stimulating just like all Baz Luhrmann productions. It features his beloved smash cuts (so, so many)
And his impeccable soundtracking skills. I mean, I wore this cassette out! Here is a very true story that makes me love this movie more than anything. Apparently, Baz showed the boys in Radiohead the last thirty minutes of the movie and they wrote “Exit Music for a Film.” But they were so moved by the clip that they went into the studio and wrote the best rock album EVER, OK Computer. This miraculous movie inspired the soundtrack to my senior year in high school. For that alone, it should be raised on high.
ALSO, there is an excellent cover of “When Doves Cry.” Also, this movie is the best and 13 Reasons Why is a murky mess that glorifies suicide in the worst ways.
They both revolve around teen suicide, but in Romeo+Juliet, the lovers off themselves because they can’t stand to be apart. In 13 Reasons Why, the suicide is a revenge plot and makes the girl who kills herself into a justice slinging hero. That idea, that if you kill yourself everyone will be so sorry and those that wronged you will pay, cuts to the quick of teenaged narcissism. The death of the Capulet and Montague children brings the warring families together, but that’s not the reason why (hahahahah) they did it. Through its narration, 13 Reasons Why also lets the viewer indulge in some Tom Sawyer style, see your own funeral nonsense because it lets the dead girl narrate from the beyond the grave. In R+J, Claire and Leo are dead. They’re dead, and they aren’t ever coming back.
Here’s the thing: we’ve been making ninth graders read this play for about 500 years. Teenagers need to know that love is stupid and will lead to death. They need to see Teenage Suicide, Don’t Do It. They need the crushing tragedy because it might bring them catharsis. What they don’t need is some suicide revenge fantasy with step-by-step instructions on how to kill yourself.
So, I propose they watch Romeo+Juliet (1996). It’s so crazy and beautiful. And the script is pretty good, too.