To All the Times Representation Has Been Stolen From My Community

I came across an article the other day, talking about the uplifting phenomena of Asian girls dressing up as Lara Jean Covey from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. As someone who grew up not celebrating Halloween and not participating very much in costume or cosplay culture, this was still able to strike a chord with me.


Because the article (which I’ve linked, here) features pictures upon pictures of Asian people dressed up as the lovable Lara Jean Covey, a Korean-American. There are so many things that I could say about TATBILB, but that’s not the reason I’m sitting here on Halloween night writing out this blog. I’m here because this story, among with other successful movies of 2018, are the reasons why I had someone I wanted to dress up as for Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong, TATBILB is not my favourite movie. Hell, it might not even be one of my favourite movies. But the fact remains, I saw an Asian girl playing an Asian role in an American movie without her being type casted as an “exotic” character. She’s the shining face on every poster. On the front of every ad. Anyone who even remotely knows about TATBILB knows the face of Laura Jean Covey (played by the wonderful Lana Condor). Do you know how rare that it is?

For YEARS (basically decades) Hollywood has whitewashed Asian narratives. Let’s take the controversy of 2017’s Hollywood live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and their whitewashing of the main role (and let’s face it, loads of the other roles) by casting Scarlett Johansson. I remember hearing about this and feeling my heart sink.

There are so many Asian actors and actresses out there. Why weren’t any of them considered for the role?

1) ScarJo was chosen because she was “a big star that could attract an audience” (and therefore a profit)

Okay, fair enough. We know that big stars attract the big bucks. But not every movie slaps a big flashy star on the front to make a profit. Didn’t all of these stars have to be cast in their very first major role at some point? There was no guarantee that their movie would make money, but we bet on them anyway. Why is it any different for a movie like Ghost in the Shell?

GitS is already a very VERY famous story. It’s been around since the 1990s, starting as a manga written by Shirow Masamune, adopted into its principle film in 1995. It was so successful, the franchise produced a variety of spin offs and series in addition to the main story. And these medias have proved to successful. Do we not have faith in the source material which has already proven to be commercially successful?

Besides, even with ScarJo’s casting (or can I be so bold to say because of her casting?) the movie performed HORRIBLY in the box office. It’s estimated that $60 million was lost due to lack of revenue and overall cost of production and advertisement. Movie critics have a hypothesis that it is due to casting controversies and scathing pre-premiere reviews that damaged the film before it even released. It seems popular stars taking lead roles aren’t guaranteed to make a film successful in the first place. So why not cast a racial accurate actor?

2) The Major is a cyborg, so does she really have a race if her body is made of manmade robotics?

The main character of GitS is Matoko Kusunagi, a cyborg who is made completely out of synthetic material (aka, a “shell”), but implanted with a human soul (or “ghost”). She struggles with the separation of her body and spirit throughout the original story, but does that make her any less Japanese than the other characters?

I’d argue no. In the original version of GitS, directed by Oshii Mamoru, the Major is still fully conscious of who she is. She knows that she’s Matoko Kusunagi and that she is the leader of Public Security Sector 9 of New Port City, Japan.

That’s what’s key here. Regardless if Kusunagi’s real body still exists or not, it doesn’t mean that she ceases to exist as who she was before. The soul that inhabits the cyborg body is still Matoko Kusunagi. And Matoko Kusunagi was/is a Japanese woman who lives and works in Japan.

If we argue that it’s her body that dictates whether she is Japanese or not, are we not going to consider the fact that the body her soul was taken out of, and the soul that continues to live inside her cyborg body is Japanese? Do we consider the body more descriptive of who a person is over their soul?

And then we have to open the whole can of worms where they changed the name of the main character to “Mira Killian” who later realizes she is Kusunagi Matoko because she lost all her memories and… why did we have to change to plot of GitS in the first place? To justify the casting of a white woman in an Asian role? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to just… Cast an Asian person in the first place?

And besides GitS and ScarJo, there have been so many other incidences of white celebrities taking Asian roles. Let’s not forget Emma Stone playing a quarter-Chinese, quarter Hawaiian, and half white character in Aloha in 2015.

Cameron Crowe, the director of Aloha apologized to the people who felt the casting was misguided but also justified his choice by saying, “As far back as 2007, Captain Allison Ng [Stone’s Character] was written to be a super-proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one… The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local.”

As someone that often gets misidentified (I’m Filipino, but even my mother has told me I can look white in some lights, haha) it can be rather frustrating to be mistake as something else. But that doesn’t mean that if someone to be cast as me in a movie, I’d be okay with them using a white person. Regardless of if the character of Allison looks like a white person, they still should have used someone that aligned with Allison’s racial make up, instead of Emma Stone, who is basically as white as it gets. After all, just like any other races, Asian people can look vastly different from the “stereotypical” look of an Asian person. I bet you there’s an Asian actress that could have played Allison Ng that is often misidentified as white, no problem.

And yet, despite all these controversies, I’ve begun to see hope in the future for Asian representation in media. Just this year, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing representation for Asia in cinema. It started with Lana Condor being casted in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, sure. It was carried on by my viewing of Crazy Rich Asians, starring the absolutely beautiful Constance Wu. But what really spoke to me? A short featured right before a full length feature.

In June of this year, the long awaited Incredibles 2 came out. While a huge fan of the original Incredibles, what struck me the most about my viewing of the movie, was the Pixar short, Bao, which came before it.

It’s a stunning short film directed by Domee Shi, A Chinese-Canadian storyboard writer and director. The story of Bao, which deals with the “Empty Nest Syndrome” often experienced by parents when their children grow up. Bao explores the idea of a dumpling (or “Baozi”) that comes to life and struggles for independence from its maker (or mother figure).

This particular story truly hit home for me, as it’s about the love of a mother, trying to protect her child, which in turn makes the child feel stifled and unable to grow. Unable to cope with her “son” leaving her, the mother promptly eats her dumpling son to prevent him from leaving. In reality, the dumpling is a representation of her son, who has grown up and left the home.

I remember sitting in the theatre, surrounded by the laughter of children and adults alike as the mother gulps the dumpling down in one smooth swallow. One person even shouted aloud, “What?!”. But I myself was fully sobbing.

The story of Bao personally struck every chord, every struggle, I had experienced while growing up in an Asian home. It can feel stifling or strict, and you feel the need to rebel or push what you want. But it’s easy to forget that your parents really want what’s best for you. It was the first time in cinema I’d felt that a story was catered to me and my experiences, and I was able to relate so strongly to the messaging of the film, I cried.

The short is only about 4 or 5 minutes long, but it was so deeply impacting for me. This was the reason that representation matters. It’s for the people who don’t feel like they’ve ever had their stories told. It’s for the people who have never had a character to look up to and think, I’m just like them. It’s for the people who have felt that their stories are not worth telling.

The media I’ve consumed this year in North America give me hope that some day, someone like me could end up on the big screen. People will hear the stories of Filipino North Americans. People will see my culture and learn to appreciate it.

There’s still a long way to go. But I believe that we are starting to take a step forward in the right direction. There are more Asian-American actors/actresses/activists speaking out than ever before. And there are real changes being made. One day, it will be a thing of the past where the stories of my community were silenced or white washed.

I hope I live to see that day.

– Carole


Redefining Beauty: Inclusive Brands

Today I went shopping by myself.

And by shopping I mean walking around the mall with a Starbucks iced drink and looking at clothes but never buying any. This has become one of my favourite hobbies, as there’s something peaceful about shopping on your own without anyone to bother you that you’re taking too long or you’re going to stores that they don’t want to go to.

It was also today that I realized how much inclusivity matters. At least, to me.

It’s no secret to people who know me that one of my favourite stores to shop at is Aerie by American Eagle. I love them because 1) they sell the most comfy bras and underwear but 2) they don’t photoshop their diverse set of models.

The latter of those two things is most important to me because as a child, I often felt awfully uncomfortable and embarrassed when I went clothes shopping. When I was a kid, I was rather plump and chubby. I was wearing “size 16 kids” (whatever size “16” even means) by the time I was around 11 or 12 years old, and was constantly embarrassed every time I went clothes shopping and things didn’t fit me right or were too small. Everyone my age was wearing Aeropostale, Hollister, or Abercrombie graphic tees and skinny jeans. It was horribly mortifying that I didn’t fit into those clothes (their sizing tended to run small, so I was squeezing into large and extra-large t-shirts, sucking in my stomach and trying to smooth out my muffin top by pulling up the waist of my jeans). Why couldn’t I look like everyone else? I wondered to myself, looking at the popular girls with their little tiny waists and straight blonde hair. They looked just like the models in all the ads. Maybe these were clothes meant for them, but not for me.

So I stuck to what I was comfortable in or what was more “me”. Random off-brand clothes, sometimes from Wal-Mart, sometimes the thrift store, sometimes hand-me-downs from my cousin. I still wished I could be wearing all the so called “fashionable” and “in-style” clothing as everyone else. I often complained to my mom that the fashion in style wasn’t meant for my body. Low rise jeans and tight little t-shirts did no service to my chubby, curvy body. My mom agreed, saying that stores should have different kinds of clothes that suit different body types and allow for everyone to feel comfy and happy.

Flash forward to my first year of undergrad. I had moved away from my small town (it’s by no means small in population, but basically a bedroom community with nothing fun to do there), to a bigger city about an hour and a half away. For the first time, I lived nearby to a mall that had more than a handful of stores (that mostly catered to middle aged white women). That was when I found Aerie.

I’d been to an Aerie before back when I was on a high school trip to Chicago, but in the flurry of the trip I’d forgotten about it. When I walked into the store, it seemed like everything was inline with my aesthetic and sense of style: pastel colours, soft and comfy fabrics, and stylish but functional. But what really blew me away was the pictures of models all over the stores.

All over the store, the models were plastered with the tag #AerieReal, meaning none of the girls were photoshopped to look thinner, fair-skinned, or perfect. And I could tell. Some girls had thick thighs, some girls had smile lines, some girls had cellulite, some had fat rolls, but they still looked absolutely beautiful and radiant.

For the first time I was looking at shining women who I felt I could relate to. If these women were imperfect, but I still thought they were beautiful, perhaps I could also be beautiful just the way I was.

I was hooked after that. It was so comforting to browse their website and have an idea of what clothes would look like on someone who looked similar to me. I used to face the problem of seeing clothes look gorgeous on tall skinny models, but when I put it on my short, curvy body, it did me no service. But I felt overjoyed to spend money on clothes that were made with my body in mind. In fact, the whole brand was designed to have something that suited everyone, and created an environment that allowed you to feel beautiful no matter what you were wearing or how you looked in it.

It was so liberating, most of the clothes I own (or rather the clothes I love the most) are from Aerie.

Today I went into the mall and peeped into other stores that sold similar things to Aerie, like Victoria’s Secret, Pink, and La Senza. I could immediately tell the difference. All the clothes and pictures in those stores clearly catered to the skinny white girl my young self had desired to be like. It didn’t feel like I was really meant to shop at these stores.

Inclusivity is by far one of the most important things to me, especially as an Asian-Canadian who often struggles with my sense of cultural identity, and even more so how I looked compared to other people. There’s something very powerful about feeling included, whether because of your race, body type, gender, etc. and it’s important that brands follow suit to try and meet those needs. Is the #AerieReal campaign perfect? Far from it. But they’re definitely taking a step in the right direction, a direction that I am more than happy to support by buying their merchandise.

It’s taught me that I deserve to feel happy, comfortable, and beautiful in the things that I wear. Even if I don’t look like the “ideal woman”.


To All the Women Who Have Made an Impact on My Life.

I would not be here if it were not for all the women that have led me to where I am in my life. Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and all the wonderful things they do for our society, for all the hardships they endure, and all the blessings they have given us.

This is my opportunity to say thank you.

Thank you to my mother, who has raised me since the day I was born. She is the strongest woman I have ever met. Thank you raising me to kind, respectful, loving, and intelligent. I got all of these wonderful traits from you. Thank you for inspiring my life with your own, with your passion for helping others, being selfless, and being someone I could always look up to. Thank you for teaching me everything that I know, and teaching me to love and care for others. I hope one day I can be a mother as wonderful as you, and that my daughters will see me as beautifully as I see you.

Thank you to my sister, who I have taken care of my whole life. You have also taken care of me. Thank you for teaching me to be gentle. Thank you for teaching me to be a leader. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a role model, and how my life can inspire others. Thank you for loving me despite all the mistakes I’ve made toward you, for all the times that I asserted power over you in ways that weren’t fair. Thank you for being my best friend, for always listening and for always understanding me, no matter where I’m coming from. Thank you for being you.

Thank you to my teachers, who have guided me on the path I’m on today. Thank you to Kendra Chow, who changed my life. Thank you for reigniting my passion for music and my passion for teaching and reaching out for others. Thank you for always believing in me, even when I couldn’t believe in myself. Thank you for always supporting me, and caring about me far more than you were required to, but did because you genuinely care for all your students. Thank you for being a role model and for inspiring me to create change in my own special way. Thank you for everything you’ve done to inspire my life, and all the lives that come after mine.

Thank you to my Titas, whether related or not, for always looking out for me and keeping me out of harm’s way. Thank you for always keeping me safe and providing me with everything that I need. Thank you for always feeding me when I come to visit, or giving me hand-me-down clothing. Thank you for taking care of me throughout my entire life, and for being selfless and kind in every respect. Thank you for welcoming me into your homes, and for always showing such genuine hospitality. Thank you for blessing me with what it means to have a family, whether through blood or not.

Thank you to my friends, who have always lifted me up. Thank you for spending countless hours with me, and making me smile every single day. Thank you for being with me when I am at my lowest of lows, and staying even though you don’t have to. Thank you for showing me what true friendship is, and what it means for women to support women. Thank you for being true confidants, and making me feel like I belong somewhere. Thank you for constantly reminding me of my value and my beauty. Thank you for supporting me the way I always want to support you.

Thank you to every woman who has touched my life, because I am so blessed to have met you. Whether our interaction was big or small, it helped shape who I am. The inspiring women who have led me and supported me all my life are the ones who have led me to my success.

Thank you because I can never thank you all enough.

Carole Lynn,


My Thoughts on the Logan Paul “Suicide Video”

Possible TW for mentions of suicide.

Hello there, back again! I write this in February, reflecting back on my January, and how I blinked and suddenly the whole month was gone. One thing that I do remember though, that did buzz through social media was the Logan Paul “Suicide” vlog at the beginning on January.

I first heard about it through Twitter, predominantly criticisms of a vlog that Logan Paul had posted on his Youtube. I’m not much of a Youtube person myself, but the word “suicide” really caught my attention. As a self-proclaimed mental health advocate I try to educate myself on what’s happening in the world in regards to mental health and wellness, and it deeply concerned me that there was a problematic video dealing with a sensitive topic such as suicide; especially coming from Logan Paul who has millions of subscribers, most of which are children and young teens.

I stayed mostly quiet through the whole fiasco, because I wanted to process what was happening. After all, I was watching this whole thing fall apart in real time. It started with the video being pulled from Youtube. Then Logan Paul posted a screenshot of a note who wrote in apology (which was critically received), and then posted an apology video (also critically received), and finally another Youtube video kind of trying to address the issue.

I debated back and forth if I should watch the original video after seeing so much backlash online. I wanted to address the issue, as I thought it was important to, but I didn’t want to dive in blind. Now, I’d heard from lots of people that it was potentially triggering content, and wondered if this could go poorly for me. Ultimately, I slowly watched the video, taking time to process what was happening. Personally, it was no more than uncomfortable for me, but I could certainly see it being potentially harmful towards others.

I will quickly summarize the video and provide some of my insights on it.

  • I don’t understand why someone would think it’s a “fun” idea to go to a forest in Japan known for many suicides. It doesn’t seem like Logan cares very much of the gravity of the situation. He claims he went in there for the “spooky fun” of it, and doesn’t consider suicide to be a joke, but in reality, making light of suicide by cracking jokes about the “vengeful ghosts” living in the forest, who are the souls of those have died by suicide is very much insensitive and not funny at all.
  • His humour is not appreciated by me. He still uses the outdated phrase of “committing suicide” rather than “dying by suicide”. The amount of “dead” jokes in this video made me rather uncomfortable, especially in the context it was in.
  • Just in general the click-bait of this whole thing makes me really angry. Suicide is not a big dramatic thing to point to for views. These are real people who had real lives who do not need their deaths manipulated for other people’s gain. This video just reeks of insensitivity.
  • Why on Earth, if you found a dead body in the forest (of a man who just died by suicide no less), would you film it and post it on Youtube? I’ve tried to wrap my head around this. What is the intentionality for this? Is there any time it would be appropriate to do this? I have yet to figure this out. To me, actually showing a dead body on Youtube (even when blurring the face of the man out) is simply used for shock value. Shock creates buzz. Buzz creates views. Logan has (whether intentionally or unintentionally) used this man’s suicide as a means for his own person gain. As someone who feels strongly about those who deal with suicidal ideation and those who die by suicide, I cannot in any way fathom why someone would do this, and it does not sit right with me at all.
  • In essence, Logan said it was all supposed to be a joke and for fun, but it became a serious matter. What I just can’t accept is that when it was clear that this was no longer all “fun and games” (though, I don’t think it was at all fun and games to begin with), it didn’t stop. He just kept filming the body for what felt like ages, that it almost made me feel sick. I understand that lots of people deal with shock in different ways, but his humour was inappropriate, and even if that’s his coping mechanism, he shouldn’t have posted it at all, because it takes away the gravity of the situation. There’s nothing funny about finding someone who has died by suicide. Asking them if they are still alive is not funny.

It’s safe for me to say that I’m disappointed by this display of mental health and suicide, regardless of if it was intentional or not. Considering this was one of the first videos posted this year, it deeply worries me that activism in the mental health field is falling desperately behind. Logan Paul’s main audience is impressionable youth; children and teenagers. They are our future. We cannot stand by and allow them to engage with this kind of content, that paints such a terrible picture of such a serious issue.

On Bell Let’s Talk day this year, my spirits were lifted, watching the country come together to talk about mental health. The conversation never stops, and it’s why I’m writing about a video that was published on Youtube (and since removed) 2 months ago.

What are your thoughts on this video?

– Carole

Why Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” Missed the Mark

Disclaimer: This blog post will deal primarily with the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and contains spoilers.

Trigger Warning(s): Mentions of depression, suicide, sexual assault, and rape.

One of the most popular series online right now is Netflix’s adaption of the 2007 novel 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I must admit, when I first heard that the novel was being brought to life to the small screen, I was excited. It’s been years since I read the book (I was probably 12 or 13 years old, so at least 5 years ago now), but from what I remembered, it was a book that I held deeply important. Perhaps my opinion on the book might have changed from when I was younger, but I know one thing for sure: I do not like the TV adaptation of the series. There are so many reasons for this as well. Many that I’ve had to sit on, discuss with others, and read other’s opinions and articles online to fully understand what I truly felt about this series.

For some context, 13 Reasons Why is focused on two main characters, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), in which the latter has just died by suicide at the beginning of the series. Clay comes home from school to discover that a box of cassette tapes has been mailed to his front door, addressed to him. There are 7 tapes, with 13 sides recorded by the late Hannah Baker who informs Clay and the rest of us watching that each side of the tape features her encounter with different characters and how they contributed to her suicide. The series goes on to play these tapes for us and we watch both the past (as told by Hannah) and the present (as seen by Clay) unfold in front of us.

I’ll start with the issue that truly bothers me the most. 13 Reasons Why is a story about a girl who dies by suicide. Why then do we never talk about her mental health? Suicide is a huge topic in the world of mental health and wellbeing; so why does Hannah Baker’s mental state take the back burner through this whole series? Jessie Stephens says in her article for the MamaMia newsletter, “Bizarrely, throughout the entire series, 13 Reasons fails to even mention the words ‘mental illness’ or ‘depression’…It misses an enormous opportunity to open up a discussion about mental illness, which is a contributing factor in at least 90 per cent of suicides.” Somehow, we have a show that talks about suicide, but mental illness is never talked about, which as Stephens indicates is responsible for nearly all suicides. Isn’t that alarming?

13 Reasons Why misses a really important marker: it is not other people who cause someone to develop suicidal tendencies and ultimately die by suicide. In more cases than not, there is an internal, psychological problem. How can we address our teen suicide epidemic without once looking at the root of the issue? Yes, bullying is a contributor to suicide, but why? Because it influences the victim’s psyche, and there are so many more complicated issues in the human psyche that just weren’t addressed in the series. As Neha Shah articulates beautifully in her article for NewStatesman, “Hannah’s suicide as a means of exposing the actions of her peers and making them feel guilty rather than exploring the nuances of mental illness.  Of course, bullying can be a contributing factor towards suicidal thoughts and behaviour, but it is wrong to portray it as a direct cause – a lazy and unforgivable simplification of the infinitely more complex nature of mental illness.” That’s not to say that bullying and the sexual abuse that happened to Hannah Baker are irrelevant, but rather, that we’re focused too much on what other people did to her, and less about how Hannah Baker actually felt because of the things that happened to her. Serena Smith writes in her article for The Tab, “We never really tap into Hannah’s psyche: she’s just a narrator. The result is that she comes off as an over-dramatic snowflake.” This becomes apparent when you watch the show. Hannah presents as a victimizer as we never truly understand her psyche. It appears like she blames people for making her life a living hell and that everything happens to her and she plays no factor in how sad, empty, and alone she feels. It’s hard to say, but many of the things that she says in her tapes (like rejection, rumors, etc.) happen to a lot of people in high school. But the fact is she was mentally unfit to handle what was happening to her. That’s not her fault.

But it’s not up to her to blame other people either. Of course, that’s not to say that what people did to her wasn’t terrible, but what’s the point in her recording these tapes and sending them to people after she’s dead? What can they do now to try and fix what’s happened? They can’t. They can’t do anything except bear the burden that they’re a reason why someone is dead. Is that fair? That’s the danger in not opening up the conversation to Hannah’s psyche. Suicide is not an issue that can be pinned on 13 specific things. We can’t plot a time line of 13 tapes that will lead us directly to why someone took their own life. There’s so many more complexities that just get completely shut down for the sake of a story. A story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. People’s minds? Their mental wellbeing? Those things can never be mapped out in a linear procession. There are so many things that contribute to suicide it’s naïve to think that maybe if these 12 people on the tapes had just been nicer to Hannah she wouldn’t have killed herself. Stephens writes, “[13 Reasons Why] sends the message that anyone who has been touched by suicide could and should have done more. As though the onus lies on the friends and families of the deceased.” And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s so much more going on, especially within Hannah’s psyche, that was never spoken about. We can never be sure that if we had just been kinder to someone, they might not have taken their own life. It’s always good to think about treating each other better, but we can’t place guilt on people for the loss of others. What good does it do to blame any of the other characters for Hannah’s death? That doesn’t bring her back. That idea of feeling guilty for someone else’s suicide (as Clay does) is so problematic, and feeding into the idea that we should be doing more for others (not to be mistaken for actively trying to be kinder to each other) is extremely dangerous. As Kevin Fallon writes in his article for The Daily Beast, this blame game is a “misunderstanding of mental illness, depression, suicide, and…grief.”

Even more problematic than the silence on mental health in a show so deeply rooted in mental illness is the glorification of suicide. In the most obvious sense, Hannah’s suicide is incredibly, horrifically, graphic. We watch her slit her wrists and bleed out in a bathtub in the finale of the show. Quinn Keaney writes in her article In Praise of the Unflinching Honest Approach to Teen Suicide on 13 Reasons Why, “Anything less than showing Hannah’s death in all of its brutal, bloody reality would be a disservice to the character, the show, and its audience.” But I would disagree. There are so many ways that people die by suicide. Why did the directors decide on the most visually gruesome depiction at the climax of the entire series? In the original novel, Hannah is described to have “swallowed a handful of pills” (which Keaney herself acknowledges in her article 19 Big Differences Between the Book and TV Show Versions of 13 Reasons Why). Was that version not climatic or dramatic enough for the small screen? 13 Reasons Why takes the route I really wish it hadn’t. Hannah’s suicide, as much as they try to paint it as an ‘honest’ representation of what suicide looks like, is yet again dramatized and glamourized by Hollywood by making use of the flashiest, most visually stomach twisting way to present Hannah’s suicide out there at the most dramatic part of the series. Kayleigh Mcdonaldson writes for ScreenRant that the book is “an earnest attempt to tackle a very serious issue, but it’s plagued by the need to be dramatic in its storytelling, and thus sacrifices much of the nuance and compassion necessary to do the themes justice.” But I would say the same problem exists in the TV series, if not more for the visuals we get, and the differences seen from the book to the series in order to produce a longer story line that could potentially stretch into a second season. Because after all, this is a show produced by Hollywood that ultimately will generate revenue. Without the dramatics, it’s possible it won’t produce good results. But does that get in the way of telling the story properly? I would definitely say so.

Aside from that, I have to tell you, 13 Reasons Why is just too long. The book is less than 300 pages long, yet somehow, the series has been stretched into a mess that’s 13 hours long. Clay takes days to finish the tapes, but in the book he finishes them all in one night. Why? Because the series focuses on the characters left behind in present time, just as much, if not more, than they focus on the story Hannah is telling in the tapes. Personally, I found it unnecessary and at some points rather annoying. Lauren Chung writes for The Daily Cardinal, “…the audience [see] the duality and complexity hidden within Hannah’s stories. Viewers can now gain a more intimate understanding of the characters and their background stories beyond only what Hannah speaks of on her cassettes in the novel.” However, I don’t think that the stories behind all the other characters really matters. The whole premise of the series is that we should be nice to people because we don’t know what they’re going through, and the series attempts to show us what is going through the minds of Justin Foley, Jessica Davis, etc. etc. The problem I have is that I didn’t sympathize with the characters at all. When it all boils down to it, the show attempts to slather the characters with backstory to somehow ‘atone’ for their actions. Justin does terrible things by 1) taking non-consensual photos of Hannah and 2) letting Bryce take advantage of his girlfriend while she was drunk. But somehow, I’m supposed to feel bad for him and think “Oh it’s okay, I had no idea what he was going through!” when we find out he has a wrecked home life? I don’t think I’m heartless, and my heart truly broke for him in the exchange he has with his mother and her boyfriend, but does that really excuse him from the things he did to other people? No. Not really.

That’s not even my biggest issue. Let’s talk about who gets the tapes before Clay: Justin, Jessica, Alex, Tyler, Courtney, Marcus, Zach, Ryan and Sheri. That’s a total of nine people. That’s nine people that listened to these tapes, heard Hannah speak of not one, but two times that Bryce has sexually assaulted and raped two girls, one of which is Jessica, a majority of the teens’ friend, and Hannah, the dead girl they are literally listening to. And what do they do? They just pass the tapes on, keep their mouths shut, and do everything in their power to prevent Clay from breathing a word about the tapes to anybody. Why? To save their own asses and their own reputations? Because people will know the terrible things they did to Hannah Baker? They’re willing to sacrifice evidence on two rapes just for that? What kind of moral integrity is that? Am I supposed to just stand by and watch nine people cover for a rapist and then sympathize with them because of their backstory? I felt caught up in a soap opera every episode, where the characters whispering to each other about making sure Clay doesn’t leak the tapes for 45 minutes and then suddenly in the last 15 minutes we rush through what’s actually said on the cassette.

Alexa Curtis writes in her article for Rolling Stone, “We become captivated by the drama of the suicide rather than the actual suicide itself.” And that’s sad. 13 Reasons Why fails to really speak to the mental health/illness conversation in a healthy way. It glorifies the act of suicide in a frightening manner. Not only that, but it gets lost in the dramatics of what the teenagers do to try and prevent the tapes from being leaked to really speak to the real issue: Hannah Baker is dead. She died by suicide. And we will never get her back. Somewhere in her life she began to suffer. Her mental health took a nosedive, and none of the experiences she had in high school really helped with that at all. Not once did anyone offer any suggestion that maybe she get some help to get into a better place mentally. Her failed attempt at going to the counselor shows teens that that’s not where they can get any help, and doesn’t offer any alternatives for teens who need help. In fact, the glorified, graphic depiction of suicide basically gives teens the instructions on how to do it, should they feel like that’s their only option. And they should never feel like that’s the only option.

Most unsettling of all, when watching Beyond The Reasons, a half hour special episode where the cast and crew of 13 Reasons Why sit down for interviews to talk about the show. Executive producer, Brian Yorkey says something that I think is particularly problematic: “By the time we reach the last day of Hannah’s life she is completely depleted. It’s beyond simply being depressed; she thinks her life is worth nothing.” What does it mean to be “beyond simply being depressed”? Isn’t the most crucial, problematic part of depression that life feels meaningless? Suicidal thoughts are the byproduct of depression, how can we gloss over the ‘depression’ just to get to the suicide? How can I watch a show that is so heavily involved with suicide and mental illness when the executive producer doesn’t truly understand what it means at all?

I’m worried for youth that watch this show. I’m worried for youth that have been thinking about suicide and thinking that they too can get revenge and cause suffering for all those that hurt them by taking their own life. I’m worried for neuro-typical youth that watch this series and think that they could now tell you what it means to be depressed or suicidal. I’m worried for people that will now think they are responsible for other people’s suicides or that “being nicer” to people will cure the suicide epidemic (it will certainly help, but there’s so much more to it than that). I’m worried for how mainstream media will paint this show as a masterpiece for talking about difficult subjects like suicide, rape, and sexual assault just because they talked about it. Did they do it well? I don’t really think so.

Please please please, if you have been affected by this show, please get the proper help you need. I promise you that suicide will never ever be the answer to your suffering. And above all, remember, the story of 13 Reasons Why is fictional. As much as we analyze fiction and carry it into real life, stories can never truly capture the breadth that is the human experience. We can’t assume that the story we see is the only way that narrative can go.

Life may seem like a black hole you won’t get out of. But I promise you that you can. Never give up. I’m rooting for you. I always will be.

– Carole



Why Musicians are Basically Engineers

I’m sorry for being gone for so long! I really didn’t mean to completely abandon this blog as school started, but everything has just gone by so fast, it’s almost impossible to believe the semester is almost over already.

For those of you who don’t know, I moved away at the beginning of September to study music at the University of Western Ontario (more commonly known as ‘Western University’). Throughout this entire semester, I can honestly say that I am so incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work, me and all my fellow music students have to do.

And I’ve discovered in these 2 weeks, musicians are like engineers. How?

In university (or at least here at Western), we go by a credit system, 0.5 credits being a semester class, 1.0 credits being a full year class, for a total of 5.0 credits a year (approx. 2.5 credits a semester).

Well, for most. Music students are 1 of 2 programs that do not take 5.0 credits a year. We take 6.0 credits, plus ensemble: either choir or band for 4 hours a week (so basically, another credit without actually getting a credit).

Here, we have a grand total of 7.0 credits.

What is the only other program that has 7.0 credits? You guessed it, it’s the engineers!

Why am I telling you this?

I feel like in today’s society, the value of a music education is so drastically underrated. Let’s not mind all the benefits that comes with learning music (improved memory, time management and organization, etc.) but down to humanity’s simplest form, we’ve always had music.

I recently learned today about how music can change lives for people. Some people with Parkinson’s can regain part of their mobility when listening to music, those who can’t remember more than 7 seconds of their lives at a time due to brain damage still remember how to sing.

Music is a powerful thing.

Life as a music major is an interesting world to navigate. Somehow, the whole world has opened up to this beautiful wave of sound I never quite noticed before. With an understanding of music comes an understanding of sound. Of human connection to sound.

People always joke about how horror movies aren’t scary, funny even, without the sound. But have we ever noticed what a TV show or movie would sound like without background music?

Can we imagine a world where we live in silence?

Where we didn’t connect to one another through sound and the universal language of music?

Isn’t it fascinating that without any prior knowledge, we can tell a sad song from a happy song?

I find that now more than ever, art is under persecution. And this is so sad. We will always have science, and math, and law, and medicine… But what will we do if we lose music?

I felt burdened when helping with my university’s fall preview day by the lack of people that wanted to pursue music full time. I’m sad that my craft is under persecution for fear that a life of music is a life “unsuccessful” or “unfulfilling”.

Music was once the joy of the rich. Now we have so much music available to us.

To all you artists out there, never give up.

Music may be a demanding program. It may feel like there’s no point. Why do we continually push ourselves to keep going, if there are always improvements to be made? Why don’t we just crumple the sheet music up, toss it in the trash, and walk away?

Music people, we are engineers for humankind. We engineer emotional structure. We bring people together under a roof where they can feel safe. I remember reading once that doctors fix hearts, but musicians fix souls. A doctor can spend hours in surgery to save someone’s body, their livelihood. Musicians perform, we carry a message, for an hour, maybe two, and we help make that life worth living.

To all you artists out there, never let anyone tell you you’re insignificant.

Your voice, your song, is unique to you, and you only. Every note, every melody, every word adds to this beautiful music library of life.

Let’s never let it burn out.

– Carole


Youth is Wasted on Youth

Hello y’all! Did you miss me?

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote a blog post. I’ve just been so busy! I recently went on vacation last week, and I have lots to share. In fact, there’s so many things I want to blog about, I have no idea where to start.

I suppose I’ll share some of the stories from my vacation. I’ll do a general “vacation scrapbook” type blog soon, but there’s a particular story from my vacation that provoked some thought out of me.

Today’s generation they say, is increasingly addicting to cell phones and “me” culture. As a teenager in this society, I can say that it’s true. I’m guilty of it. My friends are guilty of it. Literally everyone living in the 21st century has been guilty of this at some point in their lives, some more than others, other’s subconsciously. But that’s not the issue here.

I don’t write this to be hypocritical, but rather in sadness over where our society has been headed on this train ride that chugs along at full speed, even though we have no idea where our final destination is.

I’m saddened by the amount of time we spend glued to phones, laptops, iPads, you name it.

This summer, I’ve had the pleasure of working at a tutoring camp. Every day, the kids have 3 break times, similar to school: snack, lunch, snack.

Usually during lunch time, and occasionally during snacks, we have a “free/play time” for the kids to take a break from story reading and worksheets. The tutoring centre has lots of toys, like jump ropes, hoola hoops, you name it. (Though personally, the centre lacks a skip-it, which was my childhood). However, at least 40% of the kids AREN’T PLAYING WITH THE FREE TOYS.

Instead, they bring their iPads and play Minecraft with each other, even though they’re sitting right beside each other.

This left me flummoxed to say the least. These kids are young! Maybe 4-9 years old. They’re big balls of energy that could run and play and laugh and sweat and enjoy everything life has to offer without worry… Yet they sit inside playing on an iPad.

Now, I’m quite young too, and I can admit that in my middle school years and even now, I’m totally guilty of doing nothing but reading internet fiction all day lying in bed, but it disheartens me that this kind of behaviour is so incredibly normal now.

Flash forward to my vacation. I went to St. Thomas, part of the US Virgin Islands. It took over 4 hours in a plane, but here I was. I went with my family for a late night swim. The sky was a dark navy, speckled with a battalion of stars.

St. Thomas is super hilly, and the little houses dotted the mountain top in a beautiful constellation of light. It’s a breathtaking view. I advise you all to see it in your life.

However, I know there are a few people who missed the view.

While I was swimming, I couldn’t help but notice two teenage girls sitting at the poolside. They were in their early-mid teens, I’d say maybe 14, 15, or 16? I was shocked to see that instead of soaking in the beautiful world around them, they had their heads down, staring at their phones.

I was totally tempted to swim up to them and tell them to look up! Because the world is so beautiful, and it’s not every day you’re somewhere so mesmerizing! Here I was, looking at the beauty of the world we live in, swimming in a warm, Caribbean sun heated pool, yet twitter and instagram were more important.

Later, I thought they were going to come in, after they finally shed their outer clothing to reveal pretty looking swimsuits. But instead, one of the girls got the other to take lots of pictures of her in her swimsuit, then sat down and began to edit a bunch of the pictures for instagram.

Suddenly, it felt like social media was so plastic and small. What good is an instagram moment beside a poolside if you never went in the pool? If you never even looked up to take in at the world around you? Social media was created to share the beauty of life and experiences. Yet here we are posting and posting with our insatiable hunger for likes and attention. We’re no longer experiencing what our pictures lead others to believe we are.

It’s none of my business as to what those two girls want to do with their time. It’s not up to me to tell them what should be a priority. I’m not them. I don’t know them. But it was a sad reminder that we live in such a ‘picture-perfect’ society. We get the pictures, and the likes, the attention, the followers… But what do we lose?

We lose life. We lose precious time we’ll never get back.

Youth today waste away posting on instagram, tweeting about breakfast, tumblr blogging pictures of cake, when we are in the prime time of our life to go out and do things that will seem impossible when we’re older.

They say that youth is wasted on youth, and it’s sad to see that the sentiment is true.

I want to start experiencing. I want to live without looking through a snapchat lens. 10 fleeting seconds mean nothing compared to a lifetime of memories stored in my brain. I want to look back on life and remember experiences, not the number of people who double tapped on my pictures.

But it’s not that easy. I know it isn’t. And despite saying all these things, I still check my likes, I still check my followers, I still snapchat. It’s a matter of moderation; and I want to learn how to balance.

How about you? What do you think about this whole “social media” culture? I’d love to get to know!

– Carole