13 Reasons Why: An ultraconservative parable about Modern Stoicism

Warning, major spoilers ahead. Also, I hate that I have to say this, but if you’re offended or don’t realize this is tongue in cheek I can’t help you, your mother should have breastfed you and taken omega 3 oil supplements during pregnancy kthxbai

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh come on, you’re not really doing this. What are you, an angsty thirteen year old girl?” The answer to that question is “at some level yes”, but the irony here is that there’s nobody more boring than the person who thinks their obscure interests makes them interesting.

If I cared about what others think of me, I would not be listening to Beyonce and wearing New York Yankees baseball caps. No my friends, I would be listening to 18th century baroque music or Scandinavian black metal, like every other member of a counter-cultural herd. I would dress like a late 19th century British aristocrat, or like a Norwegian ghoul with a black leather jacket and a greasy ponytail. The fact of the matter however, is that I don’t really care.

In fact I’m going to explain to you why a true elitist watches the whole first season of 13 Reasons Why, but then refuses to watch any of the other seasons. That’s right, the first season is a divinely inspired masterpiece, but the subsequent seasons are a product of modernity’s perversion of everything that is sacred. The same applies to the Jurassic park movies, the Tropico games and everything else that is true, good and beautiful in this world.

To start with, I need to dispel a series of common misunderstandings. 13 Reasons Why is not genuinely about Hannah. We don’t know the true Hannah. Hannah is an ideal that is revealed to us through selective memories from Clay, selective memories from her parents and her own interpretation of events. This happens to all dead people: They are idealized.

In fact, the only person we genuinely know in 13 Reasons Why, is Clay. We know him as a flawed young boy born into a secularized society, who was raised without any moral lessons or notion of any higher purpose in life. His parents are typical bourgeois members of the managerial class, more preoccupied with their petty jobs than with raising their son.

Clay has a purity in him however, that leads him to seek out divine truths. “Go out, have fun, get good grades in school and don’t do any drugs.” That’s just about all that Clay was taught about the world by his parents, just like most of us are. There are no higher goals he is taught to aspire to by his parents, his teachers or his society in general. Through the haunting emptiness he feels in his life, for which Hannah might be best understood as an attempt at communicating the indescribable, he is forced to rediscover the meaning of life on his own.

In fact, the message of the series is so ultraconservative, reactionary even, that I’m surprised that no media mogul intervened to shut it down. Philosophically this series is somewhere to the right of Julius Evola, it preaches a sense of duty and devotion that would make Otoya Yamaguchi fear he is not up to the task. The dynamic between Clay and his wise teacher makes me think first and foremost of Krishna revealing the fundamental nature of existence to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, or the legends of Buddhas returning to Earth to help other souls reach enlightenment.

That’s the second message everyone misses. Everyone imagines the series creators are decadent liberals. Everyone is gay, everyone prefers dating outside of their own ethnic group, the series main villain is a wealthy heterosexual white man. But that’s where people make a mistake. If you want to send a heretical message, you do it in the language of your audience. That’s how you slip underneath the radar. The Christian missionaries could only communicate about Jesus to the heathen Germans by portraying him as a noble warior. If they explicitly communicated his true nature, they would have been killed and although they would become martyrs, their efforts would have been in vain.

The thing to understand is that 13 Reasons Why preaches the traditional values of the warrior nobility, in the language of the Kali Yuga. It contains a pre-Christian message that survived among the nobility but died out in Western nations during the Enlightenment. Religious dogmas differ depending on cultural circumstances, but values are timeless and can be universally rediscovered around the world. This is the idea underlying Traditionalism, the idea that if you consistently follow any of the world’s major religions, you end up arriving at the same timeless truths.

This leads us to another inconvenient truth, the fact that this series wasn’t written for angsty teenage girls. It was written for teenage boys with noble souls and intended to provoke a universal spiritual rebirth. If you make it seem as if it’s written for teenage girls, nobody will bother to criticially examine it for any signs of political incorrectness.

The story of 13 Reasons Why revolves around Clay, a seventeen year old boy suffering heartache over an unjustly maligned girl who killed herself. He is guided in his process of self-actualization by Tony Padilla, a boy who is portreyed as homosexual. Tony displays a visible and visceral discomfort with the term “gay” however.

In conservative circles, Tony would be better understood as being “mannerbünd”, a concept originating with Hans Blüher, to describe a form of same-sex attraction that does not fit modern progressive conceptions of male sexuality. Homosexuality in today’s culture is tolerated when it goes hand in hand with materialism, effeminacy, submission and decadence, that is, it is tolerated when it can be used to undermine the nuclear family.

We’re encouraged to empathize with Tony, even though his homosexual nature clashes violently with modern society’s culturally sanctioned form of homosexuality. The hypermasculine nature of Tony’s persona negates the form of homosexuality that is propagated in today’s media. Tony is not “uncloseted” for all practical purposes, he is sexually discreet and seems more preoccupied with restoring justice and honor than with satisfying his own lusts. He is a Spartanic figure, who takes pleasure in pain and pushes Clay to test his own physical limits through grueling physical exercise, taking him on a rock-climbing journey to test his devotion.

Zeno of Citium, original author of Thirteen Reasons Why

So, what is this timeless truth that Clay rediscovers through his own sacrifices? That timeless truth, my friends, is Stoicism. The core teaching of Stoicism is that happiness is not found by pursuing happiness. Rather, happiness is a byproduct that results when we commit ourselves to doing what is morally just and virtuous, as part of Nature’s plan for the world. This idea, that happiness is not found by pursuing happiness, is the antithesis to our entire modern culture, it is an idea so dangerous that it undermines the very foundations of capitalism.

Stoicism was founded by the Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium 300 years BC, but it is perhaps best known to most people from the writings of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, the last of the five good Roman emperors. Seneca argued that a true sage would be immune to misfortune, because to a true sage virtue is all that is necessary for happiness. Although this true sage might be tortured by his enemies, the cognitive realization that he did what is right and virtuous would be sufficient to prevent him from genuine suffering. 13 Reasons Why follows Clay on his path towards becoming such a Stoic sage.

For those ponytailed intellectuals among us who take pride in having lived under a rock for decades, 13 Reasons Why is narrated by a young pretty girl named Hannah Baker who is bullied and gradually ends up socially isolated despite her best efforts. After suffering sexual abuse, she eventually kills herself, but not before sending everyone at school who played a role in her plight a series of audiotapes explaining why she made the decision to end her life.

The series is hugely controversial because suicide rates among American teenagers appear to have spiked after the series was released on Netflix, the series is blamed by two different studies for triggering suicide contagion. I wish I was just high on weed right now and making this up, but alas the truth hurts. Obviously however the Jews err Zionists simply faked these studies to prevent a national rebirth, just like how they faked global warming.

In thirteen episodes of an hour each, we witness Clay Jensen come to terms with the fact that the girl he loved dearly happens to have killed herself. For Clay this is an extremely painful realization, because although the romantic tension between them is abundantly visible to all involved, Clay is an insecure teenager who has no real clue how to deal with these feelings.

That number of episodes is interesting to consider. Why does Hannah have thirteen reasons to kill herself? Why thirteen, who not ten, why not seven? Twelve is a number of perfection, but thirteen is a number of imperfection. Jesus initially had twelve apostles, but Judas betrayed him before committing suicide. This required the other eleven, to seek out a thirteenth apostle to replace Judas.

Hannah takes on the role of a messianic figure throughout the series. She makes sacrifices for her parents and acts good and righteous towards everyone she meets. Her pure beauty and her ultimate sacrifice enable Clay to discover his own true potential as a man of honour. Her ability to communicate to everyone after her death, her appearances in Clay’s hallucinations, everything about her is suggestive of a status as a supernatural entity of sorts, a vengeful Goddess who intervenes in the affairs of mortal beings.

Although they eventually pursue their passion, Hannah finds herself unable to proceed, because she is haunted by memories of the verbal and emotional abuse she suffered. Clay is thus a seventeen year old who has to live the rest of his life with the knowledge that his relationship was made impossible by a culture of abuse and bullying at the high school he attends.

Throughout the series, we come to know Clay as a boy who ultimately aims to do good in all that he touches. His primary initial motive however, is justice for Hannah. Like all of us however, his desire to pursue a pure and virtuous life is disturbed by his own weakness. Clay for example, succumbs to cowardice in the beginning of the series. After learning that Hannah was photographed while kissing a closeted lesbian girl, Clay seeks out the boy who photographed her and takes a nude picture of him. The boy is someone who is incapable of standing up for himself, being photographed naked merely leads him to suffer more abuse.

This teaches us an important distinction. Clay ultimately pursues virtue, but he starts out not simply pursuing virtue. He starts out attempting to live under the conviction that he is a virtuous person who seeks justice for Hannah. He is not entirely selfless, because he is still under the conviction that he too had a role in Hannah’s death. There have after all, been episodes in his life where he failed to stand up for her and succumbed to weakness. He accuses her of seeking attention and making everything about herself, he acuses her of promiscuity and fails to stand up for her against bullies. It is this regret that haunts him and so his motives in the beginning are not entirely pure.

The fact that Clay photographs Tyler naked can only be properly understood in the context of Clay’s misguided initial motives. Clay thinks he is doing this for Hannah, or for a broader sense of justice, but he is not. He is doing it because he needs a scapegoat to deflect himself from his own guilt and as part of his own innate inclination towards cowardice, he picks the weakest victim he could think of. He could have started a fight with any of the jocks who bullied her, but he didn’t. Until the 13th and last episode, the only evidence we ever see of Clay trying to get revenge on behalf of Hannah is through this photograph. The exceptional nature of this event reveals that it was meant to portray a moral failure on Clay’s end. Clay does not start out as a flawless being, but he is on a path towards true virtue.

 

As mentioned earlier, he is guided in his path towards enlightenment by Tony Padilla, a hypermasculine Spartanic figure. We should understand Tony as a spiritual teacher, he is an otherworldly entity who takes on a mortal form to help guide Clay on his journey towards spiritual growth. Throughout the process Clay acts ungrateful towards him, he even assaults him. He calls him a “useless Yoda”.

Tony however, is extremely patient with Clay. He knows that enlightenment is no easy task. The path towards enlightenment is filled with temptations, like the beautiful Sheri who throws herself at him, but ends up rejected by Clay. The path towards Enlightenment is a test of internal strength, a test that Clay frequently struggles with. Clay is afraid of listening to the tapes, because he is afraid of learning the truth.

Rather than performing his duty, Clay becomes suicidal, he would rather kill himself by jumping off a cliff than doing what is required. He becomes mentally insane, he starts to have hallucinations of Hannah and dreams in which she spontaneously starts to bleed. The Tibetan book of the Death mentions that in the third bardo during the process of dying, a man is haunted by various ghoulish demons and a supreme demon who holds up to him a mirror featuring all of his good and evil deeds. If the man recognizes these demons as being void, a mere product of his own mind, then man attains immediate enlightenment.

It is near the end of the series, when we witness an internal transformation take place within Clay. For Clay, this is no longer about Hannah, his longing for her, or his desire to cleanse her name. Rather, Clay recognizes his duty to bring justice. Listening to the tapes reveals to Clay that one of his classmates is a serial rapist, who has raped two of his classmates.

To Clay, it becomes essential to bring this boy, Bryce, to justice. The series itself explains to us why. After witnessing Bryce rape Jessica, Hannah does nothing. Later on, she ends up raped by Bryce herself. When we do not stand up to evil, we allow it to fester like a bad infection, carrying out more evil in due time.

This is important, because this reveals to us the selfless nature of Clay’s final acts. Clay no longer wishes to convince himself that Hannah was the perfect potential wife who is solely interested in him. Clay has no intention to take revenge on people who made his relationship impossible for him, as revenge is a selfish motive.

No, the only intention of Clay, is to prevent further evil from occuring. The reason he recognizes the nature of the evil around him is because he empathizes so strongly with Hannah, but Hannah serves merely as a method that opens his eyes to the true nature of what is happening at his school. This simple fact, that Clay aims to prevent further people from suffering, reveals the Stoic nature of the spiritual transformation that we witness.

There are other signs of Clay’s Stoic nature strewn throughout the series. Clay pursues voluntary simplicity in his life. The other boys tend to have cars, but Clay is known to us as a boy who rides around on his bicycle. It is his bicycle that distinguishes him. The series contains subtle hints that the teenagers live out their lives in a context of ecological annihilation. Hannah accuses her parent’s generation of destroying the Earth at one point.

Hannah refers to Clay as “helmet”. It’s a strange and awkward nickname that no normal teenage girl would ever use for a boy. We have to understand Hannah’s nickname for Clay as emphasizing an otherwise easy to miss aspect to his nature. Unlike the other boys, Clay does not seek out material comfort or outward signs of success. Clay is content with the bare necessities in life.

Another thing that needs to be considered is Clay’s name. How many people are named Clay? That’s just another case of the author hiding it in plain sight. Clay is molded into becoming a Stoic sage, like… (gasp) clay!

There is no more cathartic ending imaginable to the story of Clay and Hannah, than what we witness in the thirteenth episode. But before we mention what happens, we have to reexamine the role of Bryce. Bryce is not just a simple rapist, to imagine Bryce as such is an impoverished perspective.

What Bryce really is, is a social darwinist, an individualist anarchist in the tradition of Ragnar Redbeard, who follows the rule of nature. He is  not solely guided by selfish hedonistic principles, but he ultimately believes that his own acts of sheer destruction serve a greater good. His rapes are not a sheer product of selfish bestial inclinations. Bryce’s philosophy in life is that life is fundamentally a Hobbesian fight of all against all and that those who are unwilling to fight do not deserve to live. It’s not simple physical strength that Bryce respects. It’s “heart” what Bryce respects, a concept that prisoners commonly use to refer to a man’s willingness to give everything he has in a fight, a sheer innate will to live.

Bryce ends up respecting Clay. It is this respect that is important to consider. Bryce is willing to be honest to Clay and thereby risking his own position, because Clay made such an enormous sacrifice. Bryce has zero incentive to admit Clay the truth, he only stands to lose. He nonetheless ends up telling Clay the truth. After speaking disrespectfully of Hannah, Clay hits Bryce, a boy much stronger than Clay. Bryce responds by asking why he had to do that, before beating Clay senseles.

Instead of cowering off, Clay gets back up and sits down in a chair. Bryce then pours the two of them a glass of liquor. Clay points out once more that he wants Bryce to admit he raped Hannah, even though he was just severely beaten by Bryce, to a degree that it leaves us uncomfortable to watch. Bryce then makes an admission that he essentially raped her. Clay leaves and as he rides back home on his bicycle, we see him genuinely happy for the first time. He is euphoric, high on endorphins and the pleasure that results from witnessing his own bravery and sacrifice rewarded.

This ending my friends, is the heavenly kingdom on this world that Stoicism promises us. The Stoics taught us to think no less of a slave than we think of any other man. It was the philosophy that came to predominate the Roman elite, but as a philosphy that considers virtue to be the greatest good, it is also a philosophy that demands great sacrifices of us. The almost traumatic sight of Clay beaten nearly to death by Bryce reveals the kind of sacrifice a Stoic is expected to make in his pursuit of virtue.

If we discuss 13 Reasons Why, the question inevitably comes up what purpose the second and third seasons serve. I’m strongly under the impression that you’re better off resisting the seduction. The first series has a thoroughly satisfying ending, whereas the two subsequent seasons feature a murder mystery and a boy who is anally raped with an object by another boy. I think I’ll pass, thank you very much.

The only reason I can think of to watch the subsequent seasons is if you feel such revulsion for the characters that you want to watch them all suffer. To me, most of the characters are not sufficiently fleshed out for that, they exist primarily in relation to Hannah and Clay, rather than being individuals with intriguing motives of their own. The story of the first season is not continued so much as it is contradicted.

13 Reasons Why should be understood as fitting firmly within the 21st Century Modern Stoic Revival. There has been a previous attempt to revive Stoicism, during the Renaissance people attempted to merge Christianity with Stoicism. This did not really work well, because Stoicism is in its essence a secular philosophy. It does not explicitly deny the existence of Gods or other supernatural entities, but they have no genuine role to play in the Stoic narrative.

Stoicism promises no otherworldly reward, it promises us peace and happiness in this life. The reward that Modern Stoicism promises us, is a spiritual sanctuary within our own minds, a refuge from the decadence and corruption of the modern world. And if you’re looking for a Modern Stoic legend of heroism, I would suggest that you watch the first season of 13 Reasons Why.

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