Can we just talk about how Zach Dempsey is 13 Reason Why’s most overlooked character?
Justice for Zach
First off, let me be honest, I’m not a huge fan of 13 Reasons Why. Having stuck with it for the whole first season (the tension was just so great) I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it properly. Hannah Baker just comes across as the whiniest, most immature, vindictive drama queen. It’s like I don’t even love to hate it. I just hate it. However, it is compelling watching, and part of the reason why it is so compelling is because it makes me so angry. And nothing made me more angry than Zach’s tape.
Zach Dempsey, basketball superstar and all round hotty (seriously, dayummmmm) ends up with his own tape because he’s mean to Hannah once after being nice to her.
OK so, Zach’s tape begins with Hannah explaining how she thinks Zach might be lonely, like really lonely, like he might feel like she does. She wonders why he’s so lonely though, since he’s “popular” and has an Audi. As though having an Audi and having mental health issues are mutually exclusive.
I’m not sure, really what the entire point of all of this is – if 13 Reasons Why is about how you never really, truly know what someone is going through and how the smallest things might have the biggest effect on someone, then why include Zach’s storyline? Because surely although he’s set up as one of the many villains, his loneliness runs parallel to Hannah’s. Why then, if she thought he was struggling as much as she was with depression, would she compound that by blaming him and putting him alongside rapists and bullies with the rest of the characters on the tapes?
Hannah calls Zach an idiot and humiliates him in front of everyone in the cafeteria after he tries to comfort her following her disastrous date with Marcus. He doesn’t say exactly what she wants (he references her great ass) so she shouts at him, telling him to leave her alone. I understand that Hannah’s character is feeling paranoid right now, it’s an insight into her mental state, she doesn’t know who to trust. But then she goes on to say on the tape he should “get over it”, like she has the monopoly on what warrants a reaction. Like she didn’t just kill herself and leave a morbid trail of tapes behind to torture and mess with everyone she ever felt like wronged her.
She also seems to blame Zach entirely for not preventing her suicide, she leaves him a letter explaining how she’s feeling. Does she expect Zach to save her life? She also accuses him of ripping it up and throwing it away, despite him proving that was a lie when he shows the paper from his wallet to Clay. The whole thing is infuriating, and if 13 Reasons Why is supposed to be a true representation of high school suicide, then it should be made very clear that if Hannah has already made up her mind, it’s going to take more than a guy she doesn’t know very well to stop her.
Let’s hope in season 2 Zach’s character gets some justice, or at least some recognition for the kindness and genuine regret and remorse he showed in season one. It is true that you should be mindful of what you say to people because you don’t know what they’re going through, but it’s also true that you can’t always guarantee that someone in a bad place will accept your kindness – and that’s not your fault.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
● 13 Reasons Why literally doesn’t follow ANY suicide prevention guidelines
● A timetable of suicides allegedly linked to the hit Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’
● Is this new Netflix show the ’13 Reasons Why’ of eating disorders?