An extremely sad and somewhat controversial Netflix show has now become popular: “13 Reasons Why” based on the novel by Jay Asher. There is a connection between the sexual issues in The Bluest Eye and “13 Reasons Why.” In The Bluest Eye, the idea of innocence is shown by Claudia and Frieda’s shame in seeing their father naked, while In “13 Reasons Why,” the idea of the innocence is represented by the main character, Hannah’s, shame in being sexually assaulted.
Hannah Baker is a high school girl just trying to fit in. On a first date, a boy comes onto her at a restaurant and reaches under the table to touch her inappropriately without her consent. She tells him to stop, and he continues to touch her and tell her to stop making a scene. Eventually, she shoves him off the booth seat onto the ground. Embarrassed that his jock friends were watching, he swears and yells at her in front of the entire restaurant of people—making her look like the one at fault. He leaves abruptly and tells his friends, “let’s go guys.” Hannah sits alone and reflects on her horrible experience, and while narrating, says she feels so embarrassed and ashamed. The keyword, innocence, comes into play here. Hannah is a virgin and a more conservative type of girl. The whole show contains moments where boys at her school try to get something out of her because they know she’s pure, in a sense. In the Keyword essay “Innocence” by Marah Gubar, the author asks, “is this habit of sexualizing purity a mere quirk of our own culture[?]” (Gubar, p. 121). It makes us think about this sexualization of purity in this story. Further, Hannah is seen as a target because of her purity and innocence.
Something similar happens on page 71 in The Bluest Eye when Claudia describes a time when they saw their father naked in the hallway. She tells us they felt ashamed. Obviously, this isn’t a case of sexual assault like described in the show above, but it’s sad to see consistency with women feeling this shame when they are in an uncomfortable situation involving sexual confrontation. Innocence in this case is exemplified by them being exposed to adult, indecent, visuals at a young age. They essentially “lose their innocence” because they are exposed to something that isn’t considered appropriate for children to see. They lose that sense of ignorance regarding adult sexual content.
Overall, it’s interesting to see the overlapping shame these two different characters feel, despite being in entirely different situations. There’s something to say for the woman or girl taking the blame to herself, feeling embarrassed, and guilty, even though someone did something morally wrong to them.