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Why I Relate to Zach Dempsey From '13 Reasons Why' as Someone With Depression

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Editor's Note

This post contains spoilers for season two, episode six of “13 Reasons Why.”

I just finished watching “13 Reasons Why” season two episode six.

Spoilers ahead. 

This episode starts from Zach Dempsey’s point of view, and he is one of my favorite characters on the show. It might be because he is Asian and I appreciate seeing more cultural representation in mainstream media. It might also because he seems like a genuinely good guy — even though he hangs out with assholes like Bryce Walker. But as it had been mentioned over and over, high school is like that, jocks are popular, they are the cool kids. 

Growing up in an Asian household, there are certain expectations of who you are supposed to be. So I don’t blame Zach for being a jock, and maintaining an image with his friends. I also don’t blame him for not wanting to tell his friends about Hannah. He has a difficulty consolidating that image that he created for himself and who he is when he is around Hannah.

After he testified, his mother asked him why he didn’t tell her any of this. He comments that he doesn’t even know what his mother felt about his father’s passing.

It’s so common that it has become a meme among Asians — how Asian parents don’t say “I love you.” Sadly, there’s so much more that they don’t say. We don’t talk about feelings, so obviously, we don’t talk about things like mental health, and how things affect us.

His mother then dismissed him and said that he was fine. That’s because that is what she expects him to be. We don’t only maintain an image publicly, we maintain it all the time. We are expected to be “fine” all the time. 

I’ve been using “we,” but maybe I should just say “I.” I can blame my cultural upbringing, the same way Zach did. But I can also try to change it. But it’s much harder than it seems.

When I was living in the U.K., a few of my other international student classmates — two Italians and a Latin American — talked to their mothers every single day without fail. I don’t do that. I also haven’t lived in the same country as my parents for almost a decade. But I do talk to them, but mostly through Facebook Messenger, and liking and commenting on each other’s photos — all very surface level stuff.

Maybe when we used to live in the same house and have dinner together, we talked. But I think I can count the instances with one hand, where I actually opened up to them and talked about feelings, and not being fine. My parents are great and all, but I’m just so afraid of disappointing them.

Maybe Zach Dempsey felt the same way. His mother remained strong and stoic through his father’s passing, so he that made him think that he should too. But he wasn’t “fine,” so he opened up to Hannah. That is why I liked the first part of their relationship, when they were just friends and she was someone who was there for him.

Other people may not have liked the episode, but I did. Maybe I should end this post about how I should break through my cultural upbringing and all that, but it’s harder than it seems, and I’m not sure I’m ready yet.

To read The Mighty’s reviews of “13 Reasons Why” season two, head here

Header image via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page

Originally published: August 22, 2018
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