13 Reasons Why: It's Time To Talk About Justin Foley

24 April 2017, 19:21 | Updated: 18 January 2018, 16:36

Justin Foley 13 Reasons Why
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

The debate about the character of Justin Foley rages on.

One of the things 13 Reasons Why does well is create complex characters with nuanced stories. No one is just "good" or "bad". They do things that highlight their humanity and frame their actions. 

The story handles the character of Justin Foley in a way that has sparked intense debate. Is Justin Foley a good or a bad character and does his upbringing justify his actions? 

Justin Foley and Hannah Baker

via 13 Reasons Why/Netflix

Warning: Spoilers ahead 

When we first meet Justin Foley, he is a charismatic basketball star pursuing the new girl, Hannah Baker. He is the first to damage her reputation, passively standing by while his friends distribute unseemly photos of her. His excuse is that he never hit the send button himself, but he does next to nothing to stop the rumours that follow.

We later learn that Justin comes from a troubled background, heavily colouring the way he interacts with characters like Bryce Walker. His difficult upbringing and relationship with Bryce make him a coward in the face of Jessica's sexual assault. 

Justin Foley might be a hugely flawed character, but the 13 RW fandom is seemingly split. 

Justin Foley tweets

via Twitter 

Unfortunately, in Justin's case, his cowardice is even more sinister than any malice he displays throughout the show. 

For contrast, we admire Clay's character because he is brave, principled, and kind. Justin is the opposite, even suggesting that the gang should kill Clay to keep the contents of the tapes from coming out. 

Justin foley tweet 

via Twitter

Justin displays such a profound lack of character from start to finish, it's impossible to imagine a scenario in which he can atone for his many sins. He even runs away from the chance to speak at Hannah's depositions, further putting distance between himself and the fact that he set off a sequence of events that would deeply damage a young girl. 

We understand his actions through the lens of his dark past, but we cannot forgive his hand in Hannah's demise. 

via 13 Reasons Why/Netflix

Justin Foley isn't a character to feel sympathy for or to "protect". Justin is a warning. He is what happens when you have no convictions; when you value yourself above others; and when the fear of personal loss is greater than your regard for others' suffering. 

Brandon Flynn certainly does a great job of portraying a complex and deeply flawed individual, especially when it seems like he's probably a great guy in real life. 

In a world where people can change who they are on a fundamental level, Justin could have a chance at becoming good. Unfortunately, boys like Justin do exist. They look good, laugh along when people are being hurt, and only own up to their actions when the pressure is too great. 

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