13 Reasons Why season 2 in row over graphic depiction of rape, gun violence; show creator defends scenes

FP Staff

May,23 2018 17:07:38 IST

Within days of being released on Netflix, the second season of the TV series 13 Reasons Why has run into a controversy over the depiction of sexual assault and gun violence in its finale episode.

Viewers took to Twitter to speak out against the graphic sequences in the finale, and some have asked for the show to be taken off air.

Based on Jay Asher's YA novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why follows the sequence of events that led to a 17-year-old high school student, Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford) to commit suicide. She records the 13 reasons that prompted her to take the extreme step on eight audio cassettes and leaves them behind with a friend. The viewers discover the story as Hannah's classmate Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) plays the tapes and unravels Hannah's secrets.

Still from 13 Reasons Why season 2. Netflix

Still from 13 Reasons Why season 2. Netflix

While it proved to be a worldwide phenomenon, the first season (which aired in March 2017) also met with harsh criticism for the way it depicted Hannah's suicide. The scene had Hannah climb into a bathtub and slash open her wrists, with her parents discovering her later in a pool of blood. Experts felt — and not without reason — that impressionable teens who were watching the show might feel suicide was the only way out of troubling situations. In the US, search volumes for terms like 'how to commit suicide' rose by 1.5 million in the months immediately after the show aired.

When it returned for season 2, 13 Reasons Why had made a committed effort to address any possible criticism over its handling of suicide. Crisis resources wee made available at the end of each episode, cast members appeared in discussion guides, and disclaimers — as well as content warnings — were added at the start.

13 Reasons Why season 2 review: Assured when dealing with sexual assault, mental health; falters on gun violence

However, this new season also takes on issues like gun violence and the aftermath of sexual assault, in addition to suicide prevention and mental health. And the series has met with mixed reactions for its portrayal of these issues.

The specific scene shows a male character being beaten up by three schoolmates, then brutally sodomised with the wooden end of a mop, later shown to be smeared with blood. The character is later driven to carry guns to school to shoot down his tormentors.

The extremely graphic nature of the assault (the episode comes with a trigger warning at the beginning) has prompted critics to label 13 Reasons Why as a "ticking time bomb" for teenagers. There have been demands to have it pulled off air.

Twitter users specifically pointed to the assault scene, and said it served no purpose but shock value:

Still others defended the show, saying that it had shown nothing that didn't take place in real life.

Meanwhile show creator Brian Yorkey defended the decision to depict the rape scene, in a statement issued to Vulture:

“We’re committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can. We fully understand that that means some of the scenes in the show will be difficult to watch. I think Netflix has helped provide viewers with lots of resources for understanding that this may not be the show for everybody, and also resources for people who do watch it and are troubled and need help.

But the fact is that, as intense as that scene is, and as strong as are or reactions to it may be, it doesn’t even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things. When we talk about something being “disgusting” or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. We would rather not be confronted with it. We would rather it stay out of our consciousness. This is why these kinds of assaults are under-reported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence.”

Updated Date: May 23, 2018 17:07 PM