13 Reasons Why has been lauded for its realistic portrayal of issues actual teenagers face, but in the case of Season 2, its attempts at inserting real life into fiction feel even more brutally real. Throughout the second season, Bryce Walker, who raped both Hannah and Jessica in Season 1, flies under the court's radar despite Clay recording his confession about his actions last season. However, by the end of the season, the athlete finds himself in court to defend what he did, and the results reminded us way too much of a similar, real-life case. Bryce's trial on 13 Reasons Why mirrors Brock Turner's for one particular reason, and the parallels between the two cases are heartbreaking. This post contains spoilers for 13 Reasons Why Season 2.
Early on in Season 2, Clay reveals that nothing became of his recording of Bryce's confession in the five months since Hannah's death. Bryce is eventually called to the stand in the Bakers' case against the school district, but he's confident that he'll get away scot-free. As Olivia Baker later says, boys like Bryce have protectors and enablers to help them get through life, which also speaks to the male and class privilege largely suspected in the verdict of Brock Turner's 2016 case, but we'll get to that.
In the Bakers' case, Bryce insists that Hannah initiated an "on-and-off-again thing" with him and that he was ashamed to admit the nature of his relationship with her. He ultimately dances around the question of whether Hannah gave him consent to have sex the night of his party, causing the jury to lean toward him being innocent. However, following the jury's news that the school district isn't responsible for Hannah's death, Bryce is arrested on the charge of felony sexual assault, prompting his own trial versus Jessica to take place.
After a powerful, clearly #MeToo-inspired segment of Jessica's testimony playing alongside other female characters' experiences of sexual assault and abuse, the judge sentences Bryce to only three months of probation, which Clay's mom vocally protests against because, as we viewers know, the punishment is ridiculously low-key compared to the severity of what Bryce did.
Perhaps hinting that Bryce's story taking this path isn't coincidental, the details definitely mirror the results of the case against Turner, a Stanford University student athlete who was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a drunk and unconscious 22-year-old woman in January 2015. In March 2016, Turner was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault. His case drew national attention when, despite a prosecutor's belief that Turner should spend six years in prison, Judge Aaron Persky deemed he would only serve six months in jail. Many critics voiced their opinion that the sentence was too light for a crime of this nature.
As reported by CNN, Turner only spent three months in jail before being released in September 2016. Upon release, he had to register as a sex offender for life and complete three years of probation. According to the Los Angeles Times, Persky is now fighting against a recall election that stemmed from his controversial decision in the Turner case.
If you consider both Turner and Bryce's cases, the similarities are startling. Both boys are popular, young athletes who found themselves in the same kind of trouble. Bryce even raped Jessica while she was unconscious, while Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim. In the end, both Bryce and Turner also received sentences that the opposing side and many outsiders viewed as too forgiving. Bryce's initial sentence is even less severe than Turner's was, speaking immensely about the ways in which our society feels court decisions can often lean in the favor of wealthy, white men with power.
Justin Prentice, who plays Bryce, has even admitted in the past that he turned to the Turner case for guidance on how to portray this character. Speaking to Coveteur, he said:
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of research these days because the topic is so relevant. There was, of course, Brock Turner—I kept up with that case. There are the Vanderbilt rape cases. I also had Alexis Jones of the ‘I Am That Girl’ movement, who tours the country doing locker room talks to high school and collage athletes for prevention of sexual assault, on speed dial because she’s an expect. I had Rebecca [Hedrick], a psychiatrist from Cedars-Sinai who works one-on-one with people like Bryce, on speed dial. Between all of that, I was back and forth trying to construct the character. We wanted to make sure we got it right.
Elite Daily reached out to the creators of the show to confirm if the Brock Turner parallels were intentional, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
13 Reasons Why may sometimes receive flack for presenting such realistic, tough topics, but in the case of Bryce and the ongoing #MeToo movement, this was a art-mirrors-life moment that needs to be shared.
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