13 Reasons Why has done it again, and by "it," I mean create a huge amount of controversy by presenting an incredibly graphic scene. After its first season debuted last year, the teen drama came under fire from a number of viewers, who feared that the series glamorized teenage suicide in a long scene that showed its protagonist Hannah Baker slitting her wrists in a bathtub. Season 2 also includes a very controversial scene, which depicts forced sodomy and rape with shocking detail. Now, 13 Reasons Why's showrunner is defending Tyler's assault scene, saying that he and the rest of the show's writers believed that it was a story worth telling after doing research.
Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the Season 2 finale of 13 Reasons Why. Ending with a controversial scene is proving to be a trend for 13 Reasons Why: the show's first season was accused of glamorizing suicide, and now the show is in hot water again after including a graphic depiction of rape in its Season 2 finale. The final episode shows the bully Monty mercilessly brutalizing school outcast Tyler in the bathroom, and then using the handle of a mop to sodomize him. After the new season premiered, fans began tweeting warnings to fellow viewers about the graphic scene, and sharing that the scene disturbed and upset them. Check out some of the responses:
Other fans defended the scene, saying that it was obviously hard to watch, but it was based in actual horrific events that happen to students.
Following the online controversy, 13 Reasons Why showrunner Brian Yorkey explained to Entertainment Weekly why the writers decided to include the graphic assault scene in the new season. He says that although they knew that the scene would be hard to watch, the team behind the series agreed that it was worth showing after finding multiple similar real-life stories in their research:
We delved into research and found story after story of cases like this — upsettingly similar stories of male high school athletes violating weaker kids with mob handles or pool cues. The number of stories we found about it were astounding and those are just the ones that got reported, and we know that sexual assault is hugely underreported. We are a show that is interested in continuing the conversation around sexual assault in high school and this was a story that was not largely told and that made sense for these characters, so we took a deep breath and we all talked it over and decided it was worth telling even though we knew it would be hard to do and hard to watch.
Indeed, it is not very hard to find sodomy rape cases similar to the one portrayed in Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why in the news. Earlier this year, five high school football students in St. Louis, Missouri were charged after forcibly shoving objects into their teammates anuses. Last year, The Daily Beast uncovered a ritual at a high school in La Vernia, Texas in which school athletes would "initiate" younger players by sodomizing them with broomsticks, baseball bats, and other objects. It is the latter story that seems to be the clear inspiration for the 13 Reasons Why assault scene.
It's clear that Brian Yorkey and the rest of the 13 Reasons Why teams set out to depict a form of rape that is rarely seen on television, but does the fact that this type of rape actually happens justify its graphic depiction on a TV show known for having a young demographic? As many fans pointed out, pinning the rape onto the end of Monty's attack did not seem necessary in moving Tyler's story forward, so was it simply used for shock value? These seem to be the questions that fans are going back and forth with currently.