The creator of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” defended the graphic sexual assault scene in the second season’s finale episode, which has prompted many viewers to call for the show's cancellation.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains details of the Season 2 finale of "13 Reasons Why."]
Creator Brian Yorkey told Vulture that the show’s creators were “committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can.”
The controversial scene in question depicted a male teenager being sexually assaulted with a mop handle.
The episode, titled “Bye,” follows Tyler Down, a student who was often bullied by his peers, coming back to school after receiving treatment at a diversion program. Tyler walks into the boys bathroom, where a few of his peers, including bully Montgomery de la Cruz, start beating him up.
Tyler’s head is smashed in the bathroom’s mirror and against the sink before the boys pushed his face into the toilet bowl. Then Montgomery grabs a mop, takes the wooden end of it and sexually assaults Tyler with it. The boys leave Tyler in a bloody mess before running out of the bathroom.
The episode started with a warning to watchers about the upcoming disturbing scenes.
“The following episode contains graphic depictions of sexual assault and drug abuse, which some viewers may find disturbing. It is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised,” the warning read.
Following the sexual assault, Tyler attempts to go to his school dance armed with an automatic rifle. The series ends on a cliffhanger, with a few students trying to talk Tyler out of shooting his peers.
The scene left many viewers divided on whether it went too far, with some even calling for the series to be canceled.
However, Yorkey said “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 underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence,” Yorkey said.
He also noted that the sexual assault scenes in the first season “did not elicit the same kind of backlash because the victims were women,” according to Vulture.
“If there’s a greater sense of backlash about this scene, especially it being hard to watch, ‘disgusting,’ or inappropriate, that goes to the point that we need to be talking about the fact that things like this happen. The fact that this would be somehow more disgusting than what happened to Hannah and Jessica, I’m shocked but not surprised.”