Controversial Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’ sparks public debate

By Giorgina McKay and Eden Panozzo | @ggmckay11 @EdenPanozzo

Trigger warning: This post contains spoilers for the second season of ‘13 Reasons Why’ and discusses suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and other forms of violence.

The second season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why debuted on the popular streaming site this month.

The controversial teen series aimed at raising awareness of mental illness, suicide, bullying and sexual assault, has been at the forefront of public debate since the release of its first season in March 2017.

With the latest season sparking outrage online, the series has been further thrust under the microscope.

The second season follows the trial of Liberty High School and deceased student Hannah Baker’s parents, delving deeper into the lives of the students and their encounters with Hannah.

It also delves into the toxic environment at Liberty High, and how it is caused by the faculty’s failure to acknowledge and address the ‘locker room’ culture within the cohort.

But, just like the previous season, the second season seemed to miss the mark with audiences.

Its portrayal of mental illness and suicide were felt to be in bad taste, particularly Hannah Baker’s ‘revenge tapes’ and the graphic scene depicting her suicide.

However, it is not the depiction of mental illness and suicide that has people talking this season, but rather the graphic portrayal of sexual assault.

Audiences have taken offence at a particularly graphic scene in the last episode of the season, which they said left them feeling sick, uncomfortable or disturbed.

The scene in question addresses the issue of male sexual assault, and attempts to start a conversation on the stigma surrounding it and how it is often swept under the rug.

Brian Yorkey, the executive producer, has defended himself in response to the backlash, and said it is important to talk about the fact that acts like this happen.

“As intense as that scene is, and as strong as our reactions to it may be, it doesn’t even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things,” Mr Yorkey said.

“When we talk about something being ‘disgusting’ or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. 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.”

But despite their reasoning, the writers are still coming under fire with calls now emerging for the cancellation of the series.

The Parents Television Council (PTC) in the US have been one of the groups making these calls.

“Netflix has delivered a ticking time bomb to teens and children who watch 13 Reasons Why,” PTC President Tim Winter said.

“The content and thematic elements of the second season are even worse than we expected.

“We would have liked to have 13 reasons for hope and redemption following the graphic suicide of the lead female teen character, but rather than providing a path forward, the season only provides cause for despondency.”

Mr Winter’s words are somewhat correct in retrospect; with how in-depth the series goes into sexual assault this season, it would have been nice for audiences to see some redemption and justice.

Unfortunately, the show did not deliver.

Tyler remains silenced by his traumatic experience, Chloe falls for a predator’s lies, and Bryce is delivered a ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ sentence of three months’ probation.

However, people must also understand that this is the reality we face.

Just take a look at the Brock Turner case for example.

Mr Turner was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault for the rape of a young woman behind a dumpster in 2015.

He was sentenced to six months’ jail, of which he served three, and three years’ probation.

To add insult to injury, Mr Turner is currently seeking to appeal the verdict.

An online survey launched by Stop Street Harassment this year found that 81 per cent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime, with 43 per cent of men reporting an experience.

It is issues like these that 13 Reasons Why explores in a realistic manner.

However, the graphic depiction of sexual assault from the final episode was unnecessary in its detail.

No matter how many explicit trigger warnings could have been displayed, it still would not have prepared audiences enough for similar events to come.

But as much audiences dislike the creators’s methods, scenes like this one serve as important conversation starters.

“I feel like we [the creators] gave it [the show] as a platform and a tool to be [able for parents and kids to have a] dialogue,” Executive Producer Mandy Teefey said.

“The fact that we’re talking about it and that it was so talked about, that was our goal.”

So despite the gratuitous way the writers went about addressing harrowing issues, it did open the doors for conversation on all sides of the spectrum and that has definitely made an impact.

We strongly encourage anyone suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts to seek professional help or contact one of the helplines below.

 

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

 Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

 BeyondBlue – 1300 224 636

 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732

 

Image Source: PopBuzz

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