The "13 Reasons Why" Creator Has Defended That Controversial Rape Scene

23 May 2018, 12:02

Tyler Down Sexual Assault 13 Reasons Why Brian Yorkey Response
Picture: Netflix
Katie Louise-Smith

By Katie Louise-Smith

"We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence."

Just like the first season, season two of 13 Reasons Why has not gone without controversy. In season one, viewers, parents and mental health charities all called out the show for Hannah Baker's suicide scene and dangerous lack of trigger warnings.

This time around, the backlash has been caused by a very graphic sexual assault scene featuring character Tyler Down.

The scene in question - which shows Tyler being violently beaten and raped by jock Monty de la Cruz with the end of a mop handle - has received a mixed reaction on Twitter. Some viewers are praising the show for bringing the harsh truth of male-on-male sexual abuse to the forefront of the discussion while others are criticising the show for depicting it in such a graphic and "unnecessary" way. The Parents Television Council has now also issued an “urgent warning” over the scene.

Despite the backlash, show creator Brian Yorkey has now defended the scene.

Tyler Down and Monty de la Cruz, 13 Reasons Why season 2
Picture: Netflix

Speaking to Vulture, Yorkey says that the scene was developed from research on real-life cases of sexual violence against young men in high school. He also added that the decision to depict it in such a graphic way was not done gratuitously or for shock value. (Yorkey also previously explained that the scene was shot that way so the audience would empathise with Tyler, or "someone completely different from them.")

“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," he said in a statement to Vulture.

"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 underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence.”

Yorkey and the series' psychiatric consultant Dr Hedrick also discussed the statistics of male sexual assault in schools and colleges that drove the scene on the 13 Reasons Why follow up discussion Beyond The Reasons on Netflix.

"There's a statistic that one in six men have been sexually assaulted," explained Hedrick. "I think it's much harder for male victims because, as Brian was saying, it's a lot more difficult for boys and men to talk about being the victim because they have the same shame and guilt and fear that women and girls have but it also brings into question their own sense of masculinity and manhood."

"We found that this kind of thing happens in high school across America, particularly with athletes violating other students with mop handles and pool cues," Yorkey continued. "It's almost on epidemic levels, it's not something that's reported often - male on male sexual assault is ridiculously underreported."

If you're affected by any of the issues discussed in 13 Reasons Why, head to 13reasonswhy.info.