People Have Mixed Feelings About The Graphic Sexual Assault Scene In “13 Reasons Why”

20 May 2018, 16:10 | Updated: 4 June 2018, 13:40

13 Reasons Why Season 2 Tyler Sexual Assault
Picture: Netflix
Katie Louise-Smith

By Katie Louise-Smith

In the final episode of 13 Reasons Why season two, a character is raped at school and some fans are criticising the show for showing it such a graphic way.

The controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why has officially returned to Netflix for its second season and after just a few days, has already stirred up a lot of conversation - and a loooooot of backlash.

The second season of the show follows up on Hannah Baker's tragic suicide and the court case that ensues. It's intense, it's heavy and despite the criticism that followed the first season, it's just as graphic and just as triggering.

There's one scene in particular that seems to have got the internet riled up and fans of the show are undecided over whether or not it was a good idea to show such a graphic in the show. Thought Hannah Baker's bathtub scene was tough to watch? "Hold my beer," says the finale of season two.

WARNING: The rest of this article will discuss a very heavy and very graphic depiction of sexual assault. If this is something that may affect you in anyway, please stop reading. If you need any help or information, please visit 13reasonwhy.info.

In the last episode of the season, Tyler is sexually assaulted by Monty and his friends in a bathroom stall. They smash his head into a mirror, throw him head first into the toilet and then proceed to rape him with the end of a mop. He's then left slumped on the bathroom floor, bleeding and sobbing. The scene lasts around two minutes and is really really uncomfortable to watch.

Despite a censor at the beginning of the episode, the show did very little to warn viewers of what they were about to see - the scene literally comes out of nowhere and has left many viewers physically distressed. Fans are now sharing their thoughts about the scene on Twitter.

Some fans of the show say that the inclusion of a storyline like this is a good thing and raises awareness about the subject of male sexual assault. Male rape is rarely depicted on screen. In real life, 1 in 6 men have been sexually assaulted or abused. These assaults are criminally underreported and often lead to larger mental health crises for the victims who are afraid or ashamed to speak out about it.

On the other hand, some viewers are calling out the show for including such a triggering scene. Many viewers are absolutely disgusted at how unnecessarily graphic the scene was, claiming it was far too much, particularly for a teen drama that was already warned by mental health charities to be more responsible with the imagery they depict. And considering the age of some of the younger audience members that watch the show, some suggest it's completely unnecessary to show sexual assault in that level of detail.

In the Beyond The Reasons post-show discussion, an hour-long debrief that is suggested to you immediately after you finish the season, Tyler’s assault scene is one of the first things that is discussed. Speaking to a panel that includes executive producer Brian Yorkey, Miles Heizer, Dylan Minnette, Christian Navarro, writer Nic Sheff and the series' psychiatric consultant Dr Hedrick, host Elaine Welteroth asks about Tyler's sexual assault and why Yorkey felt the need to show the assault in such a graphic way.

“It was important for us to try and bring the audience over to Tyler’s side at little bit. There's a concept called 'radical empathy', which is essentially the exercise or the attempt to empathise with someone completely and someone who is completely different from you. As brutal as that scene is to watch, I defy anybody to watch it and not feel pain for Tyler,” he said.

While using a graphic sexual assault as a plot device to make the audience empathise with a character is extremely controversial and incredibly problematic, some people can understand, in the context of Tyler's storyline, why the decision was made to show it. But was the brutal way in which it was illustrated on screen necessary?

Could the same level of empathy be achieved had the scene been a little less graphic? Or were they right to show such a realistic and unflinching portrayal of something that is unfortunately far too common in real life?

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