In the wake of outrage surrounding the controversial sexual assault scene in the season two finale of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, showrunner Brian Yorkey defended his creative decisions in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. The scene in question shows a teenage character, Tyler (Devin Druid), getting sexually assaulted with a mop handle by the high school bully Montgomery (Timothy Granaderos) and his friends. Soon after, Tyler arrives at his high school dance party with an assault rifle having planned a mass shooting.
“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 mop handles or pool cues,” Yorkey said. “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.”
Throughout the first, and the second season which was released on May 18, Tyler is shown to be a compulsive stalker of young women, with emotional problems. Just as he is on his way to being rehabilitated, the sexual assault pushes him back into despair. Yorkey noted that Tyler “moves in positive directions”, and then the “setbacks” is a common experience for most teenagers. “When you’re a kid without a lot of resilience, like Tyler, those setbacks can be devastating,” Yorkey said.
He and his team, Yorkey said, ultimately decided that Tyler’s story is “worth telling”, despite being disturbing.
The events of the season two finale has resulted in a curious mix of reactions from Twitter users, with some sympathising with Tyler, some finding the scene repulsive, and others finding the favourable depiction of a possible high-school shooter repulsive.
The sexual assault scene has provoked television censorship watchdog group, The Parents Television Council, to urge Netflix to cancel the series. The group has described 13 Reasons Why as “a ticking time bomb to teens and children”. Netflix had earlier cancelled the Los Angeles premiere of season two of 13 Reasons Why, following the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18 in which 10 dead, including eight students.
“We’re issuing a warning about Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why Season 2 and urging the company to pull the series entirely because of the potentially harmful content,” their statement said.
Season one of the series had been in the crosshairs for its depiction of teenage suicide and self-harm. Adapted from the 2007 novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, the series looks into the events revolving around the suicide of a high school student Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) after her brush with a series of disheartening circumstances brought about by her peers and classmates.