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’13 Reasons Why’ Creator Defends Graphic Season 2 Rape Scene, Questions If Backlash Is Due to Male-on-Male Assault

"We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence," creator Brian Yorkey says of the gruesome sexual assault moment.

13 Reasons Why

“13 Reasons Why”

Beth Dubber/Netflix

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 2 of “13 Reasons Why,” including the finale.]

Another season of “13 Reasons Why” is courting controversy for a final episode that depicts a scene of graphic violence. The first season finale made headlines for showing Hannah Baker’s suicide in detail, and now the last episode of Season 2 is receiving backlash for depicting a brutal rape. The scene in question finds Devin Druid’s Tyler being physically assaulted by Timothy Granaderos’ Monty in the school bathroom. Monty ends up sodomizing Tyler with the end of a broomstick.

“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,” series creator Brian Yorkey told Vulture in defense of the scene. “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.”

The rape scene in the Season 2 finale led The Parents Television Council to issue an “urgent warning” about the episode. Some fans of the show and critics have also reacted negatively to the scene, with IndieWire’s own Hanh Nguyen calling it “dangerous.” According to Yorkey, however, the scene doesn’t even come close to the real pain rape victims experience.

“As intense as that scene is, and as strong as reactions to it may be, it doesn’t even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things,” 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 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 confirmed to Vulture that he had the support of Netflix and “13 Reasons Why” producer Paramount to include the scene in the finale after “extensive discussions.” The creator said that in researching high school sexual assaults, stories about male students (often athletes) raping other male students (often weaker outcasts) with “some sort of instrument like a mop handle or a pool cue” came up numerous times. He went on to question why the Season 2 finale rape scene was earning the kind of backlash that the Season 1 sexual assault scenes did not.

“The very, very intense scene of Hannah’s suicide seemed to overshadow the fact that Hannah and one other girl were violently raped in season one,” Yorkey said. “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 [male-on-male assault] happen. The fact that this would be somehow more disgusting than what happened to Hannah and Jessica, I’m shocked but not surprised.”

“13 Reasons Why” Season 2 is now streaming Netflix.

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