By Baylie Clevenger
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
As a preface for this article, I would like to say that anyone who is sensitive to topics like assault, sexual assault, gun violence, suicide or bullying may not want to read on.
On May 18 the Netflix original “13 Reasons Why” made a comeback with season two. The show has been controversial from the first season and the newest one is no different. Social media is still buzzing with opinion after opinion about the show.
I have my opinions about the show as well, I fall somewhere in the middle. There were a lot of really great things about the show but also a lot of not so great things.
Beginning with what they did right, here’s a list of just a few: (Warning: anyone who has not watched this season and plans to should stop here because there WILL be spoilers.)
What Went Right
1- The court cases.
I liked that they added this because it represents how victims are treated. The results of both cases were not preferred, especially in the case of Bryce Walker. He raped at least three girls and only ended up with three months of probation.
While this outcome without a doubt made viewers angry and upset… it is not uncommon for this kind of treatment of rape cases.
An example is the case of People v. Brock Turner. Turner was found guilty of sexual assault. The case began on March 14, 2016 and ended two weeks later. It only took them two weeks to decide that a man that assaulted an unconscious woman only deserved six months in jail… and then he was also released after only half of that time.
Image from Huffington Post
Bryce Walker parallels Brock Turner in many ways. Bryce was an athlete and his family had money, much like Brock Turner. The baseball coach that ignored what he knew about Bryce was only concerned about their baseball team. This is similar to Brock Turner’s father who insisted that he should not be sentenced because he had a future as a swimmer. Bryce Walker’s dad also insisted that he could not do anything like that, much like Brock Turner’s dad.
The point of these cases is to point out how victims of sexual assault and bullying are thrown aside and blamed for their situations.
2- LGBT issues
Throughout the show, there are issues pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community. Courtney Crimson is forced to come out before a courtroom, Tony and his boyfriend are harassed and called homophobic slurs and Montgomery uses homophobic slurs against Tyler while he assaults him in the school bathroom.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community… this was hard for me to watch. Though it was hard I am glad that these pieces of the plot were included. It brings attention to the rampant homophobia that is still incredibly prevalent in this society.
For example, a story that has always haunted me is that of Leelah Alcorn.
Leelah Alcorn committed suicide in 2014 due to her family’s lack of acceptance to her coming out as transgender.
It is important to bring these issues to a show that is so mainstream to help the viewers understand the reality that is faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Image from ABC News
3- Stories of sexual assault victims
At the end of the case which decided Bryce Walker’s fate, the women from the show all tell their stories about their personal encounters with sexual assault or harassment.
Idc if you don’t like 13 reasons why. This scene needs more attention pic.twitter.com/NnFi5s1Vlp
— brooke (@princessGBrooke) May 28, 2018
The reason this scene is so important is that it shows the audience how common sexual assault and harassment are. At one point in the show, after the case against the school is decided, Olivia Baker says that she does not know one woman who has not fallen victim to people like Bryce Walker.
This scene takes her statement and brings it to life. There is truth behind it as well, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) one in every six women in America are victims of sexual assault and also 90% of adult sexual assault victims are women.
This sheds light on crime and violence against women.
4- Trigger Warnings
While this show is incredibly graphic, probably more so than is necessary, I was pleased that in both seasons they decided to include trigger warnings.
There are many graphic shows and movies that do not include trigger warnings and it is a big step toward inclusive media to understand that people may need them.
What Went Wrong
Overall, I think that the positive things about season two were very progressive. I think that they were very realistic and eye-opening and for that I am grateful to this show. Ending on a more negative note, however; here is a list of things that were not done so well.
1- Graphic Scenes
Image from Buzzfeed
As I mentioned before, it is fantastic that there are trigger warnings. Though they are there, there are some scenes from this show that are so graphic that I do not know if they were necessary.
For example: they replayed the rape scenes of Jessica and Hannah multiple times… these scenes were disturbing and upsetting. It is bad enough to have to see them once.
They also showed a scene in which Tyler is assaulted by Montgomery in the school bathroom. His head is hit against a mirror and the sink, his head is forced into a toilet and then he is sexually assaulted with an object.
For me, I think it is good to make scenes realistic so that the audience understands the weight of certain societal issues like bullying or sexual assault. That being said, these scenes go too far.
Personally, I usually do not require trigger warnings while I am viewing shows and other forms of media… but some of the scenes depicted are so graphic that I was disturbed to the point of tears more than once.
2- The Finale
The finale holds a lot of the parts of the show that I had beef with.
For one, I do not like that they included the end where Tyler tries to bring weapons to the school dance and shoot people. I feel as if this was far too sensitive of a topic and also was not in the book.
While pretty much all of season two was not in the book, this ending specifically bothered me because it was a gateway into a new season.
I think that with this show the point should have been made and left alone. After a certain point the creators of the show are capitalizing off of events in the show that are similar to real life tragedies and that rubs me the wrong way.
Finally, I am not a fan of Clay’s character. I know this is not the fault of the actor or the creators and that is simply how he was written in the book.
Everything is about him. HE loved Hannah and HE is heartbroken over Hannah and HE has to be the one to get justice for Hannah. The way he got jealous about her interactions with other guys even after she is dead was incredibly selfish and ridiculous.
He also victim blames at one point as well. He asks Sherri why girls even subject themselves to “The Clubhouse” and he says that they are putting themselves in these situations.
He says all of this because he is mad that he found a polaroid of Hannah in the box of polaroids from The Clubhouse.
I get that Clay is traumatized and hurting but hurting other people and being selfish in his attempt to cope is not ok.
I think that the good outweighs the bad with this show. That is not to say that it does not have a long way to go but ultimately discussing real world issues and giving people characters to connect those ideas to brings the conversation to the table and leads to change.
Baylie is a Journalism major minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. She writes for The Odyssey as well as Byte. Baylie has two dogs and owns too much lipstick.