13 Reasons Why showrunner Brian Yorkey is defending a controversial scene from the series' second season that depicts a graphic sexual assault.
Following backlash from its debut season, Netflix's hit original series 13 Reasons Why debuted its sophomore season, only to be met with more criticism and outrage. This time around, the backlash centers around the second season finale, which depicts a violent sexual assault of one of the main characters.
"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. 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," Yorkey told Vulture.
"But the fact is that, as intense as that scene is, and as strong as our reactions to it may be, it doesn't even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things," he continued. "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."
The scene, from the second season finale, "Bye," shows school photographer Tyler Down, who has been the focus of bullying and has been ostracized by his peers since the show's first season, being violently sexually assaulted by Monty. The scene immediately drew criticism from viewers, though Yorkey stated that the decision to include the graphic scene came after research revealed an "epidemic" of male-on-male sexual assault.
"When we dug into that research, I think we were all astounded to find how many times this happened, this disturbingly similar story of a male high school athlete violating a weaker boy with some sort of instrument like a mop handle or a pool cue," he said.
Ahead of the episode, a warning stating, "The following episode contains graphic depictions of sexual assault and drug abuse, which some viewers may find disturbing. It is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised," though many believed that that alone was not enough.
The Parents Television Council even once again urged Netflix to pull the series in response to the graphic scene and other controversial elements of the series.