Season two content of 13 Reasons Why sparks controversy

Carmel Abramov - Features Editor, Nadia Grauman - Creative Director

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When Netflix released the first season of 13 Reasons Why, the American entertainment company had a genuine hit on its hands, but it also faced major controversy. The second season of 13 Reasons Why attempted to stray away from this controversy, but it failed to do so.

Based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why is a TV series that addresses tough and uncomfortable topics like suicide, sexual assault and bullying. The show tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Hannah Baker who tragically commits suicide at the end of the first season. Leaving behind 13 audio cassette tapes intended for 13 of her classmates, Hannah explains the reasoning behind why she decided to take her life. While the first season of the show is critically lauded for its storytelling and the way it addresses the difficulties of high school, it is also accused of having a dangerous narrative.

13 Reasons Why glorifies the idea that suicide will lead to a popular immortality and is a viable option for people dealing with difficulties in life. In addition, the show discourages teenagers from seeking help from guidance counselors and potentially sends the message to suicidal youth that seeking help from professionals is not effective.The narrative should have included alternative resources that are available for those struggling with issues like Hannah’s.

The show attempts to provide its viewers with reasons to live, but it does so in an unconvincing and ineffective way. In the second season, Hannah’s mother gives main character Clay Jensen a list of 11 reasons why suicide should not have been an option for her daughter. Hannah wrote the list before making the decision to end her life, giving off the message that the 13 reasons why Hannah considered suicide outweighed the 11 reasons that Hannah had to live. The show does a poor job of implementing the idea that life is worth living, and instead glamorizes Hannah’s decision.

The second season of 13 Reasons Why is plotless and stagnant, with very little happening from episode to episode, until the jarring and unsettling season finale. The creepy school nerd Tyler tries to redeem himself by making changes in his life, but is ultimately attacked by the school bullies. The merciless tormentors brutally sodomize Tyler with a broom handle. This scene is much more graphic than the rape scenes in the previous season, leaving the young audience disturbed and traumatized.

The show’s “intention” of bringing more awareness to the sexual abuse of boys seems harmless, but the explicit and graphic nature of the rape scene strips away the objective for real change. The rape is used for shock instead of empathy, and it pushes Tyler into performing destructive acts that alienates himself from the audience’s sympathy.

At the end of season two, Tyler plans on bringing a gun to the school and shooting his peers. By including this in the plot, the show reinforces the idea that school shooters are victims of bullying that are pushed to the breaking point and are looking for an outlet of revenge against their tormentors. It also implies the idea that if students were to reach out to them, they could prevent future shootings. The show reinforces this myth, and premiered one day after a devastating school shooting in Texas, which resulted in the death of 10 people. The show provides excuses for the failure of school systems, government and gun laws.

13 Reasons Why is not interested in guiding its young viewers into having thoughtful and important conversations about these issues. If anything, the writers seem to find these conversations ineffective, which is why they include graphic scenes in order to portray truthful experiences.

The second season of the show has completely shocked viewers and sparked many discussions about whether or not the writers took it too far. Many people find the new season to be an unnecessary continuation of an already problematic first season. The emotional response has been negative and the show’s audience has become extremely vocal on social media expressing their concerns with this TV show.

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Season two content of 13 Reasons Why sparks controversy