Since March 2017, 13 Reasons Why has been a controversial Netflix series in which highlights the effects upon the people close (and not close) to a teenage suicide victim. The first season depicts Clay Jensen (Played by Dylan Minnette) listening to the 7 cassette tapes containing the 13 reasons why Hannah Baker (Played by Katherine Langford) committed suicide. Each tape focuses around a different character who caused Hannah’s pain. The reasons taking place between the summer before she started at Liberty High and the day of her suicide. The first season covered themes such as self harm, bullying, sexual assault and of course suicide.
The first season was shedding light upon how suicide affects people in different ways whilst also showing how things no matter how big or small can cause a person to go over the edge. Of course the first season got a lot of backlash for vivid scenes such as the bathtub scene which could cause more harm than good for those who may be struggling with depression or conditions in which could lead to themselves taking their own lives. Netflix acknowledged how watching 13RW could trigger emotions and feelings within youth who watch the show and moved to prevent fatalities or harm to their viewers by releasing a disclaimer which plays at the start of each season.
“By Shedding a light on these difficult topics we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation. / But if you are struggling with these issues yourself… this series may not be right for you or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult.” – Katherine Langford (Hannah Baker) / Alisha Boe (Jessica Davis)
This disclaimer was put into action after the show was under fire from families of suicide victims who had watched the show.
According to FoxNews (June 27th 2017) :
“The grieving families of two California teens who committed suicide in April just days after watching Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” said the show acted as a trigger for their daughters. Bella Herndon, who was three days shy of 16, and Priscilla Chui, who had battled depression and struggled in school, did not know each other, but had watched the show at around the same time and died four days apart.”
So that is the majority of the drama and background you need to know about 13 reasons why before I have even delved into the second season.
Season 2 begins on the first day of the court case between both Andrew and Olivia Baker and the Ever Green county school district. The court case having been the main focal point of the second half of the first season. Throughout the season we watch people close and not so close to Hannah Baker take to the stand and receive tough questions from both the school and her parent’s lawyers. I believe how the court scenes were structured stayed true to how this would of been handled in a real life situation. From the School’s point of view they wanted to divert any of the blame from themselves to do with Hannah’s suicide and by doing this those called to the stand were asked direct questions which avoided blame and twisted truth. As a viewer it was frustrating to watch Sonya (Played by Allison Miller) cut off those speaking in order to defend the school and for the Judge to allow it to happen but of course… this is a realistic representation.
Aside from the court case we go on to see how the school has worked to prevent talk of suicide and attempted suicide within the school. We find out that the school now suspends anyone who talks about Hannah Baker’s death or Alex Standall’s attempted suicide which was revealed at the end of the last season. The atmosphere is similar to how it was in the first season apart from everything seems to be muted. Like a sheet of silence had been thrown over the whole school and everyone has moved on. Apart from the likes of Jessica, Clay and Alex who still seem to be the most upset about Hannah’s death. Throughout the season we see how to court case brings back old emotions for characters such as Ryan who reaches out to Olivia Baker after his trial due to a feeling of guilt or frustration as his voice wasn’t heard (the way he wanted it to be) in court. The underlining thing thats still happening is that even if something as bad as two attempted suicides happening within a school and one of them being successful.. the world doesnt care and they have to move on. For me one of the main themes expressed within the season is that whats happened has happened.
A big difference between the two seasons is the jump from tapes to now Polaroids. The first Polaroid is seen in the very first episode and the second in episode 4. Even though we know these are important we have so many things happening that we almost forget how important they are until the discovery of the clubhouse. The way the Polaroids were “Spoon-fed” into the run of the second season I believe was clever. Firstly, the secrecy kept by Clay as he tries to figure out what they mean and why they keep popping up around him is the same reason that leads him to open up to those around him to get help. The Polaroids here act as a character development for Clay. Secondly, as we are loosing all hope for the court case we find the two Polaroids in which show Chloe being sexually assaulted by Bryce. These two picture become the first examples of physical evidence against Bryce for being a rapist. Even though Clay had him recorded admitting to sexually assaulting Hannah the evidence wasn’t taken to court. The Polaroids here work as a hope beacon for the audience as we start to believe Bryce is given the sentence he deserves which of course isn’t given. Lastly, the Polaroids work as physical threats against all of those who were assaulted or used within the clubhouse. As stated, there were pictured of people who were at the school long before the current students.. this has been going on for years. If any of the girls who had been in there came forward about what happened to them and there were no pictures then it would work as a ripple affect (Like how the #MeToo hashtag encouraged those who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to share their stories.) and with enough people coming forward something could be done about it. But the Polaroids are used as unspoken blackmail and the image could be twisted by rumors if one threatened to come out about what happened (Like how Hannah’s picture on the slide in season 1 became twisted) in order to make the victims out to “have wanted it”.
The last two things i’m going to be addressing within the 2nd season both occur within the last episode.
First of all, is Jessica Davis’ speech during Bryce’s trial. Alisha Boe’s performance here is an outstanding depiction of how a victim would explain what happened to them. Boe’s Jessica shows development from earlier in the season where she couldn’t even mention his name but now could stand and say what he did and then turn to him and say it to his face. Jessica Davis although is stood there breaking as she speaks shows strength and determination to have justice as she stares Bryce down. A moment which in turn caused myself to gasp. For Bryce’s reaction to be near to nothing shows a complete contrast within the two of them. Jessica is now strong enough to face him and tell him what he did yet Bryce doesn’t seem to move (Probably told by his lawyers and parents to remain emotionless towards it) like he refuses to admit to what he did and is showing defiance towards every word she is saying.
“I remember waking up to you pulling off my underwear, (She sobs) I remember feeling you push yourself inside of me. I may not remember all of the details but I will never forget the sheer terror of feeling your weight on top of me. Of not being able to breathe (She turns to face Bryce) -Alisha Boe as Jessica Davis
The scene in which many of the difference female characters from the show take to the stand and share their own story of being sexually assaulted or harassed in a way. The characters were Hannah, Nina, Courtney, Olivia (Hanna’s mother), Sherie, Jackie, Mackenzie, Tracy Porter and Carolyn Standall. As much as I love how this scene was presented in a heart wrenching way knowing that all of these characters had their own stories but had never told them before or at least hadn’t informed the audience before shows that even if its not big in the eyes of the court… something like this could stick with a person for life. But and sadly with this scene there is a but, where is the acknowledgement of Male victims of sexual assault. Even though within this story line it is addressing the fact of Bryce Walker (A male assaulter) continuously forcing himself upon female characters we have a montage here of Sexual assault / harassment victims telling their stories. Could we not of had 1 or 2 male characters raising awareness that its not only females who get attacked in this way. For 13 Reasons Why who are already a controversial show I expected them to bring light to this matter.
According to Survivorsuk :
” An estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.”
According to rainn.org:
” Millions of men in the United States have been victims of rape
As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape.
About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
1 out of every 10 rape victims are male. ”
With statistics like this I question why 13 Reasons Why went against the idea of including Male rape victims within the ‘tell my story’ section of the trial. My own conclusion is the producers of the show looked at the demographics (In which I cant find anywhere so cannot confirm if this is truth) and saw that their was a higher female to male ratio of viewers. Which would in turn lead to why they would want to focus around Female rape victims as it would reach the majority of their audience. It is more common for a rape victim to be female than it is to be male… doesn’t mean men cant be raped.
Tell your story, dont suffer in silence:
Rape Crisis (UK)
Helpline: 0808 802 9999 ( rapecrisis.org.uk )
The Survivors Trust
Helpline: 0808 801 0818
Last of all i’m going to be talking about probably the most famous scene within the second season for its controversial nature. Many saying “This should never have been shown”. This scene i’m addressing is Tyler’s bullying scene in which 3 other students attack him violently by the use of smashing his head into a mirror, attempting to drown him in a toilet and the insertion of a broom handle into his rear. When writing this review.. I refused to re-watch this scene. Not because of its controversial nature but because I couldn’t bare to re watch it. I didn’t want to go through the shock and horror I initially did. Much like the rest of 13 Reasons Why.. I only watched each episode once. Even when I was doing this review I only clicked to the sections I needed the refresher on as I couldn’t bare to go through it all again. Its what I would call a ‘Once is enough’ show. In response to what people are saying about the fact that it shouldn’t of been shown I can’t seem to decide if it should or shouldn’t of been shown or not. Thing’s like this happen in real life and as stated in the disclaimer at the beginning of the series:
“13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real world issues. Taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide and more.” – Justin Prentice (Plays Bryce Walker)
The disclaimer is there for a reason and we were warned about what was to come so when people state that it shouldn’t of been shown I come to question if they skipped the disclaimer. 13 Reasons Why shocks us with its realistic yet dramatized depiction of teens, adults and teachers dealing with suicides, bullying and other themes. The reason we reacted the way we do is because we know that things like this truly happen. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to accept that Tyler Down’s attack could of actually happened to someone before Season 2 was released or the fact that this could happen to someone afterwards. I didn’t want to watch it but now… I am aware that bullying isn’t just fights in the hallways and notes in your lockers… but its graphic moments such as this which scar a person for life. (In Tyler Down’s case pushes him to do the unspeakable)
Overall, Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why continued in their reputation of shocking the audience with scenes in which raise awareness to the real world that we either aren’t aware of or pretend to not notice. The character development was clear and aided in the plot moving forward, the Polaroids were clever in the use of in and out of court motivation to find justice but I believe that sensitive subjects shown such as Bryce’s trial and Tyler’s attack should of been given more screen time showing the before and after affects and not just the actually occurrence. (Maybe we will see this in season 3?)
I look forward to seeing what Season 3 is to bring to us as they have a rather large cliff hanger to pick up from. But in conclusion Season 2 just about met my expectations.
Review Written By Emma.