13 Reasons Why doesn't shy away from controversy. In Season 1, the teen drama's graphic depictions of rape and suicide sparked national outrage; mental health experts claimed the show could cause more harm to teens than good, and some called for the Selena Gomez-produced series to be canceled. The second season returned to similar ire — this time, a brutal rape scene in the finale episode ("Bye") left some fans "disgusted," "traumatized," and once again calling for the Netflix show's cancellation. (Spoilers for Season 2 ahead.)
In a statement to Vulture, creator and showrunner Brian Yorkey defended the show's decision to include Tyler's (Devin Druid) sexual assault in the season finale. The scene finds Tyler viciously attacked by three fellow students, who beat him up, shove his head into a toilet, and then sodomize him with a broken mop handle. Tyler is left beaten and bloody on the bathroom floor and later he's seen bleeding from the rectum. This violent act is what ultimately leads him to attempt to carry out a mass shooting at the school dance. (In the show, the dance takes place on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.)
For Yorkey, the reaction to Tyler's assault is exactly why he felt a scene like this was so necessary. "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," he said. "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."
He went on to add that the research they did on male-on-male sexual violence in high school further supported their decision.
"When we dug into that research, I think we were all astounded to find how many times this happened," he said, "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." Read Yorkey's full statement here.
In addition to adding new, custom warning video messages from the cast at the top of each episode, Netflix also made more resources available to viewers on 13ReasonsWhy.info. This includes a viewing guide for parents and videos of the cast — as themselves, not their characters — discussing important topics like depression, consent, and drug abuse and how to get the necessary help and support you need.