Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers of the first two seasons of 13 Reasons Why. This is 1 of 3 reviews of the Netflix series.
Netflix announced on June 6th that its controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why will return for a third season in 2019.
The conclusion of season 2 left viewers curious about the fate of the students at Liberty High School, specifically lead characters Clay Jensen, Tony Padilla, and Tyler Down.
When 13 Reasons debuted in 2017 it received flack from parent groups about its graphic portrayal of Hannah Baker's suicide, the spark that ignites the series as a whole. Season 2 received its own amount of backlash from scenes depicting grotesque sexual violence against characters of both genders and an attempted mass shooting.
Keeping with its famed controversy, there is no doubt season 3 will contain cringe-worthy scenes. The question is, how necessary are these scenes and are they causing more harm than good?
Sexual Violence Against Women
The rapes of Hannah Baker and Jessica Davis were shown in season 1. Though Hannah took her life, Jessica was left to deal with the aftermath of her attack in season 2. Throughout the season she is shown having panic attacks, social anxiety, emotional triggers, and uncomfortable interactions with her and Hannah's abuser—high school royalty, Bryce Walker.
The feminist in me screamed at Jessica the entire season "admit it was Bryce," but she refused time and time again to name her rapist. Out of fear or shame, Jessica stuck to her story that she was too drunk to remember who assaulted her.
Though Hannah had left her full story on cassette tapes, including her rape, the court needed a living victim to charge Bryce.
Jessica's silence continued to frustrate me as the pattern of abuse Bryce and other male students had inflicted on countless women was revealed. Couldn't Jessica see she alone had the power to convict him? Why wasn't she doing anything?
As a woman, I like to think I would immediately confront and turn in my abuser if this situation ever happened to me. The truth of the matter is that this is much easier said than done.
13 Reasons could have portrayed a Jessica that went to the police and named names the second she remembered her assault, but instead they chose to represent the majority of women who never report their abuser.
A study from the Bureau of Justice found that only 28% of victims of sexual violence report their assault to the police. That means the number of victims and the number of abusers is far greater than we could ever imagine.
Jessica represented a silent majority that lives in constant fear and darkness because of the heinous acts that have been committed against them. Her return to high school, conversations with her abuser, and group therapy sessions where she tells her story are all evidence of her strength.
Thankfully, though, with a support system of friends and family, Jessica did report Bryce Walker and charges were pressed.
This is where 13 Reasons again decided to stick to legal precedent instead of giving viewers the happy ending they desired.
State champion pitcher and town celebrity Bryce Walker, convicted of the rape of Jessica Davis, walked away with three months probation. A measly slap on the wrist for defiling and changing the trajectory of a young woman's entire life.
Your blood should be boiling.
The absolutely ridiculous part of that sentencing is not that it is fictitious, it's that it is all too accurate of the justice system that protects the future of abusers rather than the basic human rights of victims. If this reminds you of the atrocious Brock Turner case, it's because it should.
13 Reasons did not serve us a palatable sentencing because that is often not the case in American courtrooms. The writers honestly depicted a dark and broken system in the hopes of creating a conversation.
We may not know a rape victim personally. Well, to rephrase, we may not know someone we know is a rape victim. 13 Reasons gave victims a name, a face, and a storyline in the form of Hannah Baker, Jessica Davis, and Bryce's own girlfriend, Chloe Rice.
No, 13 Reasons did not demonstrate what the justice system should look like. It gave us a sickening dose of reality. It gave us an inside look to the "good old boys" culture that begins in adolescence and is protected into adulthood.
What season 2 also gave us was awareness of a growing issue.
If you're sick of seeing #metoo on social media, then stop abusing women, stop allow your sons, husbands, brothers to abuse women, and stop allowing the justice system to further abuse victims into silence.
This Netflix original series is not only controversial to spike ratings. It is controversial to start a conversation, to raise awareness, and to inspire change.
The material may not be suitable for all viewers, but the content of those scenes is not suitable in real life for any human being ever.
Is it difficult to watch scenes where sexual violence is portrayed? Absolutely. But what is even more difficult is facing the realization that every 98 seconds that is someone's reality.
Until we begin to recognize and end sexual violence against women, it will continue to happen—to our daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends.
13 Reasons Why merely gave us content upon which to start a conversation. It is up to all us of us to take action.