You would think, that after creating countless controversies ranging from on-screen suicides to graphic rape depictions, the 13 Reasons Why writers would eventually learn their lesson. Many fans were skeptical when the show was renewed for a third season, and after its release, it seems as though they had every right to be.
You’d think a show can’t get much worse, especially after including explicit self-harm and sodomy by broomstick, but then, Netflix greenlights another season. With rape apology, violent homophobia and the coddling of white school shooters, 13 Reason Why is back and more unbearable than ever.
What started out as a problematic book adaptation is now an ongoing phenomenon. Many were horrified by what they saw in the first season, which was based on the original story. They had no idea what they were in for, though, as the second season (not based on existing content) rolled out with countless more shocking twists and jaw-dropping scenes.
The show is no stranger to criticism and controversy. Since its 2017 release, the show has been a topic widely discussed and condemned by many, ranging from mental health professionals to parents of suicide victims. To soften the blow, Netflix released a statement a month before Season Three’s release, announcing that Season One’s graphic suicide scene would be edited out and removed from the streaming platform. However, with the censorship affecting just that one controversial scene, the new season was no milder than those before.
— 13 Reasons Why (@13ReasonsWhy) August 5, 2019
Season Three is centered on the mysterious death of one of the most realistic high school villains, Bryce Walker. While Season One was about who metaphorically killed the original protagonist, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide, this season asks the question, “Who literally murdered Bryce Walker?”
Many characters have an indifferent, and even insensitive, attitude towards his murder, while others defend his name. “He was a f**king person… a human being,” one of Bryce’s former friends, Justin Foley, cries. He makes a valid point. Bryce was a human being—one that raped three of his classmates and ultimately led to the death of one.
This is what many fans fail to understand as the writers construct his posthumous redemption arc. While Bryce was indeed a flawed human, he had too many flaws to be forgiven or respected as a human or even fictional character. Many who defend him and his actions border on being rape apologists. With one apology video and a few dramatic tears, Bryce is forgiven by both his fictional peers and the viewers at home.
The show spreads an extremely harmful message—yet again—as it coerces viewers to feel sympathy for rapists, regardless of what they did.
The sympathy grabs do not end with rapists, though. At the end of Season Two, we were left with a cliffhanger: a scared, attempted school shooter stolen away from the school dance as the police sirens close in. Viewers are actually expressing their sympathy for the character—you know, the one that almost shot his classmates at their homecoming dance. This kind of sympathy is very dangerous in our current society. We are plagued with mass shootings, the most recent attacks conducted by white adolescent shooters—white terrorists.
The face of terrorism in our country is the face of 13 Reasons Why’s Tyler Down. It is white adolescent men who gain sympathy with their broken image. It is downright negligent, attempting to strike sympathy among viewers for a fictional, wannabe terrorist in our country’s current climate.
When we begin sympathizing with them and even feeling bad for terrorists, even on a fictional level, we begin accepting terrorism and allowing these people a platform in our society.
While many justify Tyler’s behavior with his traumatic assault, it is no excuse to become a terrorist. No other sexual assault survivors act out in terrorism, so why is terrorism justified when it’s a white, emotionally damaged teen with conventional looks? Their message is detrimental to viewers who might gain a sense of empathy for white terrorists mirroring Tyler, as many already do for shooters in this country. When we begin sympathizing with them and even feeling bad for terrorists, even on a fictional level, we begin accepting terrorism and allowing these people a platform in our society.
Another problematic theme introduced in this season is Montgomery de la Cruz’s violent internalized homophobia. Many fans claimed that they “knew it,” citing his blatant homophobia towards other characters, as well as him sexually assaulting Tyler. His sexuality, as well as his internalized hatred, is revealed in Season Three when he kisses another boy and then proceeds to mercilessly beat him at a party.
His homophobia and self-hatred are justified in the show by the age-old abusive father trope, but in reality, his abusive behavior is not justifiable at all. He is not LGBT+ representation, despite whatever the writers were pitifully aiming for. Instead, he is rather a rapist and bully who just happens to be gay.
This trope is commonly used to portray gay men as bullies and justify their abuse of other LGBT+ men, specifically their romantic interests. It implies toxicity is simply a part of being a closeted man. What writers do not understand is that when they use this outdated trope, they are not creating LGBT+ representation but only furthering homophobic narratives. They are implying that abusers are acting out because of their own feelings, not because they’re abusers. The writers are justifying toxic behaviors and toxic relationships, especially between gay men, who are already portrayed in a negative light in the media.
This narrative enables abuse in real life, as men will justify other men’s abuse, brushing it off as a societal norm. This trope has caused immense harm, for both gay men and their societal image, and it gives them a distorted idea of what love should look like. Yet again, another toxic theme introduced in the latest season.
Who cares who killed Bryce Walker? I want to know who allowed this show to air.
In the end, who cares who killed Bryce Walker? I want to know who allowed this show to air. Its harmful messages and portrayals aren’t representation for anyone but criminals and abusers, and the beliefs it pushes are extremely impactful on an impressionable audience. Despite the show’s futile attempts to change for the better, it continues to head in an increasingly detrimental direction.
13 Reasons Why‘s Season Three is available on Netflix.
Featured Image via 13 Reasons Why