You all know that we’re living in the golden age of television, right? Even if you’re not a big TV person, you’ve got to be aware that this is going on. In the last few years, I’ve witnessed moments of television that shook me and forever raised production expectations. Several of these moments have been terribly uncomfortable to watch– they’re scenes I’ll never watch again, but I can’t help in applauding the bold statements and quality with which these moments are delivered. I mean, the fact that they arouse such memorable feelings for me is a direct result of how powerful the work is.
Some of these moments include the first episode of Black Mirror, several Game of Thrones episodes, The Walking Dead episode when Glenn dies, lot’s of The Handmaid’s Tale, and many more I’m sure that I’m excluding. My point is, these are all pretty current shows and as one excels, the rest adapt to the risen bar.
Last night, I finished season two of 13 Reasons Why. You’ve likely heard of it as the first season sparked a bunch of controversy. Most of those up in arms about the series complained about the accessibly of the graphic content, and the glorification of suicide. And, I get it, but it was realistic and I think we all need to do a better job normalizing mental health struggles. I will say that I was bothered that last season did not give any content warnings before disturbing episodes. They have since corrected their oversight. This season, every episode came with a warning and provided victim resources. In my book, the series has now covered all of the bases required to shatter some censored minds.
Season two delivered one of those TV shattering moments. All I will say of this moment is that it is a crazy, awful, nauseating, in your face depiction of sexual assault. The series tackled the topic in the previous season; so, when the warning came prior to the episode, I prepared myself for more of what I’d already seen. What they delivered was a new level of disturbing, and I actually had to pause the episode and take a walk to calm down. Thinking about it to write this– I’m even struggling with that.
Since then, I’ve been thinking through their portrayal. While I’m upset and wish I hadn’t seen what is now burned into my brain, I don’t think they should have done anything differently. It felt weird. They forced empathy on me. They fired me up. And, that’s precisely the purpose.
Sexual assault is this terribly yucky thing that most of us consider discussion taboo. We hear stories in the news or read a book about it, acknowledge the misfortune, but do nothing to eradicate its prevalence. Then, when it happens to us, we feel this intense shame for “allowing” someone to hurt us in that way, the perpetrator is never reprimanded, and the nasty behavior continues.
I commend 13 Reasons Why for using their platform to take us all through that phenomenon– for forcing the victim’s mentality and suffering in our faces. I hated watching it. I will never watch it again. But; here I am impacted by it, still thinking about it, and sharing it with you. I get it. We need to talk about it. And, no, it’s not easy. Especially if you’ve experienced it.
Ultimately, discussion is how we let each other know that we’re not alone. Discussion is how we put our heads together to take down those abusing others in these unimaginable ways. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, and those of us who have suffered come to terms with our experiences in our own time. My hope is that those of you not ready to acknowledge your abuse or assault will hear those of us comfortable sharing our own. I hope we can support each other, keep the discussion going, and encourage the world to evolve to include fewer assholes. That’s the dream.
In case you need them, you will find recourses for responding to sexual assault here. Up and up…