As Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why focused on the narration of Hannah Baker from the 13 cassette tapes, Season 2 is a continuation as the show remains to unravel social issues. However, it slightly differs because we are no longer in the narration of Hannah Baker, she is now a ghost that talks and follows Clay. Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why shifts focus on the aftermath of Baker’s suicide and the stories of the people Hannah left behind. The primary focus of Season 2 is the Baker family’s lawsuit against Liberty High School, students testify and something becomes evident Bryce Walker is responsible for raping three girls. But the real question is: will the high school jock be held accountable for his actions?
While binge-watching Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, I thought it was important to address some of the questions Victoria O’Donnell raises in her “Guidelines for Television Criticism”.
What societal values and cultural values are represented in the television images and discourse?
13 Reasons Why highlights how our society views and handles issues regarding to mental health, sexual assault and gender. The Netflix Original Series attempts to educate viewers on the lack of acknowledgement surrounding these prevalent issues and how they are often normalized in our society. Something that is important to discuss is the shocking portrayal of guidance counselor, Mr. Porter’s failure to assist students when they come to him for help regarding these issues. For instance, when Hannah was feeling suicidal she went to Mr. Porter but he didn’t do anything until it was too late. Furthermore, Jessica and Marcus both separately go to Mr. Porter when they are being targeted by an anonymous person. Instead of providing a solution to the students, Porter completely neglects these issues by dismissing bullying as “apart of high school.” 13 Reasons Why also focuses on displaying toxic masculinity and the way cases of sexual assault are handled. Bryce Walker is the perfect illustration of toxic masculinity–a wealthy high school jock, who taunts, bullies, and takes advantage of women with no remorse nor is he held accountable for any of his actions. At first, Jessica Davis was reluctant to testify against Bryce which highlights the issue that exists in our society: the fear and shame that hold back victims of sexual assault. However, despite the evidence against him Bryce Walker only receives three months probation for everything he’s done. 13 Reasons Why provides these as examples to criticize the way our society mishandles issues of mental health, sexual assault and gender.
Does the program have a personality or an actor whom you enjoy watching?
Jessica Davis was my favorite character to watch in Season 2. Despite all the trauma she has endured, Jessica remains to be caring, strong, fierce, and brave. More importantly, she is seen as empowering to other woman. In Season 2, when it’s Jessica turn to testify she does what most victims of sexual assault do: remain silent and she also received threatening pictures and notes to keep her quiet as well. The viewers see how much Jessica’s sexual assault case affects her but eventually we see a transition of her growth. With the support from her friends and family, Jessica is able to overcome what she fears the most speaking up against Bryce. Jessica’s bravery is something that doesn’t go unrewarded or unnoticed, it takes a lot for one to open up about a difficult topic. We also witness Jessica confront Bryce’s girlfriend, Chloe about the unseen pictures. Chloe admits she was the one who put those photographs in Jessica’s locker to keep her silent, that Bryce has forced her to having unwanted sex and that she is pregnant with his child. Ultimately, with Jessica’s support she encourages Chloe to testify against Bryce. She truly serves as an inspiration and hero to those who might have suffered from a similar situation and are reluctant to talk because of fear.
Is there a hero or villain? How is the villain represented? What are their actions, and how can their personalities be derived from their actions? Does the hero or villain have superior abilities?
Bryce Walker is the main villain in Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, as he is hated by nearly everyone. He is portrayed as a spoiled, wealthy, cruel, manipulative, selfish, and egotistical teenager who faces no consequences for his actions. The baseball and football player uses his popularity at Liberty High to his advantage by making others inferior by him and getting what he wants. Bryce’s actions illustrate what a dangerous and awful person he is. For instance, Bryce has bullied and humiliated numerous people including Tyler, Clay, Jessica, and Hannah. He ruined Hannah’s reputation by releasing the racy pictures Justin took of her and in tape number 12 Hannah reveals that he raped her in a hot tub. Bryce’s actions and public humiliation remains the main reason behind Hannah Baker’s suicide. We also learn Hannah isn’t the only victim, Bryce is a sexual predator to Jessica Davis and his current girlfriend Chloe as well. When approached by Clay, Bryce expresses “Every girl at Liberty High wants to be rapped” proceeding to beat Clay up. This shows that Bryce sees no issues with his actions nor does he feel remorse for the pain he has caused people. His superior abilities would be the manipulation tactics he has used against his friends, relationships and the court system into getting what he wants and remaining innocent.
What do you think is the expected reaction from the audience?
I think the expected reaction from the audience was the be aware of the crippling long-term effects of the social issues displayed and anger of the lack of justice. Not even the immense evidence against Bryce or Jessica being brave enough to open up about her horrific encounter can rightfully punish Bryce for his actions. I know that I was outraged that the only justice served for the victims was a three month probation for Bryce. Furthermore, it also makes the audience realize this is usually how cases of sexual assault are handled and that we still have to break the norms present in our society.