13 Reasons Why actor defends graphic rape scene: 'We can't sugarcoat it'

Publish Date
Sunday, 10 June 2018, 12:20PM

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

The actor who played the victim in an excruciating anal rape scene in 13 Reasons Why had defended the much-criticized moment, insisting it had to be graphic in order to be true to life.

Devin Druid, 20, stars as Tyler Down in the Netflix drama, whose second season premiered on May 18.

In the season finale, Tyler gets beaten and raped by three student-athletes, as one character, Monty, sodomizes him with the end of a mop, reports Daily Mail.

Critics of the rape scene have called it "disgusting" and "unnecessary," while the Parents Television Council has issued an "urgent warning" about the show.

But Devin spoke out in favor of the scene earlier this week during an interview in Hollywood, insisting it wouldn't have been fair to "censor" it.

"You know, I think people are always going to have opinions on the show and what we do, but I think it's staying true to what the show has been about," he told ET at the 11th annual Television Academy Honors.

"We can't sugarcoat it or censor it at all because that's not how these events happen. And I think it is this trying to portray and make people understand what happens in these unfortunate and tragic circumstances."

The actor, who got his breakout role on 13 Reasons Why, explained how he approached the scene as a performer.

"As an actor for the scene I felt a lot of responsibility to accurately portray the pain and I guess the humiliation that one can go through when they're assaulted this way, especially with the stigma around sexual assault with men, and especially in this age of toxic and fragile masculinity," he added.

"I think it plays a big part in this idea of men being raped — that's not something people thing about a lot.

"As a male character, what does that feel like for you in a society where you're told that this shouldn't happen to you? Not that it should happen to anybody, but that this can't happen to you, but it does? What does that do to you on a mental level, as well as physically, with enormous amounts of pain?"

The second season of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been by controversy over the disturbing rape scene, but the show's creator has stood by his decision to feature the graphic footage.

After receiving backlash for the depiction of Hannah Baker's suicide in the first season of the series, the new season begins with a PSA of the show's leading cast members warning that the series "tackles tough, real world issues" — including sexual assault and school shooting storylines.

The two minute scene was directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, the same director who filmed the controversial depiction of Hannah (Katherine Langford) slitting her wrists in the bathtub in season one.

Critics have called this season's rape scene "disgusting" and "unnecessary," while the Parents Television Council has issued an "urgent warning" about the show. Referring to the new season as a "ticking time bomb to teens and children," the council has called for the cancellation of the series.

For all the criticisms, there are also those who have supported the show's exploration and graphic depiction of real issues plaguing teens across the country.

13 Reasons Why creator Brian Yorkey has defended the inclusion of the scene, telling New York magazine's Vulture: "We are committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can."

Last year, amid criticisms of the first season of the teen drama based on Jay Asher's best-selling book of the same name, Netflix added an additional warning card at the start of the series.

Changes that were implemented for the new season include the custom introduction with the cast, an after show, and additional resources listed at 13ReasonsWhy.Info, including a viewing guide.

In his shared statement, Yorkey noted that Netflix has provided resources "for understanding that this may not be the show for everybody," as well as resources for those who are troubled by why they saw while watching it.

"But the fact is that, as intense as that scene is, and as strong as are or reactions to it may be, it doesn't even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things," he said.

"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 added. '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."

Yorkey claimed the storyline came from research on real-life cases of male-on-male sexual violence in high school, and he said the decision to include the scene was supported by both Netflix and Paramount, which produces the show, following "extensive discussions."

In the first season of the show, Hannah and Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) are both raped by Bryce (Justin Prentice), and Yorkey pointed out that those scenes didn't receive the same amount of backlash because the victims were women.

"The very, very intense scene of Hannah's suicide seemed to overshadow the fact that Hannah and one other girl were violently raped in season one," he said.

"If there's a greater sense of backlash about this scene, especially it being hard to watch, 'disgusting,' or inappropriate, that goes to the point that we need to be talking about the fact that things like this happen.

"The fact that this would be somehow more disgusting than what happened to Hannah and Jessica, I'm shocked but not surprised."

The episode has also come under fire over a subsequent scene in which a traumatized Tyler takes an automatic rifle to the school dance with the intention of shooting his fellow students.

It is a continuation of the school shooting storyline that was introduced in the first season finale, and while he doesn't end up going through with the massacre, critics have found the scene to be troubling considering the unyielding plague of gun violence going on in the country.

The second season of 13 Reasons Why premiered on Friday, May 18, at midnight Pacific time, and less than six hours later, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, opened fire at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, killing 10 people.

Netflix canceled the Los Angeles premiere party scheduled on Friday evening for its second season because of the school shooting.

The controversial release also follows the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.

Two weeks before the show's season two premiere, Yorkey opened up about Tyler's storyline, telling The Hollywood Reporter: "We had a character who was obviously severely bullied, suffering from social isolation and was thinking of making a very tragic choice in addressing those feelings for himself.

"With season two ... we're very interested in continuing to follow his journey and to try to understand his state of mind and the state of his soul," he continued. "I think you'll see in the balance of the episodes that it's very much about trying to understand Tyler's character and how a troubled young man might be driven to consider this very difficult choice."

The showrunner said it is up to the audience to decide of the show has successfully addressed the issue in a way that sparks conversation about gun violence without glorifying it.

"Unfortunately, there's a great deal of literature about a great number of troubled young men who resorted to or almost resorted to violence to act through their feelings," he said. "So we were able to study a great deal of the history there, and we tried to be authentic and honest and also accurate in our portrayal of the character.

"As with all things with the show, our hope was that we could honestly represent the experience; that our viewers might, through the experience, learn more and start more conversations about those issues in their own world."

Season one of the series faced similar criticisms over Hannah's graphic suicide scene, as well as the depiction of two female characters being raped.

People accused the show of glorifying suicide, and many mental health professionals agreed that such a realistic portrayal could lead to copycat suicides among teens.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.​

This article was first published on dailymail.co.uk and is reproduced here with permission.