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’13 Reasons Why’ redeeming a rapist is misguided

’13 Reasons Why’ redeeming a rapist is misguided

’13 Reasons Why’ redeeming a rapist is misguided
September 24
10:03 2019

Netflix recently released season three of “13 Reasons Why,” a teen drama that has been highly criticized in the past for its approach to controversial topics.

In season one of the show, it was revealed that the character Bryce Walker raped another student, Jessica Davis, and the main character Hannah Baker, which was one of the contributing factors to her suicide that drove the plot of the first season.

Season two revolved around the trial of Hannah’s death and eventually led to Bryce only getting three months probation for the rape accusations against him. This was no surprise, considering his character is a rich, white male.

When the trailer for season three was released, it revealed that Bryce’s character was murdered, and it created a lot of anticipation among viewers to figure out who committed the crime.

If you’ve watched the previous seasons, then you know that almost every character had a reason to want Bryce dead. His death was used as a marketing campaign because who really liked this character anyway? He was disposable.

So, good riddance, right?

Much to everyone’s surprise, Bryce was a major character throughout season three. Not only that, the show wanted us to feel bad for Bryce.

The narrative was that his reputation was ruined by the rape accusations against him. He lost all his friends, he had to transfer schools and then he started to get bullied by his classmates for being a rapist. Knowing his record, it should be easy to say that he deserves it.

Yet, the show tries to make the audience sympathize with Bryce by giving us an inside look on Bryce wracked with guilt and depression.

Even though it’s revealed that he’s raped multiple girls, the show tries to convince us he’s not really a bad guy and I can’t understand why. Previous seasons have set him up to be the villain of the story, but suddenly we see him trying to make up for his past. He tries to apologize to one of his victims and even tries to help a former classmate who was raped by Bryce’s own friend, Monty.

Are we supposed to see all this good he’s doing and forgive all the bad he’s done? It just feels weird that we are meant to empathize with this person who has done so many terrible things.

What are the implications of this redemption arc? If a person makes an honest effort to right their wrongs, are we obligated to forgive them? His rape victims won’t just get over the trauma because he said sorry. What he did is unforgivable, but should he have to pay for it with his life?

He realized the weight of what he did and even recorded a confession of one on the rapes he committed before his death. He was willing to pay the consequences if it helped his victim heal.

Frankly, it’s a really frustrating predicament that the show puts on its viewers.

Either we accept that there is more to a person than their worst mistakes or we accept that there is no coming back from something so horrible.

After spending so much time redeeming his character, the show then undoes all his good by making him act out of vengeance in his last living moments. He verbally and physically assaults his former friend, Zach, by breaking his leg during a fight, ultimately ruining his football career.

It’s also important to note that his life was ruined before he even began to feel any sense of guilt for his actions. Was his attempt at redemption for his sake only? 

We’ll never know for Bryce Walker because his character was murdered before we could even see it play out and a lot of questions still remain. It’s hard to imagine any kind of redemption for such vile actions. Perhaps it merely shows that he can change, but that doesn’t mean he can be redeemed.

Featured Illustration: Jeselle Farias

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Vivian Berreondo

Vivian Berreondo

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