Graphic scenes should be shown, not ignored


How much is too much?
When it comes to graphic content, that’s often the question many producers ask when working on their projects. Some choose to stick to the status quo, not wanting to rock the boat and cause a public outcry. Others are trailblazers who aren’t afraid to push boundaries.
In recent weeks, Netflix’s hit series “Thirteen Reasons Why” has sparked online debate over how it handled its heavier themes. Two scenes in particular that have garnered attention are the sexual assault of protagonist Hannah Baker and her suicide.
Fearing backlash, executives at Netflix initially wanted Hannah’s suicide to be off-screen and the circumstances of her death to be left up to the imagination of viewers, but creator Brian Yorkey and writer Nic Sheff fought for it to be filmed. It would have been irresponsible to avoid depicting suicide in a horrific manner rather than showing viewers every grisly detail. Making such a grievous act seem anything less would have been upsetting.
However, not everybody agrees. Some have criticized the series’ content as being unnecessarily graphic and voyeuristic. Twitter users called the show’s creative team “disgusting” for including explicit scenes. Must we pretend we live in a perfect world where these issues don’t exist? They’re real, present, and not going away unless awareness is spread.
To truly have an impact on the audience watching, important topics like sexual assault and suicide can’t be sugar-coated. Not only would doing so take away from the gravity of such issues but would also give younger viewers the wrong impression of the effect sexual assault has on those who have experienced it and lessen the significance of suicide.
There’s no age too young to be exposed to events like these. It’s better for people to learn the severity of the situation and its harsh reality than have their eyes shielded from the truth.
If the events were mentioned but never shown, viewers may not resonate with the character’s pain as intensely. When you witness an incident occur instead of merely hearing about it, you are better able to comprehend why somebody is reacting the way they are and realize the consequences of those actions.
You may feel outright disgusted while watching traumatic events play out on screen, but that’s the point. You’re supposed to feel disgusted. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable and have a knot in the pit of your stomach. That discomfort is often what motivates people to take action and begin a dialogue. Communication is how progress is made. That discomfort is what opens the door to conversation.
Characters and viewers alike are going to have to grapple with the realities of such situations. These issues can’t be glossed over, they must be faced head-on. It’s important for writers to show what victims go through pragmatically and unflinchingly.
No matter how ugly it may be, the truth must be shown. After all, there are no censors in the real world. Why should there be in entertainment?