Shock Value

Throughout the years, mainstream media has become more and more vocal about things like depression, suicide, sexual assault, and rape. What used to never be even whispered about is now being broadcasted to the world as wrong. What used to be a gray area is now becoming more and more black and white. People aren’t as afraid to talk. People aren’t as afraid to share their stories. Which is an awesome thing, until people have heard it so much that they just don’t care.

By now, it would be kind of shocking for anybody reading this to not have heard about the newest Netflix original hit, “13 Reasons Why.” It follows the life of a high school student who, after enduring heartbreaking trauma and injustice, decides to give up her fight and take her own life. I could write hundreds of posts about this show, ranging from outrage at how certain topics are handled to complete joy that somebody finally understood what needed to be said. I don’t stand on either side of the fence for this show. I can’t say that it could never help anybody at all, because I can see some value in some of the philosophies. But I also can’t advocate it because of how messed up and twisted some of the views are. I won’t be getting into any of the mental health side of things in this post. Maybe another time, who knows?

***WARNING. SPOILER ALERT***

One of the most unexpected parts of this show for me was the intensity it put on the issue of rape. Going into watching it, I really didn’t expect that at all. But it was there. And boy, was it heavy. From the very first episode, they put so much focus on inappropriate advances from the opposite sex, and I was so on board. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that I am someone who has been sexually assaulted and will go to my grave fighting that perverted injustice in the world. I was overjoyed that a show would be so vocal about such a prevalent issue. But then came the episode that took me off guard. The one that really messed me up, and if I were not a believer in Jesus Christ probably would have spiraled me back into a pretty horrific headspace.

In the particular episode I’m referring to, the audience sees an entire rape encounter. On screen, almost nothing hidden, beginning to end. They show the pain, the confusion, and the suffering that took place in that poor girls life, and they filter absolutely none of it. Now, I know that some will defend this, saying that there was a trigger warning in the beginning of the episode and that the graphic nature of the scene is what teens need to see in order to understand the severity of the crime. But I disagree. I don’t believe that anybody in the entire universe needs to see that.

You see, as a culture, we have become so accustomed to hearing about rape and sexual assault that we just aren’t shocked anymore. It wasn’t always this way. When people first began to tell their stories, it was horrifying to everyone who listened and the overwhelming heartbreak of such a crime was obvious across the board. But the more the world heard, the less they were shocked. So the storytellers went about to try and rekindle the flame. Instead of hearing stories of far away people, it was your neighbor. It was your best friend. It was your sister. It was your wife. Everyday people began to come forward and share that it wasn’t as uncommon as we used to think. I would be bold enough to say that not a single person can say that they don’t know somebody in their own life that was a victim and a survivor. We began to realize that it was common. And the more we realized that, the shock value, once again, lowered. So what was left? How else would we get across the message?

Which brings us to the point we are at now. The entertainment industry pushing these graphic visuals of things that nobody needs to see. I’m going to be completely honest, my writing of this post even now is a way for me to get these images out of my head. The more those images in my head replayed, the more I recalled my own experiences and the more I felt myself feeling smaller and smaller, on my way to feeling just as tiny as I did that night. Praise God that he has delivered me from that. Praise God that I have been saved from that pain and trauma and I don’t have to live in that anymore. Praise the Lord that I have a choice of whether to let it consume me or whether to choose the love and hope of my Savior. But not everybody has that hope. While everybody has access to it, not everybody accepts it. And it breaks my heart to the core to know that there are human beings out there that watch these things and either get pulled back into the worst memories of their lives or are opened up to something that they shouldn’t be.

Rape should not be used to increase entertainment value. Sexual assault is not something to boost ratings. A producer and writer somewhere in Hollywood should not get to dictate how much sleep I get at night. And we as a culture need to realize that there are much more important things than shock value.

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