The Hidden Meaning Behind That Surprise Cameo in ’13 Reasons Why’ Season 2

Kim Taylor-Foster
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WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for 13 Reasons Why Season 2. Proceed at your own risk.

Star Trek: Discovery fans watching 13 Reasons Why will have noticed that a fan-favourite actor from the sci-fi show makes an appearance. Wilson Cruz plays lawyer Dennis Vasquez in the controversial Young Adult series currently airing its second season on Netflix.

Cruz appeared as Dr Hugh Culber in Star Trek: Discovery, one half of the first outwardly gay couple to appear in the long-running science fiction franchise. The second half of that couple was a certain Lt Paul Stamets, played by Anthony Rapp.

Despite Yourself Star Trek Discovery Tilly, Stamets and Culber.
Stamets (centre) and Culber (right) in a scene from Star Trek: Discovery.

In the final episode of Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, there’s an appearance from a familiar face. None other than Anthony Rapp, in the role of the priest presiding over the funeral of Hannah Baker, the high school student who killed herself in part because she was raped.

So, aside from a cute screen reunion, what else is significant about this? Well, Discovery came under fire for adhering to the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope – a trend noticed in pop culture where gay characters are introduced, only to be killed off. Cruz’s Culber was killed by Ash Tyler in the series.

With 13 Reasons Why a topical and incendiary show intent on bringing provocative subjects to the fore, his casting is no accident. Though he has no scenes with Cruz’s character Dennis, in this context Rapp’s appearance draws attention to the controversy that surrounded their characters’ fates in Discovery. 13 Reasons Why is a series with a number of gay characters, and explores homosexuality within its story, so calling the Discovery controversy to mind in this way strikes an impactful blow for LGBTQ representation.

#MeToo

13 Reasons Why Season 2
Anthony Rapp as a man of the cloth in 13 Reasons Why.

Of course, the series also touches on the issues addressed by the #MeToo movement, which seeks to raise awareness of sexual harassment. Actor Anthony Rapp made his own contribution to the movement when he publicly shared details of his own experiences. Later, Rapp spoke about the importance of people coming forward, telling Attitude magazine: “In this moment, with what’s happened, it’s become clear that people can be believed and that it can have an impact. The entire apparatus that kept people silent and also kept [those guilty of harassment] safe is being dismantled.”

13 Reasons Why Season 2 is in a large part about this very topic, with at least two characters afraid to come forward and testify against their assailant, but with one eventually finding the strength within herself to do just that. The series shows the positive impact speaking out has.

Although there’s never an explicit reference to Rapp’s or Stamets’ stories, the actors’ presence alone sends a powerful message — all the more affecting for its subtlety.

13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
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