Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why might be the most controversial show on TV (or the internet) right now.
Since it debuted, it’s drawn tons of criticism for the way it depicts death by suicide. Those in favor of the show have said it’s opened the door for frank conversations with teens about topics like bullying, sexual assault and suicide. On the other hand, critics have said that telling this story about a young woman who dies by suicide might have a potentially negative effect of either glamorizing suicide or implying that suicide can somehow be a teaching tool for others about their wrongdoings against the deceased. Mental health professionals have further noted this makes 13 Reasons Why potentially harmful to viewers who have had suicidal thoughts, as it could send the wrong message about the act of suicide.
Executive produced by Selena Gomez, the series is based on the 2007 best-selling YA novel of the same name written by Jay Asher. But even though the book was geared toward teens, Netflix streams the series with a TV-MA rating, and a number of content warnings before certain episodes. Now, following all the backlash, Netflix is doing more to make sure viewers are aware of how sensitive 13 Reasons Why‘s material is before they watch.
“While many of our members found the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories,” the streaming service said in a statement. “Currently the episodes that carry graphic content are identified as such and the series overall carries a TV-MA rating. Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series.”
Netflix has also developed a website, 13reasonswhy.info, that contains resources for anyone who struggles with the issues depicted in the series.
It’s clear that Netflix is trying to do more for its viewers, but is it enough considering how graphic and triggering 13 Reasons Why really is? Gomez thinks so.
“We stayed very true to the book and that’s initially what Jay Asher created, [which] was a beautifully tragic, complicated yet suspenseful story, and I think that’s what we wanted to do,” she told the Associated Press following backlash against the series. “We wanted to do it justice and, yeah, [the backlash is] going to come no matter what. It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but I’m very fortunate with how it’s doing.”
Do you think Netflix is doing enough to warn sensitive viewers about the content in 13 Reasons Why? Let us know in the comments.
If you suspect someone might be considering suicide or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).