Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has always been controversial; Season 2 is raising alarms, for its disturbing imagery, and inspiring even more public outcry than Season 1.
Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why is no stranger to controversy. Based on the eponymous novel by Jay Asher, Season 1 centers on the suicide of high schooler Hannah Baker and the tapes she leaves behind. Understandably, Season 1 incited a national discussion about suicide prevention—for which the show was both praised and criticized. In an effort to make Season 2 less concerning, Netflix included extensive resources, warning videos, and the after show “Beyond The Reasons”—all recommended by mental health professionals in their criticisms of Season 1.
It’s been a few months since Season 2 was released and, evidently, it is no less controversial than its predecessor. Despite the precautions Netflix implemented to make Season 2 more accessible, the same concerns from Season 1 were renewed. There was also a deluge of new criticisms, all of which specifically centered on the season finale. Regardless, 13 Reasons Why remains massively popular, and was even renewed for a third season (to premiere in 2019).
When deciding whether 13 Reasons Why is appropriate for you or your children to watch, it’s important to seek outside advice and opinions. The issues covered by the show—which include one of the characters accepting a new Bipolar Disorder diagnosis—could be triggering and unpleasant to watch. Here is what mental health experts, the show’s production team, and teens on social media have to say about the show:
Executive producer Joy Gorman Wettels touts the show as a means to “force [parents] to look at things kids are really going through,” and maintains that “as dark as [Season 2] is… [it] tries to be hopeful.”
Executive producer Mandy Teefey always “knew adults were going to be the ones with the bigger problem [with the show’s content] than kids.” She also remarks “parents shy away from [the show] because they don’t want to see … what their kids go to school and experience.”
Singer Selena Gomez, one of the show’s executive producers, said that the show functions as a vehicle for social change by “open[ing] the door for healthy communication.” She has also had “numerous parents and kids come up to her” to talk about the show.
Mental health advocates
Phyllis Alongi, clinical director of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, remarked to NBC news: “[13 Reasons Why] touched on every single negative issue that there is that could involve teens.” Of the graphic Season 2 finale, she “understands producers want to bring [those] issues to the forefront, but it was not necessary to be so graphic,”
Dan Ridernberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, finds issue in Hannah Baker’s continued presence in Season 2, through both hallucinations and flashback scenes. Ridernberg feels this may be confusing for at-risk children who “may believe that they can [remain present in their loved one’s lives after death] too,”
Anna Shugart, Director of Blount Memorial Hospital’s Emotional Health and Recovery, commented that 13 Reasons Why is “very disturbing in the suicide prevention field” when she spoke at a conference held by the Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Alliance. She has also observed that the show’s material is “very triggering” for both children and adults—some of whom are triggered when watching the show with their children.
In a research paper published by Dr. Michael B. Pitt and colleagues in Pediatrics, it advises that at-risk patients abstain from watching the show’s “graphically glorified” version of suicide. Although Dr. Pitt and colleagues agree that a dialogue about mental health dialogue is vital, they maintain “13 Reasons Why violates established best practices surrounding portrayals of suicide in the media.”
“13 reasons why is a good show; it discusses things (in my opinion) in a respectful manner, but what we must be aware of is that it IS graphic and it warns of this many times.” Amybeth via Twitter
“I really don’t know how 13 reasons why manages to get away with showing the kind of scenes that they do. I’m not a sensitive person but they turn my stomach.” Clo via Twitter
“[13 Reasons Why] was hard to watch, and pulled a lot of buried emotions out, but wow i am so thankful for the show.” Andrea Russett via Twitter
“I think what 13 Reasons Why is doing is noble and good. Suicide is serious. But here’s the thing. It’s real. It’s not a game or a puzzle.” Shannon Purser via Twitter.
Although 13 Reasons Why is an immensely popular show, it is ultimately up to your discretion as to whether you choose to watch it. Bear in mind the criticism (and praise) mentioned above, and perform your own research. Talk with your therapist, trusted friends, or support group to see whether the show is right for you to watch.
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