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Due to 13 Reasons Why's sensitive subject matter and graphic content, #Netflix's latest series has faced controversy ever since its release on March 31st. Based on the novel by Jay Asher, the series revolves around Hannah Baker (#KatherineLangford), a high school student who commits suicide after facing a series of demoralizing circumstances, brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.
The streaming service has taken several precautions because of the show's content, including a rating of TV-MA, a content warning before two of its most graphic episodes and links to suicide-prevention resources in the documentary following the series. In the wake of the mental health community alarm over the series, Netflix has decided to show the series with additional content advisories.
Netflix released the following statement, which briefly mentions what the service has already done to offer warnings and details the inclusion of the additional warning card:
“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why... While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting an important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories. 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 first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter, including the URL 13ReasonsWhy.info — a global resource center that provides information about professional organizations that support help around the serious matters addressed in the show.”
Various Controversies Surrounding The Series
The series has received both praise and criticism since its release for its various depictions of teenage suicide, graphic rape and gay characters. In Canada, discussion of the show in some schools has reportedly been outright banned, with one elementary school warning parents, "Please let your child know that discussion of 13 Reasons Why is not permitted at school due to the disturbing subject matter."
Cast members Alisha Boe (Jessica), Brandon Flynn (Justin) and Miles Heizer (Alex) recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, defending the series. Regarding a graphic rape scene and the scene in which Hannah commits suicide, Boe stated,
"It shouldn't be censored at all. If you just brush over the suicide scene, the audience will think that it was easy."
Nic Sheff, a writer for the series, also recently spoke out against the controversy by defending the graphic suicide sequence, stating:
"It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all."
The inclusion of the additional warnings will ultimately go a long way in providing context for prospective and impressionable viewers. Netflix is seemingly aware of just how important it is to include these advisories and it is encouraging to see them take these steps in order to achieve that. Discussing the issues presented in the series is imperative to overcoming the stigma related to mental illness and irreparable damage experienced through bullying.
13 Reasons Why is currently available on Netflix.