"Thirteen Reasons Why" Controversy


By Tru

Who knew so many people would get offended over a Netflix Original? ‘13 Reasons Why’ is about a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who leaves tapes explaining why she committed suicide, and who is to blame for her death. Although many parents and teachers are concerned by this content, the show generates important conversations, and covers much more than just suicide. Moreover, students should be capable to make their own choice in terms of what they can watch. Ultimately, ‘13 Reasons Why’ is more helpful than it is harmful.

Netflix has used ‘13 Reasons Why’ as an opening for opening up discussions, which can be beneficial to viewers and raise awareness. Since season two of the show came out, Netflix released a PSA warning viewers about the content before they watch it. Netflix created this show because they wanted to open a gateway for more discussions, and they thought the best way to do that was to create a show about it. Netflix has even collaborated with suicide prevention hotlines and groups to really get the word out. However, experts still think Netflix isn’t doing enough for the cause, so the company decided to launch a ‘13 Reasons Why’ video discussion series with the characters from the show, to talk about the serious topics. This action shows how committed Netflix is to raising awareness of suicide and other issues in the show. The positive effects of these discussions outweigh the potential dangers, because viewers who are feeling alone and depressed have resources. 

The show doesn’t only cover suicide; it covers plenty more serious subjects  that need to be discussed, including rape, sexual assault, underage drinking, cyberbullying, and abuse. Even though these things are happening in real life, this specific story is fiction, which provides an opportunity for raising awareness. For example 87% of today’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying and 19% of this often entails spreading of rumors, which could in fact lead to depression (20% to 50% of teens suffer from depression), as it did in Hannah’s case. Let’s say a cyber bully decides to watch the show—they could finally see what cyberbullying can lead too. I believe it could take down the cyberbullying percentage bit by bit. However, I think school faculty need to make open discussions available like Netflix has, instead of sending emails to parents about “ the harmful content in the show” (which shouldn’t be a concern of theirs).

While the show contains content that alarms some critics, and depressed students should watch it with caution, in the end students should be allowed to make their own choices. In 2017, schools and educators responded to these concerns in a variety of ways: sending messages home, hosting parent panels, and even using the series as a springboard for action. Do you think school faculty should have a say about what your child watches in their free time? School psychologists have recommended “that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation,” do not view the series. One high school in Michigan started a 13 Reasons Why Not campaign to raise awareness and open up a conversation about teen mental health. Many health practitioners worry that teens with mental health issues may conclude that suicide is the only solution to their struggles. A mental health doctor says that “the plot conflated suicide with a teenage revenge fantasy, which may send a dangerous message to the potentially impressionable viewers.” Netflix meanwhile, has responded by adding an additional graphic content warning before the series’ first episode. With this warning from Netflix, I  think teenagers should have enough information to make their own choices in terms of what they watch. 

Although, teachers and mental health specialists are concerned for the teens who watch this series, I personally think that the show is harmless. In fact, I think it could be beneficial to teens and kids because I believe the issues in the series aren’t being discussed enough, and this show can provide the segue that teens need to get the message across.