13 Reasons Why
Netflix has yet to announce the release date of the hit show's second season (Image via Vox)

‘13 Reasons Why’ Isn’t Backing Down From Suicide or Criticism

The creators of ’13 Reasons Why’ have responded to criticism by providing reasons why viewers should continue watching the show.

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13 Reasons Why
Netflix has yet to announce the release date of the hit show's second season (Image via Vox)

The creators of ’13 Reasons Why’ have responded to criticism by providing reasons why viewers should continue watching the show.

To no one’s surprise, “13 Reasons Why” is expected to return with an eye-opening second season. Being the most tweeted-about Netflix show to date, the mystery teen drama has left viewers in high anticipation for the arrival of the new season.

The show has drawn a massive following, yet due to mixed reviews, many fans are beginning to wonder why Netflix hasn’t released a premiere date.

For those unfamiliar, “13 Reasons Why” is a series revolving around newcomer Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) taking her own life and the possible mysteries behind the reasons why. A year since the first season’s debut, the show has attracted a whirlwind of press and reviews.

The brutal death of Hannah Baker has had many questioning whether the show glorifies suicide. Based on a novel of the same name by Jay Asher, Netflix and the show’s team have been working to express the relevance and need for the show.

Immediately after the release, mixed reviews honed in on the show’s serious subject matter, with vocal criticism from suicide-prevention experts and parents. Due to the prolonged scene of Hannah Baker’s suicide, many saw it as a way to make a positive change.

A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine monitored how Google searches for suicide rose nearly 20 percent within 19 days after the show’s release, representing between 900,000 and 1.5 million more searches than usual.

In response to the study, Netflix released a statement. “We always believed this show would increase discussion around this tough subject matter,” the company said. “This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for Season 2.”

In preparation for the new season, Netflix released findings of a global research study on “How Teens and Parents Responded to ’13 Reasons Why.’” Netflix also recently showcased a new explicit warning.

The video features the cast highlighting the issues present in the show. Alisha Boe, who stars as Jessica Davis, states “If you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult.”

Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay Jensen, adds “If you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a friend. Call a helpline, or go to 13reasonswhy.info.” The website mentioned is an online hub of resources, including a downloadable discussion guide created with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Netflix has strived to respond to all public concerns, but it may not have been enough. The end of the first season left many wondering what direction the new season would take.

Despite precautions, the show has been asked to postpone its second season. The conservative and publicly-funded Parents Television Council (PTC) wants Netflix to withhold airing the second season until it is deemed safe by experts.

While the group commended Netflix for the new viewer warning, they still requested that the show halt the upcoming season’s premiere. PTC President Tim Winter underlined several recommendations they would like to see from Netflix.

Besides delaying the release date, the group would like a pricing structure that allows subscribers to opt out of adult or explicit content and/or to work with a filtering system. “13 Reasons Why” creator Brian Yorkey has stated that the show’s purpose is to begin a conversation about suicide.

“The challenge of when you are making a piece of entertainment for young viewers is that you want very much to make something that has a positive impact on their lives, but the instant that you become instructive and try to tell them the message that you want to convey and the right choices to make, they will tune out. They will feel pandered to,” he said to The Hollywood Reporter.

“From the beginning, we knew that we had to tell the stories as honestly as we could, that we had to portray these characters and the things that they go through with as much authenticity as we could bring to it, and especially that these tough topics deserved the most honestly in order to make something that teens would look at and recognize in this show their lives, themselves, people that they know and things they are going through.”

Yorkey’s comments raise the issue of the media’s portrayal of self-harm. The fact of the matter is that suicide isn’t only in “13 Reasons Why,” it has appeared in many other films and series as well. So why are people having issues with the show? Is it only because it’s targeted toward teens?

Questions such as these are what the creators of the show have been trying to get across for some time to the public. While the creative forces behind the show have received backlash from certain groups, they aren’t letting it stop them from promoting suicide prevention.

The second season of “13 Reasons Why” is expected to release around spring, similar to last year. A small group of fans has even had the opportunity to see a preview of the new season via 1iota, which ran from March 30 to April 4.

With the unannounced season premiere date drawing nearer, viewers hope that the sophomore season will possess the same high-quality performances from the cast, engrossing story and tactful way of dealing with a subject as serious as suicide.

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Sema'Jay Hall

San Francisco State University
Creative Writing

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