Netflix’s adaptation of “13 Reasons Why” is a prime example of how big companies are making a buck at the expense of vulnerable people.
Developed from Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, “13 Reasons” follows the suicide of Hannah Baker, a high school student who details in 13 cassette tapes the events leading up to what finalizes her decision to end her life, each tape associated to a person in her life that she blames for her death.
Both the novel and television series also document those around Hannah coming to grips with the aftermath of her suicide.
Controversy has not stopped following the show since before it was released in 2017, and the book is no different, as it was added to the list of banned books.
Concerns of the show sparking a rise in self-harm and suicide rates were brought to light when the show was first being discussed, and as of just last week that conversation is continuing.
The National Institute of Mental Health issued a press release based on a study issued in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which concluded that, “The release of ‘13 Reasons Why’ was associated with a significant increase in monthly suicide rates among U.S. youth aged 10 to 17 years,” which illustrated a 28.9 percent increase in suicide rates during the month of April 2017.
Those results contradict another study that came from the University of Pennsylvania in the previous week before that unexpectedly found, “current students who watched the entire second season reported declines in suicide ideation and self-harm relative to those who did not watch the show at all.”
Although the study from the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reveals a correlation without causation, researchers felt strongly enough to state, “Caution regarding the exposure of children and adolescents to the series is warranted.”
Netflix has yet to respond to the study, but has continued to stand by the work they have done to ensure they are sensitive to the subject at hand.
The Netflix series issued a disclaimer at the beginning of the show in season one with each actor introducing themselves and their character portrayal, heeding a warning for the heavy subject matter and graphic content they would see.
“‘13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real world issues taking a looking at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide and more,” said Justin Prentice, who plays Bryce Walker, in the series opener.
Actress Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah Baker, continues, “By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation.”
Even actress Alisha Boe, playing Jessica Davis, says, “But 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.”
But this is a warning that many do not believe Netflix took seriously enough, as the company continued with the series’ release despite being advised by a hired suicide expert not to release the show at all.
“But that wasn’t an option,” he said, the expert referred to anonymously in an article with Vox. “That was made very clear to me.”
What Netflix is lacking in its production is incorporating a consciousness of the genuine affects that a show like “13 Reasons” can pose for impressionable youth and those who are vulnerable and struggling with mental health.
It goes beyond a 50 second warning in the first episode and hoping to spark a conversation.
They sparked a conversation, just not one that they hoped it would be about.
Instead, the show received backlash for the graphic portrayal of rape and sexual assault that they did not feel necessary to shy away from, many calling it a dramatization and romanticization of suicide. The show was also criticized for portraying Hannah as having power after her death.
It was never necessary for “13 Reasons” to continue on after the first season, as it visually retold what was in Asher’s novel.
Everything after that is now Netflix building upon storylines and characters that could have ended right where they were and be left for ambiguity.
As people are now aware to expect a release of a season three for “13 Reasons Why” sometime this year, it is a hope that Netflix took feedback from viewers and those having issue with the series to actually incorporate public recommendations into the show.