The second season of the Selena Gomez executive-produced Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why is set to drop later this year, but a conservative watchdog group called the Parents Television Council (PTC) has called for the suspension of the controversial hit teen show until "experts in the scientific community have determined it to be safe for consumption by an audience that is comprised heavily of minor children."
13 Reasons Why focuses on the story of fictional high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide as she leaves behind 13 tapes for her family and friends that help explain why she took her own life. The show touches on issues like mental health, teen suicide, rape, and bullying. The tough nature of the show's subject matter resulted in controversy around the first season: some found the show helpful as it increased awareness around teen suicide while others, like the PTC, found the show too graphic and potentially dangerous. In response, Netflix made a series of changes.
The streaming giant added warning cards and crisis hotlines information to episodes and commissioned a global research study with Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development titled, "Exploring How Teens and Parents Responded to 13 Reasons Why." The study led Netflix to introduce even more changes, including a custom introduction to each season from the show’s cast about the issues explored within the season, a website hub that offers tools like a discussion guide created with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as well as an aftershow for Season 2 with cast members, experts, and producers thatfurther conversation around the show’s thorny subject matter.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that PTC still thinks these changes are not enough. On Wednesday, the group commended Netflix for taking the previously mentioned initiatives, but still wanted even more caution from the company.
“The impact of season one of 13 Reasons Why, which culminated with a graphic suicide scene of a high school-aged character, was powerful and intense: millions of children watched; the Google search term for how to commit suicide spiked 26 percent; and there were news reports of children literally taking their own lives after the series was released,” PTC president Tim Winter said. “We may never know the full extent of how grave the influence was, but we do know it was enough for Netflix to commission a research report on how the show has impacted the lives of its viewers—especially young viewers—in positive ways."
Winter also mentioned the global research report commissioned by Netflix, arguing that it "proved just how powerfully the program impacted its viewers, and how much stronger the emotional connection to the series’ characters was for children aged 13-18 than for young adults or adults.” He also dramatically added that Netflix can't "feign ignorance should tragedy strike.”
The PTC has a list of demands for Netflix to be implemented before the show’s second season airs. The group wants scientific experts to determine whether the show is "safe.” They also propose that Netflix introduce a way to censor explicit content, as well as a new subscription model in which one could opt out of adult or explicit programming for a lower price. Finally, PTC asked Netflix to participate in a national symposium to "develop and identify effective protective measures for children and families," citing the Child Safe Viewing Act.
Netflix has yet to directly comment on the PTC’s request, but previous statements from both the show’s creator and Netflix original series Vice President Brian Wright suggests the show will not hold back from its original intention.
"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," show creator Brian Yorkey said during a panel about the show in March. "From the beginning, we knew that we had to tell the stories as honestly as we could… 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."
“The content of the show hasn't changed, but the research showed that people are craving more information and they are craving help,” added Wright.