Netflix's 13 Reasons Why Prompts a New Rating Category

New Zealand takes action as show on suicide generates heat in US, too
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2017 2:00 PM CDT
Netflix's 13 Reasons Why Prompts a New Rating Category
This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series '13 Reasons Why.'   (Beth Dubber/Netflix via AP)

The Handmaid's Tale isn't the only new TV series to touch a nerve. The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, exploring a teenage girl's decision to commit suicide, is clearly in that camp as well. One tangible bit of proof? It has become the most tweeted about show of 2017, per a report at Variety. The series, based on a best-selling young-adult novel, includes graphic scenes of rape, violence, and yes, the central suicide. Here's a look at the controversy:

  • A main criticism is that it glorifies suicide. "The series clearly communicates that if people in your life hurt you and made you feel bad then taking your life is a tragic, but highly effective, way of returning the favor and making them feel horrible," writes Jack VanNoord in the Chicago Tribune.
  • But others say it's forcing a taboo subject into the spotlight. At the Globe and Mail, Andre Pecard faults its handling of the topic but says it's too late to complain about that now. The show is out and being widely consumed by teens, which means parents must watch it, ideally with their kids.

  • At Quartz, Amy Wang thinks parents should be less worried about the depiction of a suicide and more about the clueless adults in the series, particularly the parents of the suicidal teen. "Tear away all the sensational teen angst and frivolous girls’-bathroom drama of the show, and you arrive at its real horror: a deep, yawning chasm between children and adults," she writes. "That, in the end, is what’s most responsible for Hannah Baker’s death. If parents are alarmed by the show, it’s because they ought to be."
  • New Zealand created a whole new rating because of the show: RP18. It means that those under 18 should watch in the company of a parent or guardian, reports E! Online.
  • The show's creators insist it doesn't glamorize suicide. "We portrayed it as very ugly and very damaging," says writer Brian Yorkey, per the AP. Co-producer and pop star Selena Gomez says she expected a backlash because "it's not an easy subject to talk about."
  • School districts around the US are sending emails to parents advising them about the show, reports the Journal News. Example: "While the show is compelling and dramatic, the concern many of us that work with children share is that it does not accurately model what we would want or hope individuals do if they are struggling or in crisis,” reads an email sent by the largest district in Minnesota, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
  • Will there be a season two? You can safely bet on it, suggests Deadline.
(More suicide stories.)

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