Since premiering in late March, 13 Reasons Why has drawn in a polarizing reaction. Fans have praised its powerful, unflinching depictions of potent issues like bullying and sexual assault, while mental health advocates have chastised it for potentially glamorizing suicide. In response to the continued controversy, BuzzFeed exclusively reports that Netflix is adding more trigger warnings to 13 Reasons Why. It's reassuring to know that the company has listened to its viewers' concerns and taken action accordingly. But, unfortunately, 13 Reasons Why still contains problematic elements, and the creators of the show will need to address those if there's a 13 Reasons Why Season 2.
According to BuzzFeed, Netflix will update the disclaimers that already exist before the show's two most graphic episodes in an effort to “strengthen the messaging and resource language." The streaming service will also have a new warning that precedes the entire series. A spokesperson for Netflix told BuzzFeed these changes will go into effect as early as this week. The company's quick response to the opinions of viewers makes me optimistic that, if the show is renewed for another season, the creators of the program might follow through with some changes of their own.
In its broadest sense, the series serves as a poignant reminder to listen a little harder and be a little kinder; you never know what someone might be struggling through. It traces the aftermath of protagonist Hannah Baker's suicide, recounting the many people that she feels contributed to deepening her apparent depression. But several detractors have pointed out that it unfairly pins the blame on everyone around Hannah and falls short when it comes to including how her own mental health could have influenced her decision to take her own life.
"Many people are accusing the show of glamorizing suicide and I feel strongly — and I think everyone who made the show — feel very strongly that we did the exact opposite. What we did was portray suicide and we portrayed it as very ugly and very damaging," writer Brian Yorkey said in response to the backlash. Co-producer Selena Gomez also responded to the criticism of the series in April 2017, stating, "We wanted to do [the subject matter] justice and, yeah, [the backlash is] gonna come no matter what. It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but I’m very fortunate with how it’s doing.”
But the backlash has been international. Some Canadian schools have banned discussion of 13 Reasons Why altogether, while New Zealand upped the show's rating to "adult" — a requirement that stipulates viewers must be 18 and above or under supervision to watch. Netflix adding more resources throughout the show is an important, necessary step and an appreciated one on their part. But it doesn't change the story's failure to address how critical mental health can be. Hopefully, that's something the writers take into account if they move forward with more episodes, following in Netflix's footsteps of being open to changing on the basis of the concerns that viewers and fans are raising.
Criticism aside, 13 Reasons Why has a gripping and incisive narrative, and, if it can course-correct its missteps, it has the potential to make a truly meaningful mark on television with a second season. And since Netflix has already heard fans' cries and updated their trigger warnings, it doesn't seem far-fetched that, if the story continues, it will do so with just as much consideration.