Netflix Series Causing Concern Amongst Parents and School Staff

Thirteen Reasons Why is once again stirring up controversy, this time in Londonderry.

On April 21st, Londonderry High School Director of School Counseling Maureen O’Dea sent out an e-mail to parents concerning the popular Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why and the impact it may have on students.

The show is based around the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher and was adapted for Netflix by Brian Yorkey.  Released on March 31st, it revolves around a student, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after recording a series of tapes that explained why she killed herself and sending them to the people who she believes were responsible for her actions. The series is known to cover a variety of difficult topics, including alcoholism, rape and bullying.

Although the series has proven to be quite popular with most viewers and critics (maintaining a score of 76/100 on Metacritic), many have come out in opposition to the show and how it portrays suicide, not to mention how younger demographics would be interested in it.  In the email, O’Dea states that she believes that the show romanticizes suicide, warning parents that “the content of the series is extremely graphic with troubling scenes throughout each episode, which may be difficult for the teenage mind to watch and process in an appropriate way.”

The e-mail does not advise against students viewing it, but instead suggests that parents sit down with their children if they wish to view the program and discuss the subject it brings up.  In order to assist with this, the e-mail also features an outline that covers the shortcomings of the show, such as not mentioning treatment options for suicide, and questions that parents can ask in order to expand their children’s viewpoint on what the show presents, like what they would say to characters in the show if they could speak with them?

The e-mail ends by listing off the phone numbers for both the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Thirteen Reasons Why has been in the spotlight for the last couple of weeks over its portrayal of suicide.  Recently, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), a nonprofit group with the mission of suicide prevention, spoke out against the series as well.  Dan Reidenberg, SAVE’s executive director, stated that “There is a great concern that I have … that young people are going to over identify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series.”

However, the show’s creators have come out in defense of the show.  Co-producer Selena Gomez came out and said in a video released alongside the show on Netflix that “We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest, and we wanted to make something that can, hopefully, help people, because suicide should never, ever be an option.”

Author Jay Asher also defended the series, stating that “Suicide is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it happens, and so we have to talk about it.”

Despite the controversies, many are speculating that the series will be getting a second season, although Netflix has not confirmed anything as of yet.

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