13 Reasons Why is no stranger to controversy. The first season of the Netflix original series was ushered in by waves of criticism online and now, the new season is under attack by parent advocacy groups.
The Parents Television Council (PTC), an organization that aims to "protect families against sex, violence, and profanity in media" claimed that the latest season did more harm than good. "Netflix has delivered a ticking time bomb to teens and children who watch 13 Reasons Why. The content and thematic elements of the second season are even worse than we expected," PTC President Tim Winter stated. "We would have liked to have 13 reasons for hope and redemption following the graphic suicide of the lead female teen character, but rather than providing a path forward, the season only provides cause for despondency."
The show follows the story of a group of teenagers in the aftermath of their classmate Hannah Baker's suicide. Viewers found the show troubling for its graphic depiction of rape and suicide and its failure to seriously address mental health issues. According to The Atlantic, days after the series launched, Google searches for "suicide," including "how to commit suicide," "teen suicide," and "how to kill yourself," increased by as much as 20 percent.
In response to the heavy criticism, Netflix launched "Beyond the Reasons," a series that features cast and producers who discuss the heavy topics that are explored throughout the show's episodes. Netflix also defended their decision to air the show. In a March 2018 press release, Netflix claimed that the show's relatability was helping teenagers cope with the heavy topics addressed in the show. Based on the results of a Northwestern research study, Netflix stated: "71% of teens and young adults found the show relatable, and nearly three-quarters of teen and young adult viewers said the show made them feel more comfortable processing tough topics. Some of the findings were unexpected and profound—more than half of teens reached out to someone to apologize for how they had treated them, and nearly three-quarters of teens said that they tried to be more considerate about how they treated others after watching the show."
Season two has come under fire not only for its graphic depiction of rape, but also for a plotline that involves a school shooting. In the aftermath of school shootings in Parkland and Santa Fe, critics found 13 Reasons Why to offer much substantive conversation about shootings and gun control. Many claimed the arc was poorly handled. In response to these criticisms, Netflix canceled the series' L.A. premiere and the cast spoke out about gun violence on social media.
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter on whether the show properly addressed the epidemic of gun violence and school shootings, showrunner Brian Yorkey stated, "I think each viewer will have their own opinion about whether we found that balance, so I will leave that evaluation up to each individual viewer. For our part, we did as much research as we could."