In response to criticism of the show’s graphic portrayal of suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse and bullying, season 2 of the controversial series begins with cast members Dylan Minnette (who plays Clay Jensen), Katherine Langford (Hannah Baker), Justin Prentice (Bryce Walker) and Alisha Boe (Jessica Davis) warning viewers about the heavy content.
“13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation,” the cast members explain, taking turns delivering the message.
The disclaimer also comes with a recommendation that some viewers consider either not watching the show, or not watching it by themselves.
“If you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. And if you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor, or an adult you trust, call a local helpline, or go to 13ReasonsWhy.info. Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier,” the cast members added.
While not every episode starts with a disclaimer, Netflix has added trigger warnings before episodes containing graphic scenes. Additionally, at the end of each episode, viewers are directed to visit 13ReasonsWhy.info, where they can find contact information for crisis prevention centers and helplines.
The after show, Beyond the Reasons, will also continue to explore themes of each episode with help from actors, experts and educators.
The television adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel — which tells the story of high school student Hannah Baker, who left cassette tapes for each of the people she blames for the events that lead to her death by suicide — provoked outrage for its graphic content when the first season was released on the streaming service in March 2017.
Schools in several states sent home letters warning parents about the show, which spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland Derek Turner told News4 “romanticizes” some “very adult themes.”
Defending the show’s more graphic scenes, writer Nic Sheff previously told Vanity Fair, “Facing these issues head-on — talking about them, being open about them — will always be our best defense against losing another life.”
He added, “I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations because silence really does equal death.”
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Last month, when Netflix announced some of their strategies for making sure teens and parents are better equipped to handle watching the series, Netflix Vice President of Original Series Brian Wright said that “the hope is that the steps we’re taking now will help support more meaningful conversations as Season 2 rolls out later this year.”
“We’ve seen in our research that teens took positive action after watching the series, and now — more than ever — we are seeing the power and compassion of this generation advocating on behalf of themselves and their peers,” he added, referring to the findings of a study by Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, which found that 71 percent of teens found the show relatable, and nearly three-quarters reported that they reconsidered how they had treated those around them after watching the show.
Additionally, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series creator Brian Yorkey said that the show would also be focusing on recovery.
“So many of these kids had been through traumatic experiences, both due to Hannah’s death and also independent of that and just as a part of their lives, and we wanted to begin to see them start back on the road toward wellness and wholeness and see what that looks like in the sense that recovery is not a straight line, and it’s not a simple process. That’s a central theme of the season,” he remarked.