Has Netflix Crossed The Line? — 13 Reasons Why

13 Reason’s Why is a Netflix produced television show based off the 2007 novel by Jay Asher. It focuses on the aftermath of Liberty High School student Hannah Baker’s recent suicide in the midst of gossip and harrasment. The show follows student Clay Jensen, who just received a box of 13 cassette tapes entailing the thirteen reasons Hannah Baker killed herself. These reasons call upon certain individuals and events and were passed down to each individual that Hannah mentioned. The show deals with bullying, gossip, and sexual harassment and calls upon the characters involved. Since its release in March 2017, the show quickly dominated a conversation on social media platforms.

Official Trailer- 13 Reasons Why

The show seeks to help individuals realize the impact we all have on one another; it aims to depict the common struggles that teenagers face. Although our society is evolving to becoming more accepting to mental health disorders, there is still a stigma present. They want to bring the many obstacles teens face on a daily basis into the public eye. The show offers a sense of reatibility; to be able to see someone struggling throughout the daily battles of high school. The shows intention was to bring up the conversation of mental health, but despite the intention, controversy was definitely noted in the programs storyline.

While there were mixed responses to the show, a large portion felt that the series failed to display the realities of mental illness and the largest response was that viewers felt that the show glamorized suicide and lacked a sense of accountability in regards to Hannah’s actions. With so much controversy in the show, the message is often lost.

The series quickly grew in popularity and just within the few weeks of its release the show had acquired over 11 million tweets, making it the most tweeted about show of 2017.

Since the main premise of the show are the tapes, this lead to a conversation about taking accountability. Something that viewers felt the show got wrong was blaming others as a cause for suicide as this causes it to be a form of revenge. The public took this lack of accountability in the show and began to turn it into a popular joke on social media.

Memes about the tapes were quickly becoming a trend…

And even Netflix, the network for 13 Reasons Why joined in on the jokes…

Netflix references “Thirteen Reasons Why” as a form of backlash on competitor streaming company Hulu’s tweet

If Netflix is even making jokes about their own show, how are viewers supposed to take it seriously and see what the producers communicate as an important message? This in itself is enough controversy for a large conversation.

The shows message gets lost in these memes, but also calls upon the problem in the show itself.Shannon Purser, famous for her role of Barb in Netflix’s series Stranger Things was very engaged in communicating her views of the show and reminds the public about the controversy present and to stop these memes.

Not only was social media used to spread jokes, but it was used to start a clear conversation on the actual problems that it presents. Public figures were quick to start conversations on their beliefs about the show and the content it displays. They started mass conversations about the main controversies that were present.

Shannon Purser put several tweets out to warn viewers about the show.

The conversation didn’t stop at the end of the first season either. The show has now gone for two seasons with a third on the rise. The second season brought more issues into attention and the show shifted it’s focus onto a trial of rape and harassment. The show continues to show graphic scenes that are controversial and debatable to be shown to the public. Season two however does give warnings before these episodes, something only seen once in the first season. In this article from the Independent, a British newspaper, they encourage Netflix to cancel the show as it continues to handle controversial topics in a beyond graphic manner.

With the show just being renewed for a third season and the graphic portrayals and lack of accountability still at hand, many feel the show should be canceled and is not necessarily benefiting anyone. The show does continue to this day to be a controversy and a huge conversation starter worldwide and is not only taking over American culture, but world newspapers as well.


Professionals grew concerned with how these prominent and relatable issues were being displayed to youth. Suicide is very prevalent among teenagers and with adolescence as the target market for the series, professionals released statements of warning and concern to those who may be vulnerable.

Study: Controversial Content In ’13 Reasons Why’ Sparks Conversations And Inspires Empathy https://www.forbes.com/sites/careypurcell/2018/03/21/study-reports-controversial-content-in-13-reasons-why-sparks-conversations-and-inspires-empathy/#46c9b2607240
Survivor’s Explain What was Wrong with 13 Reason’s Suicide Scene: Teen Vogue https://www.teenvogue.com/story/survivors-explain-what-was-wrong-with-13-reasons-why-suicide-scene

Julie Cerel brings the idea of entertainment to attention. While the producers behind the show may be trying to bring attention to these issues surrounding mental health, it is important to evaluate the costs it may come at. According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15–24 and nearly 1 in 5 high school students said they had contemplated suicide within the past year. With a show like 13 Reasons Why on such a popular platform it clearly has an influence, but what is shown is not what everyones reality will be. Like any form of Hollywood entertainment, 13 Reasons Why, was built to entertain, but at what costs does this entertainment come with?


Due to the intense responses that the show received, the producers and actors of the show released Beyond the Reasons. After the enraging conversation in response to the first season, the producers made this mini series to properly discuss the issues that the show deals with. The characters and producers will dive deeper into the psychological aspect, something that the public felt was greatly missing from the show. The show reminds people of ways to get help and provide resources to find help.

It was first released in response to the outrage of the first season and another episode was released alongside the second season. The show provides resources on their website and want to bring back the original message the producers were trying to relay.

The show was ultimately made for the purpose of educating, but that got lost in how the producers portray the issues. It was made for entertainment, so the lines do get blurred. It is hard to properly make a show that will be entertaining but also throughly communicate the important problems at hand.

The producers of the show did accomplish a piece of their goal; they really did start a conversation. The show has changed television. Yes, the show did come with a cost. The show glamorizes suicide and gives an unrealistic view of the aftermath of this. Even with all the controversy there are enough fans for the show to be headed onto their third season shortly. Many will definitely make the argument that the show has crossed the line and that media does need to find a way to properly discuss these issues; 13 Reasons Why is a step, but not the answer as it is hard to display these images on the screen, it was intended to be a novel.

Whether or not a fan, it can be seen that the show has really brought mental illness into the public eye. 13 Reason’s Why has dominated a conversation of mental illness for the past 2 years.


The past season introduces an important concept, Project Semicolon. One of the main characters, Clay, gets a semicolon tattoo in the finale of the second season. According the the project, “a semicolon is used when the author could have ended their sentence but chose not to. The author is you and the semicolon is your life.” This tattoo has taken great power in the media and the project seeks to create awareness about mental health and suicide. Even Selena Gomez, executive producer of the show received the tattoo early last year.

While this tattoo in the show could easily be overlooked, it shows great significance to the mental health community. The project has helped over 5.2 million people since 2013.As mental illness is still such a large issue todays teens face, I encourage all to take a look at Project Semicolon and help with their mission of suicide prevention.