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"The new season of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix is the most dangerous one yet."

Content warning: This story deals with the subject of suicide, and will not be appropriate for all readers.

We are lucky enough to live in a world filled with cleverly crafted TV shows that have the power to ignite conversations and enact real change in the world.

The reality is, however, that no matter how hard it tries, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why does not deserve a place on this TV game-changer list. In fact, it has become abundantly clear that even with the third season launching today this is a show that never should have aired in the first place.

The first season of 13 Reasons Why was based on on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher, and chronicles the aftermath of the suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker (played by Australian actress Katherine Langford).

On today’s episode of Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece talk about why 13 Reasons Why should never have aired in the first place, along with the other top pop culture stories of the day. 

In the first episode of the show her classmate and sometimes love interest Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) is given a mysterious box of seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah and delivered two weeks after her death. The tapes detail why she decided to end her life and the people she holds to account for her decision.

Season two of the show traces the aftermath of Hannah’s death even further, focusing on a court case against a student who raped her before her suicide.

When 13 Reasons Why first aired it was under a promise from Netflix and an understanding from the audience that its premise, aside from driving viewers to the streaming platform, was to ignite conversations and raise awareness around mental health, suicide, bullying and sexual assault especially from a teenage perspective.

While this may have been the intention of the show when it was first released, the execution of the plan and the outcome have been drastically different.

Following the season one launch of the show in early 2017, Australian youth mental health service Headspace issued a warning over the graphic content featured in the series, due to the increased number of calls they had received.

Their warning was echoed by a number of other mental health advocates who spoke out against the series and was followed by petitions that called for the show to be removed from the streaming service.

In July of this year, Netflix finally appeared to take the outcry and concerns of viewers seriously, releasing a statement saying that on the advice of medical experts, they had decided to remove a graphic scene from season one that depicts Hannah ending her life by suicide.

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While Netflix has taken other steps in the wake of the controversy, including adding cards warning viewers of graphic content and creating a website providing support for those affected, it now all seems too risky a game to play with a show that is designed for downloads but shrouded in “awareness” for publicity reasons.

One of the main cruxes of the argument against the show, aside from its graphic scenes of suicide and rape, was the inclusion of the character of Hannah Baker herself.

In season one Hannah is a very present character throughout the series thanks to a series of flashback scenes and her voice being played through the tapes she left behind. In a show that had the power to drive home the finality and real outcome of suicide, the narrative of 13 Reasons Why put forward a case that you somehow still have agency and a way to change the narrative following your death.

Season two of the show kicked this idea up a notch, because even though the series took place months after Hannah’s death, Katherine Langford still took on a prominent role in the guise of Hannah’s “ghost” who appears to Clay throughout the story.

I don’t think it requires an expert to note that in a conversation around suicide prevention, the supernatural should never come into play.

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The launch of today’s third season of 13 Reasons Why is further proof a show that allegedly began its life as an exploration of the awareness around suicide has morphed into nothing more than another “dark” teen drama chasing viewers with sensationalised content.

The synopsis reads more like a promo ripped from the pages of a Riverdale or Pretty Little Liars playbook, reading.

“Eight months after preventing Tyler from committing an unthinkable act at Spring Fling, Clay, Tony, Jessica, Alex, Justin, and Zach find ways to shoulder the burden of the cover-up together while helping Tyler move toward recovery. But when the aftermath of a tumultuous Homecoming game culminates in the disappearance of a football player, Clay finds himself under police scrutiny.”

Once again, Headspace has issued a warning to people planning to watch the Netflix show.

In a statement, Headspace Executive Director Clinical Practice Vikki Ryall, says: “The National Institute of Health research is evidence of the very real impact and risk that exposure to harmful suicide depictions can create. Shows like 13 Reasons Why expose viewers to risky suicide content and may lead to a distressing reaction by the viewer, particularly if the audience is children and young people.

“Following the debut of 13 Reasons Why, Headspace received a growing numbers of calls and emails directly related to the program, both from concerned parents and from distressed young people which prompted us to issue a national warning about the risk to young people of viewing graphic suicide content.

“While we cannot stop anyone from watching 13 Reasons Why Season season three, we can strongly recommend that people have access to helpful and safe information and encourage parents to consider the risks of exposure to specific details related to suicide.”

You can read the full statement from Headspace Executive Director Clinical Practice Vikki Ryall here.

In order for 13 Reasons Why to enact any kind of real change, it should have at least ended after season one. By continuing on, its message has become even more dangerous and diluted.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If someone is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

Tags: entertainment-3 , netflix , tv-2
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