Should “13 Reasons Why” Really Have a Third Season?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Netflix)

There’s no denying that “13 Reasons Why” is a popular show.

The teen drama has won over a large fanbase with its unusually frank depiction of suicide, depression, sexual abuse, and murder. Many are impressed that the show is so blunt in exploring these topics. This is the driving factor behind the drama’s continued appeal.

That said, not everybody is thrilled. “13 Reasons Why” will receive a third season, but its critics are concerned.

The Parent’s TV Council has issued a statement condemning the way that the show glamorizes teenage suicide.

According to PTC president Tim Winter:

“We condemn Netflix for renewing its teen-targeted suicide drama ’13 Reasons Why.’ The company already potentially has the blood of children on their hands from keeping this series – with its graphic suicide scene, its sodomization of a teen boy and a potential school shooting, among other adult content – on its platform for children to view.”

Wow. “The blood of children”. This is one parent’s group that isn’t messing around.

13 Reasons Why Hannah Baker
Source: Netflix

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is somewhat dismissive of the issue:

“’13 Reasons Why’ has been enormously popular and successful. It’s engaging content. It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it.”

Hmm. This response isn’t exactly empathetic. Telling offended parties to just not watch the show does nothing to help. Considering the subject matter at hand, it would be nice if Netflix at least tried to acknowledge just how harmful its content could be.

Not the Best of Intentions

Personally, I think that “13 Reasons Why” offers an important opportunity for viewers to discuss the themes within the show.

It’s often difficult for young people (or anyone, to be honest) to talk about issues of mental health, depression, and suicide, and it can be hard for victims of abuse to come forward. There’s something to be said for creating a show that confronts some of these themes. This could give viewers an opportunity to raise their own voices about their personal experiences.

That said, I don’t exactly think Netflix is trying to create a show that exists for the public good.

The first season of “13 Reasons Why” deals with the events leading up to the main character, Hannah Baker.

Season two deals with some flashbacks, but also explores the aftermath of her death.

13 Reasons Why Netflix
Source: Netflix

As the show continues for another year, we’re getting further and further away from Baker’s own story, and I wonder whether the show’s narrative can survive as it gets further removed from this important moment.

It’s pretty clear that Netflix has commissioned more of “13 Reasons Why” not out of an attempt to provide an important discussion surrounding teenage suicide, but out of a desire to make more money off the controversy that comes from the show.

That doesn’t entirely sit well with me.

If season three turns out to be worthwhile and poignant storytelling, I might be convinced that the show’s continued existence has merit.

Considering that Reed Hastings has publicly stated that his critics should simply stop watching and exit the discussion, I’m hesitant to give his company the benefit of the doubt.