Netflix just dropped the first trailer for their second season of its original series 13 Reasons Why and by the looks of it, the second season is going to try and address some of the controversies that surrounded the first. Based on a YA novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why is a teen drama that revolves around a high school student named Clay Jensen and his good friend Hannah Baker. At the beginning of season one Hannah takes her own life, but before she does so, she records 13 cassette tapes for 13 different people, each of whom apparently did something that made her wish to end her own life.
Despite being a big enough success to warrant a second season, the series has been haunted by controversy. While the goal of the show was to shine a spotlight on the very real issue of teen suicide, many mental health experts and parents criticized it for totally failing to provide anything resembling guidance for those with suicidal ideations and for romanticizing the idea of self-harm. There’s even evidence suggesting that by exposing teens to another person’s suicide, or what the National Association of School Psychologists called “graphic or sensationalized accounts of death,” the show actually pushes an implicitly pro-suicide narrative.
Despite all that, the showrunners seem to believe they can keep the baby and throw out the bloody bathwater.
“We really have characters who, after 13 episodes, are just beginning the process of recovery and the process of coming to terms with what part they might’ve played in Hannah’s death and how Hannah’s death will change their lives going forward,” said showrunner Brian Yorkey when he was asked about a second season last year. “I think that there is so much that’s fascinating about the way we grieve, the way we recover, the way we learn to take better care of each other.”
To address the controversy ahead of season two, Netflix made some changes. The new season will come with content warnings ahead of graphic episodes, something they only did to season one after the controversy. The streaming company also conducted a five-country survey of parents and teens to actually discern how they were perceiving it. Most parents and younger viewers felt that the show required more discussion about how to deal with suicide, while, for the most part, teens thought that the show was just fine as is.
Still, using feedback from the survey, they created additional content meant to better contextualize the events of the show. Actors from the show participated in a PSA about seeking out help with suicidal thoughts and situations. Netflix will also release another episode of Beyond the Reasons, which is a special that features mental health experts unpacking the scenes that will show self-harm or suicide. There will also be new viewing discussion guides and links to crisis resources on a special website set up for that purpose. Separate from the show, Netflix has also planned to beef up their parental controls with the option to require a PIN before viewing certain content.
As of this point in the series, the tapes haven’t been released to the public, but Hannah’s parents, as well as at least one school official, have gotten their hands on them. Next season looks like it will focus a lot less on graphic imagery and more on the fallout from the tapes. The trailer shows a lawsuit and hints that the secret behind the tapes goes a little deeper. Hopefully, this season will yield a more productive discussion about many issues that the show commits itself to.