Netflix Touts Study, Adds Resources for Season 2 of ’13 Reasons Why’

By Mark Walsh — March 23, 2018 2 min read
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Netflix is gearing up for the second season of “13 Reasons Why,” the popular but controversial show about a high school student’s suicide that addressed issues such as depression, online bullying, and sexual assault.

This week, Netflix announced several steps it would take to provide more resources to parents on the topics covered by the series, whose second season is to be released at an unspecified date later this year. The web-based television channel also promoted the results of a study by Northwestern University which shows that many teenage viewers found the show relatable and helped them consider tough topics, but that parents wanted more resources available.

“The hope is that the steps we’re taking now will help support more meaningful conversations as Season 2 rolls out later this year,” said Brian Wright, the vice president of original series for Netflix, in a March 21 statement.

The Northwestern study, by Ellen Wartella, Alexis R. Lauricella, and Drew P. Cingel of the Center on Media and Human Development at the university’s School of Communication, reports that teenagers and young adults found the show an accurate depiction of high school life and beneficial for them to watch.

The younger viewers found the show’s intensity appropriate, the study found, and 67 percent agreed that the graphic depiction of the suicide of the main character, Hannah, was necessary to the show. That depiction was the aspect of “13 Reasons Why” that drew the most criticism when the show aired last year.

“A major finding from this project is that ’13 Reasons Why’ can showcase difficult content, and in doing so, provide adolescents and their parents with strategies for discussing these tough topics,” the Northwestern report says.

But it suggests that “mental health professionals could provide more resources to help viewers process and talk about the tough topics depicted in the show” and also suggests having the actors step outside their roles and participate in post-program discussions of how to get help.

Netflix embraced the recommendations. It will have cast members step out of character to address the audience at the beginning of each season, and it released this video in anticipation of Season 2, which features actors Dylan Minnette (who plays Clay Jensen), Katherine Langford (Hannah Baker), Justin Prentice (Bryce Walker) and Alisha Boe (Jessica Davis).

Netflix said it was adding more resources to its website, including a viewing guide for parents. And there will be a new “Beyond the Reasons” episode at the end of Season 2, as there was for the first season, that explores the issues depicted in the show.

The Northwestern study does not address the question of whether “13 Reasons Why” had the unintended consequence of influencing more young people to consider or commit suicide. One study published in a medical journal last summer suggested that Internet searches for information about suicide increased 19 percent during the period immediately after the series debuted on Netflix on March 31, 2017.

The 13-part first season is from the Jay Asher novel about a set of tapes left behind by 17-year-old student Hannah Baker detailing whom she believes wronged her and led her to commit suicide. Producers have provided some public hints that the second season will focus on other students’ perspectives on Hannah’s suicide and will include a trial in the civil suit against the school district that was filed by Hannah’s parents in the first season.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.