Arts & Culture
Master of Arts (MA)
Following the premiere of the television series “13 Reasons Why” in 2017, Netflix stepped squarely on a cultural landmine, stirring controversy over its graphic depiction of teen suicide.
According to media experts, showing a teenager kill themselves on television was completely unprecedented. Mental health experts say the act has significant consequences for “at risk” audience members, or people who were already experiencing suicidal thoughts before watching the show. It is proven that entertainment, and television specifically, can strongly influence audience behaviors and thoughts.
Suicide is one of the only causes of deaths that’s on the rise in the United States, and is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34.
Given that it is a major public health issue, advocacy and nonprofit organizations are working within Hollywood to help change the way suicide narratives are told. And thanks to the outcry over “13 Reasons Why,” these groups—who’ve been operating more or less under the radar for some time—are getting fresh attention.
While Netflix has tried to extinguish the fire they created, the controversy remains largely unsettled. But through this cultural frenzy, the show and the prolific streaming service have sparked an important debate about artistic integrity versus social responsibility.
Chowdhury, Shabnaj, "Suicide Watch: How Netflix Landed on a Cultural Landmine" (2018). CUNY Academic Works.