The disparity in opinion on the hailed Netflix series is now international, as New Zealand has given the show its strictest rating. A government censor has moved to make sure that only those above the age of 18 are eligible to watch the series. Those below need a parent or a guardian with them if they intend to watch it.
Mental health organizations have internationally criticized 13 Reasons Why for glorifying suicide. The show is based on a girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes for each individual who she believes contributed to her death.
“If young people die by suicide it’s very final,” said Kristen Douglas from Headspace says in her critique of the TV show. “You don’t get to see the reaction of people, you don’t get to see the reaction of bullies, you don’t get to be involved in your own funeral.”
The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification had to make a new category they dubbed RP18. Only RP13 and RP16 existed before that point. A post on the website of the office credits the TV show for addressing issues like bullying and suicide (among others) but that it doesn’t offer “any positive examples of appropriate responses to rape disclosures”. The portrayal of the inevitable suicide was also a problem as it was conveyed as the result of “clear headed thinking”.
“The show ignores the relationship between suicide and the mental illness that often accompanies it,” the post continues. “People often [die by] suicide because they are unwell, not simply because people have been cruel to them. It is also extremely damaging to present rape as a ‘good enough’ reason [to die by suicide]. This sends the wrong message to survivors of sexual violence about their futures and their worth.”
Chief censor Jared Mullin said that this rating is applicable on any future movie or TV show.
“We know that kids know they’re not supposed to watch something and still do; the key thing is that teens and parents have the information make a decision, that’s really what the classification is about,” he said in an interview.
“The reason it’s RP18 is because there is a risk of harm right up to until the age of 18 with this show, and in fact the risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour increases for 16-17 year olds, relative to other age groups, so we thought that guidance was essential, right up to the age of 18 in this case.”
If you do need to talk to someone, call Hopeline America on 1-800-784-2433.
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