By Netflix’s metric of success, 13 Reasons Why is a huge hit. The 13-episode drama, structured around the narrative of a girl explaining posthumously why she killed herself, is the most tweeted-about show of 2017. It’s also been enormously popular among teen viewers, whom Netflix is eager to hook. Given that the streaming service’s business model values perceived popularity over actual popularity, the record levels of engagement with 13 Reasons Why make it such a surefire winner that the show’s writer’s room was reportedly brainstorming a second season within days of the release of the first.
But the positive buzz around the show has been engulfed in recent days by charges that the show glamorizes suicide: that its graphic portrayal of Hannah Baker’s death is fundamentally irresponsible and could contribute to a contagion effect that leads vulnerable teens—the show’s primary demographic—to end their lives. The National Association of School Psychologists has issued guidelines for educators in talking with students about the show, while the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature has created new standards to advise that under-18s don’t watch the series without adult supervision.
On Wednesday, Netflix announced that it was adding “additional advisories” to the show, including a new warning card at the beginning of the first episode. But the scene of Hannah’s death remains in the final episode, urging the question of how a show themed around such a sensitive subject managed to break virtually every rule in the media playbook when it comes to treatment of suicide—so much so that when a suicide-prevention expert was shown episodes in advance, he reportedly advised Netflix not to release it.