The Brian Yorkey-created show, which is based on Jay Asher’s book of the same title, focuses on the suicide of Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford. The main character reveals her rationale for her suicide in a number of cassettes; the storyline focuses on several controversial topics and features quite a few graphic scenes.
Critics have castigated the show for glamorizing suicide potentially serving as a trigger to at-risk individuals around the nation. The show certainly doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions, and Hannah’s suicide is shown in detail. As USA Today
reports, mental health professionals, schools, and parents have all complained about the Netflix original, and it has attracted attention across various social media platforms.
The format of the show has also drawn ire: Episodes are released one at a time rather than all at once (like many other Netflix shows), creating a sense of suspense that some say is inappropriate for the subject.
“Obviously the book and the series were created to provoke a conversation,” said Ron Simon, senior curator at the Paley Center for Media. “Certainly the mystery of it is compelling. That’s a new form of storytelling.” As is the usual, once all the episodes are released, viewers can easily watch the whole show at once. “The whole idea that you can immerse yourself in this (show) … is so different than in broadcast television where it would be seen over 13 weeks,” Simon added.
Controversial or not, Netflix is pressing forward, and the show’s creators aren’t backing away from the firestorm. As Yorkey told The Hollywood Reporter, “We wanted to confront the fact that suicide is messy, ugly and it’s incredibly painful,” he said. “There’s nothing peaceful or beautiful about it at all. It’s horrific to endure and it’s horrific for the people that a person who commits suicide leaves behind. We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch. If we make it easy to watch, then we’re selling goods that we didn’t want to sell.”