UPDATED to include reaction to Mr. Hastings’ remarks, 8:50 AM: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings defended the decision to renew the controversial teen drama series 13 Reasons Why for a third season, despite concerns from one parenting group that warned the streaming service could potentially have “the blood of children on their hands” for the show’s graphic depictions of suicide and sexual violence.
Hastings expressed Netflix’s support for the series while seemingly shrugging off concerns of the advocacy group.
“13 Reasons Why has been enormously popular and successful. It’s engaging content,” Hastings said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. “It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it.”
That Parents Television Council called that response “callous” and launched an online petition calling on Hastings and the Netflix board of directors to cease distribution of the show or give subscribers a way to opt-out of receiving or paying for the program.
“[Hastings] is ostensibly proclaiming that financial gain for Netflix trumps the real-life consequences of his programming,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “Is that what Mr. Hastings and Netflix stand for in today’s world of #MeToo, whereby women who are sexually harassed in the workplace are told ‘nobody has to work here?’ Is that his opinion on marketing tobacco to children, or for other dangerous products that enter the stream of commerce and cause injury or death, that ‘nobody needs to buy it?’”
Netflix suffered $39 million in losses for its decision last year to end its association with Kevin Spacey following allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor. The streaming service temporarily suspended production of the political drama House of Cards, and opted not to distribute Gore, both of which starred the actor.
13 Reasons Why, whose first season was structured around the narrative of a girl explaining posthumously why she committed suicide, was a huge hit, especially among teen viewers. But its graphic depiction of Hannah Baker’s death sparked criticism that the show glamorized suicide, prompting Netflix to add viewer warnings.
The second season arrived with another swirl of controversy. Netflix canceled the premiere party last month in the aftermath of the school shooting near Houston that left 10 people dead. The current season deals with the aftermath of Baker’s death, but also includes a storyline about a student’s thwarted plans to shoot up a school dance in revenge for a sexual assault.
“Netflix has delivered a ticking time bomb to teens and children who watch 13 Reasons Why. The content and thematic elements of the second season are even worse than we expected,” Winter said. “We would have liked to have 13 reasons for hope and redemption following the graphic suicide of the lead female teen character, but rather than providing a path forward, the season only provides cause for despondency.”
The advocacy group is even more vocal in criticizing today’s decision to renew the series for a third season.
“We condemn Netflix for renewing its teen-targeted suicide drama 13 Reasons Why. The company already potentially has the blood of children on their hands from keeping this series – with its graphic suicide scene, its sodomization of a teen boy and a potential school shooting, among other adult content – on its platform for children to view,” Winter said in a statement.