Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette
tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) -his classmate and crush-who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through
Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, Thirteen Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers.
In the US the show is rated as TV-MA, an advisory 14 rating.
In the UK the series was rated 18 for sexual violence, strong bloody images, suicide scene.
The New Zealand film censors of the OFLC have now introduced an RP18 certificate just for this show. RP18 means that the content is restricted to adults or to under 18's accompanied by their parents or guardians. It is not clear how this relates to home
viewing. The New censor already has RP13 and RP16 rage ratings with the same accompaniment exclusions.
The New Zealand Classification Office has created a new RP18 rating specifically for the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The classification recognises that teens are watching and will continue to watch the series, while signalling the
strong content and emphasising the essential role of parents and caregivers in discussing this material with young people in their care.
The show 13 Reasons Why has caused controversy worldwide mainly for its treatment of teen suicide. The show -- aimed at a teen and young adult audience -- also includes bullying and intense violence, and strong scenes of sexual violence. Due to concerns
about the show, the Chief Censor made use of his power to 'call in' and require classification of the series.
Some aspects of the show have received praise from groups such as the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, who have highlighted some positive messaging around consent and sexual violence in the show. The Mental Health Foundation New Zealand also identifies
the series as an opportunity to raise awareness around youth suicide and mental health.
The Classification Office also discussed the series with teens aged 14-18. Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen says that:
All the teens we spoke to felt the show addressed issues that were relevant to them, and that the series overall had positive messages relating to social awareness: treating others with respect and compassion, and raising awareness about suicide, sexual
violence, bullying, and other issues.
Nevertheless, there are real risks created by the portrayal of suicide in 13 Reasons Why . The suicide method is clearly shown -- contravening established health guidelines and creating the potential for copycat behaviour. The real links between mental
health and suicide are not discussed at all in the series. The choice of the lead character to kill herself is also portrayed quite fatalistically. In real life, most of those with suicidal thoughts recover, and do not go on to end their lives.
Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen:
These issues need to be talked about in a way that is informed and safe -- parents, guardians and other adults need to have open conversations with teens about the issues raised by the show. Parents should use their judgement about whether their teen is
ready to watch this show and then watch it with them. The series raises a lot of issues but often fails to fully address them, and it's really important that trusted adults can step in at that point.
13 Reasons Why is classified RP18 with the following warning note: "Series deals with suicide, bullying and depression. Episodes may contain violence, sexual material, drug use, and frequent offensive language. Some episodes contain graphic
depictions of suicide and rape".
The RP18 classification recognises that 16 and 17 year olds continue to be at high risk of suicidal thoughts, but also recognises that teens should continue to have access to the show with the support of the adults in their lives.