A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
A mixed bag. On one hand, brings to light the complexities of teen relationships and pressure and the extreme consequences of feeling isolated. On the other, it does so through the rather vindictive behavior of a teen who's tormenting her peers with guilt after her death and the supposition that teen life is rife with oppression. Ultimately message is one of warning -- for teens to deal with their problems in constructive ways and for adults to stay in touch with their kids' activities and emotional health. The strong bond between Clay's friend group after Hannah's death only gets stronger, and there are many moments of bravery and compassion.
Positive Role Models
Clay's sensitivity and concern for Hannah is evident in how he's racked with guilt over the possibility of having contributed to her psychological struggles. Parents are involved in their teens' activities and monitor their whereabouts, but even so, teens often push boundaries and break family rules. Some of Hannah's peers behave in ways that are cruel and bullying, others learn compassion over time, and yet others are angry or abusive. Everyone is struggling.
Violence & Scariness
Revolves around a main character's suicide, which is shown in detail as she slits her wrists in a bathtub and her parents discover the body. (Note: this scene was edited out by Netflix in 2019 on advice of suicide prevention experts and doctors). It also contains graphic rape scenes involving high school students; no nudity, but panties are shown being forcibly removed, etc. A teen thrown over a toilet is brutally raped from behind with a mop; we see his face in agony. A number of students are seen with guns in the second season; one is stockpiling for a potential school shooting.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some moments of teen sexuality, including masturbation and some make-out scenes. One explicit scene of two teens having sex; lots of thrusting but no nudity. A teen shares a photo he took up a girl's skirt showing her underwear. A character keeps trying to have sex but has difficulties due to his emotional state. A character becomes pregnant and has an abortion. A character does sex work while homeless and contracts HIV, eventually dying of AIDS.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Very frequent cursing including "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "a--holes," and "sucks." Name-calling such as "idiot."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at parties with no noticeable consequences. A character is a heroin addict; we see him with paraphernalia and obviously high. Later he detoxes with the help of his friends. Clay's friend group does Molly together. Another character does cocaine and steroids are a major plot device in the third season.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 13 Reasons Why is an intense, dark drama based on Jay Asher's popular young adult novel. The first season explores the motivations that led Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a troubled teen, to die by suicide. Viewers hear about the bullying, sexual assault, and other traumatic events in her life. Messages about compassion, empathy, and not taking others for granted are clear, but the fact that Hannah blames others for her suicide may send the wrong idea to sensitive teens. Hannah's suicide is shown in great detail in the original series (but was edited out by Netflix in 2019 on advice of suicide prevention experts and doctors). There's also more than one graphic rape scene, including one that's extremely brutal and involves a mop. Teens drink and swear ("f--k," "s--t," and "a--holes") frequently. In the second season, the students of Liberty High continue to process Hannah's death while dealing with their own issues, including self-harm, more bullying, gun violence, and the pressure of testifying in a court case about Hannah. The third season is framed as a murder mystery with some main characters implicated and also has an abortion storyline, steroid use, and immigration issues. The fourth and final season sees a main character die of AIDS after being unhoused and a sex worker, while another character deals with serious mental health issues like PTSD. While this challenging story can help families start useful conversations about issues like bullying, sexual assault, and depression, the way these issues are addressed go against the advice of many mental health experts and may be confusing for some viewers, especially younger ones. To this end, Netflix has added trigger warnings to episodes that contain especially graphic or disturbing content, as well as brief videos with cast members stating that kids already at risk for depression and other mental health issues may not want to watch the show.
Is It Any Good?
This series isn't a pleasant watch by any means, but it does raise vital issues that can inspire valuable discussions between parents and teens. There are two disturbing forces at play throughout the story, the first being Hannah's downward spiral and the circumstances that instigated it. Serious matters like cyberbullying, body image, sexual assault, drug abuse, and gun violence are addressed unflinchingly; these scenes can be extremely graphic and difficult to watch for adults, let alone the targeted teen audience.
Hannah's choices are also complicated; it's clear that she blames others for her suicide. One wonders what, if anything, she hoped to gain by inflicting posthumous guilt on parties either actively engaged in tormenting her or innocently involved. As 13 Reasons Why is told from Clay's point of view, there's sympathy for him and others left behind, giving viewers a thought-provoking glimpse of what it's like to pick up the pieces after a suicide. In the second season, Clay's journey continues, and watching him and his friend group work through even more brutal challenges is nearly too much to bear, but there's also beauty in Clay's processing of grief and Jessica's courage to speak up about her sexual assault. A side plot about a potential school shooting is a bit sensationalized but also highlights the pain of loneliness. At-risk teens should take great care in choosing to watch this very graphic and frank series, but families with mature teens may find that it opens up doors to talk about some difficult subjects.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.