Selena Gomez is the latest person to defend 13 Reasons Why from criticisms that the Netflix series glorifies teen suicide. The “Bad Liar” singer addressed the controversy around some of the darker content of the show when she appeared on Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on Monday.
“This is happening every day,” said Gomez, who serves as executive producer of the show, having bought the rights to adapt Jay Asher’s best-selling novel seven years ago. “Whether or not you wanted to see it, that’s what’s happening.”
13 Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford) a teenage girl who ends her life after leaving behind 13 tapes, each chronicling the ways in which the actions of 13 different people (mostly classmates) influenced her decision. The graphic nature of Hannah’s death has launched dozens of conversations, positive and negative. In response to the uproar around 13 Reason Why, Netflix has added multiple trigger warnings to the show, which already features an after-show special, Beyond the Reasons, where cast and creators and medical professionals talk about issues the series presents.
“The content is complicated. It’s dark and it has moments that are honestly very hard to swallow, and I understood that we were doing something that is difficult,” Gomez said in the radio interview. “But these kids today are so exposed to things that I would never even comprehend when I was 8. My cousin teaches third grade and they’re doing things and saying things that I couldn’t even fathom.”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, showrunner Brian Yorkey explained the decision to show Hannah’s death was not made without a great amount of conversation.
“It’s a very brutal sequence and very hard to watch, and we debated that at great length,” Yorkey said. “We had some wonderful doctors who helped us to understand what the experience would be like for Hannah and in what ways past depictions of suicide, especially by teenagers, had been aestheticized and made pretty. We set about to do it as truthfully as we could.”
Teen suicide isn’t the only issue the series delves into. The show also tackles depression, sexual assault, slut-shaming, teenage alcoholism and drug use — all things Gomez thinks is worth discussing further.
“I feel like if this is what we’re going to talk about, we might as well as do it in a way that’s honest, is real, and stays true to the book. So all the questions that came up, and all the talk about it is valid and I understand it,” Gomez said of the critique the show has received along those lines. “That stuff is uncomfortable for people to talk about, but it is happening and hopefully, it opened the door for people to actually accept what’s happening and actually go and change it, talk about it.”
“In season 2 we’re going to answer a lot of questions, and a lot of resolution with the characters is going to come,” explained Gomez. “We go into the resolution of where these characters are going. I was freaking out about where they were going because it was really encouraging and empowering. We’re going to take a little inspiration from the first, and bring it into the second.”