While Netflix's 13 Reasons Why became an instant success upon its release, it has also made waves of controversy worldwide, attracting criticism for its portrayal of mental illness and graphic scenes of suicide and rape. Now almost a month after the series was released, the New Zealand Censor's Office has given the series a brand new classification rating, meaning anyone under the age of 18 must watch the series with an adult present.
Despite some episodes of #13ReasonsWhy already coming with a warning to viewers before the episode begins, the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification opted to create a brand new rating for the series. The new RP18 classification means that anyone under 18 must watch the show with a parent or guardian.
While New Zealand already has a RP16 and R16 ratings, the office believed these were not strong enough. "It was decided that these classifications would not address the harm caused to sixteen and seventeen year olds who are at statistically greater risk of suicide," a statement from the office read.
The office's main concerns included 13 Reasons Why seemingly presenting Hannah's suicide as a logical and unavoidable decision. "Suicide should not be presented to anyone as being the result of clear headed thinking," the office wrote in a blog explaining the decision. "Suicide is preventable, and most people who experience suicidal thoughts are not thinking rationally and therefore cannot make logical decisions."
There was also major concern around the lengthy and graphic suicide scene which shows in detail how Hannah ends her life. Given that research has shown that when a method of suicide is shown in popular media there is often an increase in that same method being used in actual suicides, the office felt justified in their new rating. Suicide is a major issue in New Zealand, with the country having the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD.
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However, the office also saw the importance of a series such as 13 Reasons Why, and wrote about how the show addresses issues that are "highly relevant to young people," and added that it "could be helpful in clarifying concepts such as consent and sexual violence for the young people who watch it." They also said the #Netflix series could provide a good starting point for conversations around mental illness.
13 Reasons Why Season 1 can be streamed on Netflix now.