'13 Reasons Why' Producer Addresses Backlash Surrounding Season 2 (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Ever since 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix in 2017, the series has been mired in controversy.
Based on the best-selling 2007 Jay Asher novel, the popular TV adaptation centers on high school student Clay (Dylan Minnette), who discovers 13 tapes from fellow student and crush Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who committed suicide weeks earlier. The second season, which debuted earlier this month, features several provocative moments, including one where a young male student, Tyler (Devin Druid), is sodomized in the bathroom and plans a school shooting as a revenge ploy, which is later thwarted by Clay.
The Parents Television Council issued a statement earlier this week asking Netflix to pull 13 Reasons Why off its streaming service "because of its potential to harm teens and children," due to examples of "potentially harmful content" in its storylines. Executive producer Mandy Teefey addressed the backlash surrounding the current season and the series as a whole, saying that it's up to the parent to determine what's appropriate or not for their child.
“I wouldn’t tell anybody how to parent their own child. That’s up to them," Teefey told ET's Katie Krause during a sit-down in the Burbank studio on Thursday. "I feel that we gave it as a platform and a tool to be [able for parents and kids to have a] dialogue."
"I don’t think a lot of them knew it was going to be such a conversation starter -- and you saw letters going home to parents -- and their kid probably already saw the show. I think it made a connection, whether they wanted to make it or not," she continued. "The fact that we’re talking about it and that it was so talked about, that was our goal."
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While some of the issues that are touched upon in 13 Reasons Why are difficult to watch or talk about, Teefey said "it's a reflection [of society]," adding, "I think that that’s great storytelling in general."
Actor Justin Prentice, who plays high schooler Bryce, also addressed the backlash when he dropped by ET's Burbank studio earlier this week.
“I see where they are coming from, but at the same time, one of the jobs of our show is to reflect reality. This stuff is already going on in these high schools. These kids are already experiencing it in their day-to-day lives," the actor said. "Having a show where we address these issues -- even if you don’t necessarily agree with the way that we address them -- the fact that we are addressing them and having these conversations, it bridges the gap if parents wanted to watch it with their children."
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"Again, maybe you don’t agree with the way we show it, but that’s a conversation starter and it bridges that generational gap. I think it makes the conversation a little easier for kids opening up to parents and parents to kids -- even kids amongst their friends," Prentice continued. "At the end of the day, controversy or not, people are talking about these issues. That’s the first step in changing.”
Teefey spoke more specifically about the season two moments that made headlines -- the aforementioned scenes where Tyler is sodomized in the bathroom and the thwarted school shooting by Clay, the former of which Teefey suggested happens in real life.
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“I would just suggest that they Google the news," she said, reiterating that the writers and producers take a lot of care in ensuring that the images they put forth in the show are there for good reason. "There’s nothing that anybody ever has put or had the desire in our group to make anything gratuitous or shock value. It’s shocking, it’s horrific, but it’s happening. There’s videos that people post and that’s online forever. It’s [in] the culture, so just look it up and educate yourself that you need look out for this.”
Watch the full ET Live interview with Teefey below.