Selena Gomez is finally speaking at length about Netflix’s controversial 13 Reasons Why – and the multi-hyphenate, who was a producer on the series, says that if the show is grim, it’s only because many teens’ realities are too.
“The content is complicated, it’s dark and it has moments that are honestly really hard to swallow,” the singer and actress said during an interview with Elvis Duran on Z100’s The Morning Show on Monday. “I understood that we were going into something that is difficult, but these kids today are so exposed to things that I would never even have comprehended when I was eight. My cousin teaches third grade and they’re doing things and saying things that I couldn’t even fathom. I feel like if this is what we are going to talk about, we might as well do it in a way that’s going to be honest, it’s going to be real, and it stays true to the book.”
When 13 Reasons Why debuted at the end of March, it received some positive reviews from critics, but also sparked concerns among parents, counselors and school administrators for its graphic portrayal of teenage suicide and sexual assault. Think pieces about whether the series glamorized suicide or would encourage copycat behavior abounded.
The teen drama is based on Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel of the same name, and tells the story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, a high school student who takes her own life after suffering at the hands of her classmates and peers. Baker left behind 13 cassette tape addressed to the individuals whom she says contributed to her decision to take her own life.
According to The Washington Post, one superintendent in Palm Beach, Florida, sent a letter home with students saying that school personnel had seen a rise in at-risk behavior, including self mutilation and threats of suicide, and that several students had admitted that their behavior was linked to the popular Netflix series.
Gomez, however, said Monday that she thinks the conversations the show is sparking are necessary, and point to the effectiveness of the series.
“I think 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,” she said.
In early May, Netflix issued a statement noting that it would strengthen advisory warnings for the series in response to continued concerns from educators and mental health experts. In addition to adding a viewer warning card before the show’s first episode, Netflix also promised to emphasize “the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter.”
“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why,” Netflix said in a statement at the time. “While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories.”
A second season of 13 Reasons Why was confirmed in early May, and “picks up in the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s death and the start of the characters’ complicated journeys toward healing and recovery,” Netflix said in a statement.