Netflix CEO Responds to ‘13 Reasons Why’ Controversy: 'Nobody Has to Watch It'

The widespread criticism over smash TV hit 13 Reasons Why isn't a concern for its Netflix home — just ask its CEO, Reed Hastings.

According to Variety, in a webcast at Netflix's annual shareholders meeting, Hastings was questioned about the show's recent season 3 renewal, particularly in light of ongoing worries that the series depicts mental health and suicide in a glorifying and irresponsible manner.

"It is controversial," Hastings admitted. "But nobody has to watch it." He added that the show is engaging, successful and "enormously popular."

According to ratings estimates, the show's season 2 premiere drew 6 million U.S. viewers on connected-TV devices in the first three days of its release. While this is higher than many recent Netflix original premieres, it is still half the turnout for Stranger Things' second season premiere, which debuted last fall.

The controversial teen drama has even caught the attention of Parents Television Council, which released a statement about its renewal, claiming that Netflix "potentially has the blood of children on their hands from keeping this series ... on its platform for children to view."

13 Reasons Why has particularly been subject to raised eyebrows this season after a brutally graphic rape scene, which showrunner Brian Yorkey defended.

"We're committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can," he said. "We fully understand that that means some of the scenes in the show will be difficult to watch. I think Netflix has helped provide viewers with lots of resources for understanding that this may not be the show for everybody, and also resources for people who do watch it and are troubled and need help."

"When we talk about something being 'disgusting' or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. This is why these kinds of assaults are underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about is so much better than silence," Yorkey added.

Netflix's active response to the controversy was to simply add a new video in front of the first episode of the new season, advising viewers how to get help if they're in crisis, as well as pointing them to resources.

The streaming platform also added two after-show specials that featured the actors, experts and educators delving into the series.


The show's renewal also comes amid stunningly low critical reception. Reviewers gave the second season just 27 percent, although the first season enjoyed acclaim.