The internet is decidedly fascinated with the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The show, which premiered March 31, is polarizing. Some find the piece to be a necessary exploration of teenage struggles with mental illness and the harrowing effects of high school. Certified A-lister Kylie Jenner has declared her love for the series on Twitter. Others aren't so enthralled — the show's graphic depiction of suicide has inspired more than a few criticisms. Zara Larsson, Swedish singer responsible for the recent hit "Symphony," joined the latter camp Wednesday on Twitter.
"13 Reasons why is meh don't @ me," the singer wrote in a series of tweets that have since been deleted. Fans quickly responded to the criticism.
"First of all, respect your opinion," one noted. "But I think you did not understand what the series wanted to pass on to people."
Larsson later stated that she thought the series "romanticized revenge suicide." "In my opinion it romanticizes a revenge suicide and doesn't bring up mental illness or depression AT ALL," the singer, 19, added. (The tweets can be viewed in full in the screenshots below.)
Larsson isn't alone in this opinion. Since the show's debut, mental health communities have weighed in on its dark themes — and most seem disappointed in the show's depiction of mental illness. Self published an essay outlining how exactly the series isn't "the force for mental health awareness" it seems to think it is. (To be clear: The show is about teen suicide, but that doesn't mean it's a public service announcement on the subject.)
"[13 Reasons Why] is a sad exploitation of a devastating problem among our youth. I don’t see the value in it except to sensationalize teenage suicide," John Mayer, PhD, a clinical psychologist told the publication.
Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), expressed a similar opinion to The Washington Post. He explained, "There is a great amount of concern in the suicide prevention community around this series." Reidenberg claimed that his organization had received a number of concerned calls regarding the show. It's not just experts shelling this opinion. Neha Shah, writing for the New Statesmen, writes of Hannah Baker's suicide, "The realism of the scene feels uncomfortably close to a how-to guide to suicide." She adds, "It teeters dangerously on the edge of emotional torture porn."
All this controversy doesn't mean the show is detrimental overall. As Refinery29's Naveen Kumar pointed out on Twitter, even if the series doesn't get everything right, it's better to have conversations about meaningful ways to depict suicide than to ignore the topic altogether. So Zara Larsson, keep critiquing the show! The internet loves a good debate, and this particular argument is certainly one worth having.