Why New Zealand Had To Come Up With A Completely New Rating For 13 Reasons Why

Photo: Beth Dubber/Courtesy of Netflix.
New Zealand's film ratings office (the equivalent of our MPAA) wasn't sure how to classify 13 Reasons Why, a show that addresses issues relevant to teens but in a manner that some argue is irresponsible. So, the organization decided to come up with a completely new rating to categorize the insanely popular Netflix series. The country's Office of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) is giving 13 Reasons Why its first RP18 rating, as BuzzFeed reports. ("RP" indicates that anyone under the given age should watch with a "responsible parent or guardian.")
The office issued a thorough statement on its official site to explain the decision — one they made after speaking with mental health and sexual abuse experts, as well as teens who have actually seen the show. OFLC has huge reservations about letting kids under 18 watch the show alone due to its portrayal of suicide and rape. "Hannah’s suicide is presented fatalistically. Her death is represented at times as not only a logical, but an unavoidable outcome of the events that follow. Suicide should not be presented to anyone as being the result of clear headed thinking." 13 Reasons Why has been criticized many times before for ignoring the connection between suicide and mental illness; critics argue that people "often commit suicide because they are unwell, not simply because people have been cruel to them."
The office also echoes the concerns we've heard from others about the series' flouting of the guidelines for portraying suicide in the media. They argue that the extremely graphic, realistic nature of Hannah's suicide scene is "explicit about the method of suicide she uses, to the point where it could be considered instructional."
Then there is the issue of rape and its aftermath. Although the office acknowledges that sexual consent is portrayed very well on the show, "the series does not offer any positive examples of appropriate responses to rape disclosures." They also believe it makes a disturbing statement about rape survivors. "This sends the wrong message to survivors of sexual violence about their futures and their worth."
OFLC created this rating so that teens will hopefully get the benefits of watching the series with the guidance of a parent or guardian who can help answer the questions the show raises but fails to answer. "This classification allows the intended audience of young people to continue to access the series," the statement reads, "while providing the necessary intervention of adult supervision in order to keep them safe and sufficiently navigate the relevant but troubling issues that we acknowledge as a part of their lived reality."

More from TV

R29 Original Series