Since its March premiere, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has been mired in controversy. The series, which centers around a young woman who takes her own life, has attracted criticism for glamorizing teen suicide, while the National Association for School Psychologists recommends that kids with suicidal ideations shouldn’t watch it. In response to the backlash, Netflix announced it will run new trigger warnings ahead of certain episodes.
At a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 hosted last night by the Cinema Society and Men’s Fitness, Vulture caught up with 13 Reasons Why actor Brandon Flynn, who plays an inconsiderate jock on the show. Flynn shared his thoughts on the controversy, Netflix’s trigger warnings, and why he believes 13 Reasons plays an important role by drawing attention to bullying, teen suicide, and sexual violence.
There has been controversy around 13 Reasons Why and whether it increases teen suicide risk. What do you think?
I think it is really important that there is controversy around it because it really illuminates that people aren’t really talking about it. It is a taboo subject when a young person takes their life. I think what 13 Reasons Why is doing, is it is creating a conversation about it. Whether, good or bad, there’s still a conversation going on. Just like anything else, you have to hash it out and talk about it and think about it.
What are people hashing out?
Whether or not we should have the topic of suicide in entertainment. But even more importantly, they are discussing what goes on in a young person’s mind, the validity of that, and the validity of what young people deal with in high school.
What do you think the show says about sexual assault?
The show deals with the 13 reasons why this girl chose to take her life. Some of these reasons are very light and some are very heavy. And rape is not as uncommon as people think. I hope that our show allows people who have dealt with that to come forth and talk about it. But I also think it is an important show for young men. Sometimes we are a product of how we were raised and the voices we hear at home. The more we are aware of that, the more we can veer away from it and treat humans as humans, not just objects. Rape is a huge issue we are dealing with on the show and it is very important.
When the character of Hannah reports her sexual assault to the guidance counselor, he handles it terribly. Do you think it helps to show that kind of incident?
I think it is very important because it is very honest. It is a reflection of the Brock Turners we deal with. We are dealing with rapists getting away with rape, and young men getting away with horrible, horrible, things because they are on the up and up or they are from an affluent family. But really, what they did is commit a crime against a woman. And that is disgusting and appalling.
High schools are warning parents about the show. What do you think parents should do?
Talk about it. I think education is really important and it is a platform that needs to be expanded. We need to start talking about it as a real thing because it happens.
Netflix announced that it will put new trigger warnings on the show. What do you think of that decision?
I think it is great. If warnings make people more comfortable while watching the show and they will continue watching given the warning, fine by me.
Do you think trigger warnings are needed?
In today’s world, yes. I think we are very aware and very sensitive — as we should be because we are in difficult and trying times, given our presidential situation, given our global situation — and like I said, if a warning helps people feel more comfortable and they will continue to watch and listen, I’m all for it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.