’13 Reasons Why’ EP Mandy Teefey Defends Netflix Series’ Suicide Controversy, ‘I Refuse To Apologize’

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Hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been the center of controversy since its debut because many people feel it glorifies suicide. Recently, the executive producer of 13 Reasons Why, Mandy Teefey, defended the Netflix series and the suicide storyline. In an interview on NBC Think, Mandy Teefey, the mother of the show’s co-producer for Season 1, Selena Gomez, spoke about how she felt the story was an important message.

At the beginning of the interview, Teefey made it clear that she was speaking for herself and not anyone else involved with the show. She started out the interview by saying, “I refuse to apologize by creating a tool.” She went on to explain that the show is a tool for parents to have a conversation with their kids on what they go through at school on a daily basis.

She explained suicide as something that looms over our society, and that it is a topic that is considered taboo. Teefey then remarked that suicide claims 45,000 lives per year. Indeed, according to a report by the CDC, nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016. Mandy Teefey also said that she knew, before the Netflix series was even released, that the adults were going to be the ones who had a problem with 13 Reasons Why because kids go to school everyday and that’s what they see.

Photo of Mandy Teefey at the premiere for her Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why.
Mandy Teefey at the 2017 L.A. premiere of '13 Reasons Why.' Featured image credit: Richard ShotwellAssociated Press

The executive producer was then asked if Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides changed her perspective. Teefey said the first thing she thought of when she heard the news was that two humans committed suicide and that she wasn’t thinking of her show. She then remarked that her next thought was how their deaths were “prime examples of the light in the world that nobody knows is living with darkness,” and she added that this was similar to the character of Hannah in 13 Reasons Why.

Mandy was then asked why Hannah’s suicide was shown in graphic detail. In the Netflix series, the character slices her wrists in her bathtub and it’s depicted gruesomely. Teefey commented that people are more affected visually than if they read something, that it gives people a more realistic perspective, so they are less tempted to do that. She also remarked that she didn’t want the 13 Reasons Why character to commit suicide by swallowing pills because it would portray the act as peaceful.

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While many fans and supporters of the series will likely agree with Mandy Teefey’s comments in her recent interview, several parents are objecting to the Netflix series. Last May, as reported by Okeechobee News, in Okeechobee, Florida, a mother said that her 15-year-old daughter mimicked Hannah’s actions when she attempted to take her own life. Reportedly, her daughter was part of a five-person pact, two boys and three girls, to commit suicide. According to the report, after she sliced her arms open, the 15-year-old texted her friends with, “it’s taking too long…it’s not like on 13 Reasons.”

Luckily, one of her friends who received the video called 911, and an officer reached the house in time to alert her parents. The daughter was rushed to the emergency room, transferred to a mental health facility, and has since returned home and is in therapy. The mother, who remained anonymous, said that the Netflix series glorifies teen suicide, and that clearly her daughter was using 13 Reasons Why as a template for her own attempt.

This is just one of several incidents where similar actions have been linked to the Netflix show. As the Washington Times reported, a 23-year-old man killed himself and left behind a series of audio tapes similar to those recorded by Hannah. In addition, two California teens committed suicide just days after watching the Netflix show, as documented by Washington Times.

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As the Netflix series continues to be debated, suicide controversy and all, 13 Reasons Why will return with its third season in 2019.