20 Apr 2017

Censor's office to classify controversial Netflix show

9:17 am on 20 April 2017

Netflix's circumvention of the censorship office to air controversial show 13 Reasons Why shows a need to clarify the law, the deputy chief censor has said.

Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why

Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why Photo: Netflix

The series, which is about a teenage girl's suicide and involves graphic rape scenes, has divided opinion about whether it is appropriate for young people.

Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen told Morning Report Netflix had stopped submitting material to the censor's office ahead of releasing it for New Zealand audiences in August - probably based on government advice.

He said the office had got on to examining the series straightaway, and were expecting to release a classification for it mid-next week.

"I think it's a very powerful series - it speaks to a lot of issues that are really important for youth. We've also been speaking ot some Kiwi young people about their impressions and they really confirm that.

A scene from '13 Reasons Why'.

A scene from '13 Reasons Why'. Photo: Netflix

"It's a series that resonates strongly with them."

However, the classification would come nearly a month after the show was released.

Mr Mullen said the office had been providing the government with advice on a relatively simple set of law changes around classification of shows for New Zealand audiences for about 18 months now.

"I think that's long enough and now what we're seeing is some real risks for the New Zealand public and New Zealand parents and this shows a good example of exactly what those are.

"We think we should get on with it really."

Mr Mullen said classification was not just about restricting what people can see.

"It's actually about - much more about - information that supports New Zealand parents but also New Zealand youngsters to make responsible choices about what to watch.

"Netflix has labelled this 'adult' and that's misleading because it's not an adult show... It's a show that speaks very powerfully to mid-teens and older teens so it's not actually intended to appeal to adults - it's intended to appeal to that audience."

One of the protagonists from the show 13 Reasons Why, Clay, who receives Hannah's tapes.

A still from the trailer featuring one of the show's protagonists, Clay, played by Dylan Minette, who receives Hannah's tapes. Photo: YouTube / Netflix

"What we also know from our research is that New Zealanders would prefer to have consistent labels on everything that they watch - and we also know that 92 percent of Kiwi parents actually pay attention to labels when they sort out what's okay for their kids to watch.

"So I think you weigh up all of that and you look at the potential effect of the subject matter in this case - you can see a good reason why consistent classification would be a good idea in New Zelaand."

This was also a case where the situation in New Zealand could be a little different to elsewhere.

"I think the problem in New Zealand of course is we know that we do have one of the highest suicide rates in the OECD, so this is probably a particular problem that Netflix isn't used to in the other areas where it broadcasts."

Where to get help:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
  • Sparx online e-therapy tool for young people
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
  • OUTline 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support on sexuality or gender identity
  • If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

Help for parents, family and friends:

  • Common ground a website hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who is struggling
  • Parent Help 0800 568 856
  • Family Services 211 Helpline - 0800 211 211 - Community based health and social support
  • Skylight - 0800 299 100 - for support through trauma, loss and grief; 9am-5pm weekdays
  • Supporting Families In Mental Illness - 0800 732 825 - For families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness