Netflix, what the hell are you doing?

Okay, Netflix, let’s talk. Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s totally okay. One of your biggest mistakes in the last couple years, in my opinion, was 13 Reasons Why, a television show which was supposed to be so amazing for high school students and young adults because it started a conversation about mental health. Unfortunately, 13 Reasons Why did just the opposite as many people were devastated and disturbed by the graphic rape and suicide scenes in season one, as well as the unnecessary graphic sexual assault scene and mishandling of the school shooting in season two. So can someone please tell me why this show is getting a third season? According to Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, although 13 Reasons Why is a controversial show that explores complex issues, “nobody has to watch it.”  Nobody has to watch it? You’re joking, right? That’s your excuse, Mr. Hastings? 13 Reasons Why was initially promoted to young people as this inspiring show that everyone should watch as it would help start a conversation around mental health; however, in reality, 13 Reasons Why glamourizes suicide and contains many graphic images that led to many teens trying to take their own lives. In fact, a study at San Diego University witnessed a 19% increase (900,000 to 1.5 million) in suicide-related online searches in the three weeks after the release of 13 Reasons Why. But it’s okay because, according to Mr. Hastings, nobody has to watch it.

Okay, you may be thinking, “So what? It’s just one controversial show on Netflix, no big deal.” The thing is, though, 13 Reasons Why is not the only controversial show or movie about high school kids on Netflix right now. Let’s take a look at three other high school movies and shows on Netflix that have been deemed as incredibly controversial, offensive, and demeaning to marginalized groups of people.

1) Insatiable

Plot summary: Patty (Debby Ryan) is a teenage girl who is bullied in high school for being overweight. But after being forced on a liquid diet, she is now thin and is seeking revenge on all the people who bullied and fat-shamed her.

What makes it offensive?

The show has been considered extremely “fatphobic” and contains many other inappropriate and offensive things including insensitive treatment towards a variety of sensitive subjects including body image issues and weight-loss practices, hurtful jokes and remarks towards the LGBTQ+ community, as well as plot lines about fake molestation accusations and statutory rape. Insatiable was seen as so offensive that a petition was made on Change.org to cancel the show and it got 230,000 signatures.

Will it be renewed? Yes, unfortunately, season two is coming in 2019.

Debby Ryan in Insatiable (2018)

2) The Kissing Booth

Plot Summary: A high school teenage girl named Elle Evans (Joey King) finds herself face-to-face with her long-term crush, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi), when she signs up to run a kissing booth at the spring carnival.

What makes it offensive?

While Elle is a strong tomboy who has incredibly cute chemistry with the movie’s heartthrob, Noah, this movie is just downright sexist. The Kissing Booth, a film based on a fifteen-year-old girl’s fan fiction story weirdly enough, contains so much sexist and disturbing content including portrayals of slut shaming, abusive relationship strategies, sexual harassment and assault, and toxic masculinity. Question, why is Elle always naked or half-naked in this movie? Also, why is Noah always jumping in as “the hero” to save Elle from being groped and why is he such a possessive jerk who calls Elle “bossy”? Seriously dude, it’s 2018, you shouldn’t be calling women bossy anymore. How this movie became so popular is a mystery to me.   

Will there be a sequel? Nothing’s confirmed yet, but it is most likely than another film will be created.

3) Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Plot summary: The story follows Sierra Burgess (Shannon Pursuer), a smart teenage girl who gets involved in a case of mistaken identity that results in an unexpected romance. In order to win her crush’s heart (Noah Centineo), Sierra joins forces with the most popular girl in school (Kristine Froseth).

What makes it offensive?

Okay, aside from the fact that romanticizing online catfishing is a bad idea, there are a lot of problems with this movie. Sierra Burgess is a Loser not only says that online catfishing and non-consensual kisses are acceptable, but it also makes several offensive jokes towards the deaf community, the schizophrenic community, and the LGBTQ+ community. No matter what the circumstances are, no one should ever be pretending to have a disability or cracking jokes at the expense of an oppressed group of people.  

Will there be a sequel? Nothing’s confirmed yet, but it is most likely that another film will be created.

Noah Centineo, RJ Cyler, Shannon Purser, and Kristine Froseth in Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (2018)

Honestly Netflix, what the hell are you doing? Your controversial media content does not end with 13 Reasons Why—high school shows and movies like Insatiable, The Kissing Booth and Sierra Burgess is a Loser are incredibly offensive and damaging to oppressed groups of people. Now, some people might argue that at least plus size women and members of the deaf community are being represented in the media…isn’t that a good thing? I agree. I think more representation would be awesome. But here’s the problem: these groups of people are often not being represented as equals, they are simply being used for jokes or to push a plotline forward. And that is unacceptable.

But it’s not all bad. There have been some great high school and college movies and shows on Netflix including The Fosters, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Dear White People which do not crack offensive jokes and create controversial storylines, but rather, give oppressed groups an empowering voice and a strong media representation.

Netflix, stop and ask yourself: what the hell are you doing? Whether it is a tiny joke about a disability or a graphic scene of a teenage girl slitting her wrists in a bathtub, these controversial techniques deeply impact many vulnerable teenagers who watch and absorb media every day. Someone needs to draw the line between good, wholesome high school movies and shows that celebrate diversity, and controversial high school media content that disturbs and offends viewers simply to generate more revenue. Netflix, it’s 2018. Enough is enough.

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