In a shocking turn of events, Netflix recently edited the intense suicide scene from the finale of 13 Reason Why.
In a statement, Netflix explained, “As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from the first season.”
The scene (and the entire series) continuously remained in the center of controversy since its premiere in 2017. Show creator Brian Yorkey explained that they originally created the scene with hopes of making suicide appear so “ugly [and] painful [that] no one would ever wish to emulate it.” However, experts and concerned parents alike argued that the depiction actually romanticized the act. Some studies even correlated the premiere of the series with increases in youth suicide rates.
As a suicide attempt survivor, I fully admit that I felt very emotional during the uncut suicide scene. The scene was graphic and incredibly heartbreaking. Even though I didn’t attempt the same way, I found myself traveling back to my first attempt as I watched.
However, as difficult as the scene was to endure, I also felt seen for the first time by major media.
Hannah Baker was just an average high school student trying her best to find where she belonged. She wasn’t “crazy.” She fell victim to horrible circumstances. Unfortunately, this trail of events ultimately pushed her to find suicide as the only way to end the pain. When I first tried to take my life, I felt very much in the same position as Hannah. I spent over two years enduring endless bullying, constant turmoil from an abusive romantic relationship, and a revolving door of friendships. Nobody wanted to listen, and no amount of medication or counseling helped the pain I constantly felt. Unlike the character in 13 Reasons Why, though, I thankfully survived.
Unfortunately, media producers frequently downplay, over-dramatize, or inaccurately portray mental illnesses. Since most of us learn about people and conditions we don’t experience through mass media, these unrealistic vantage points do more harm than good and ultimately continue the stigmas and stereotypes we falsely believe.
I firmly believe that the creators of 13 Reasons Why, just like the author of the preceding novel, aimed to show us a completely realistic view of a teenage girl who ultimately felt she had nowhere else to turn after experiencing extreme trauma. Hannah Baker could literally be any high school girl that we know.
That’s the entire point of the series: to hit close to home. The show doesn’t make up these events, but accurately portrays events happening in high schools around the country. Reports say that from 2011 to 2015, 17000 students committed acts of sexual assault. Furthermore, 1 in 4 students experience bullying sometime during their K-12 education. Suicide rates are also at an all time high. Therefore, we should be drawing attention to bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.
Because of this, I feel like Netflix is making a huge mistake by removing the suicide scene from the end of the first season.
Now, instead of a glimpse into the horrifying reality of suicide, we’re left with a complete disconnect. The new, tamer scene transitions from Hannah gazing into the mirror to her devastated parents mourning her death. And while, yes, our imaginations can paint the picture for us, we no longer experience the deep emotions that came with the original portrayal.
But, perhaps I’m biased. If you’ve seen 13 Reasons Why, how do you feel about this change Netflix made to the ending of Season One? Share your thoughts with us!