Netflix alters Hannah's graphic suicide scene from 13 Reasons Why season 1
Adapted from Jay Asher’s 2007 YA novel of the same name, 13 Reason Why‘s first season followed Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a teenager who died by suicide and left behind 13 cassette tapes explaining her decision. The series, which premiered on March 31, 2017, almost immediately ran into some controversy, not only because of the subject matters it addressed but particularly because of the decision to show Hannah’s suicide in the season 1 finale.
Before the episode, Netflix displayed the following message to its viewers: “The following episode contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing and/or may not be suitable for younger audiences, including graphic depictions of violence and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.” That message directly applied to what would occur a little more than halfway through the hour. As Clay (Dylan Minnette) recalled the events of Hannah’s last day, the camera focused on Hannah as she filled a bathtub with water, climbed in, and then slit both of her wrists with a razor blade, screaming out in pain before ultimately lying back as tears streamed down her face. The sequence lasted minutes until eventually, Hannah’s parents discovered her body.
“It was supremely important that we do everything we could to tell the truth,” showrunner Brian Yorkey told EW at the time. “In the case of the more traumatic events of the show, we felt a real responsibility not to look away from them. The temptation to tell that story in a way that makes it easier to watch is tantamount to not telling the truth. So where we were bold, we were only bold because the truth is powerful and sometimes difficult.”
Speaking directly to the suicide scene, Yorkey continued, “It’s a very brutal sequence and very hard to watch, and we debated that at great length. We had some wonderful doctors who helped us to understand what the experience would be like for Hannah and in what ways past depictions of suicide, especially by teenagers, had been aestheticized and made pretty. We set about to do it as truthfully as we could.”
More than two years later, Netflix has announced that the scene has been altered to exclude the moment where Hannah slits her wrists. Now, the scene jumps from Hannah contemplating the act just moments before getting into the tub to the moment her parents find her body.
“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help—often for the first time,” Netflix said in a statement. “As we prepare to launch season 3 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 season 1.”
Additionally, Yorkey released the following statement on behalf of the producers: “It was our hope, in making 13 Reasons Why into a television show, to tell a story that would help young viewers feel seen and heard, and encourage empathy in all who viewed it, much as the bestselling book did before us. Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we ready to launch season 3, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers.”
As mentioned, the decision comes ahead of 13 Reason Why‘s third season, which is yet to get an exact premiere date.