Following its debut in 2017, 13 Reasons Why has repeatedly been at the centre of controversy due to its gratuitous imagery, particularly relating to suicide, with some claiming that it could lead to young viewers being encouraged to take their own life.
In the lead-up to the show’s third series, Netflix has now released a statement explaining why, two years down the line, producers have decided to remove one such scene from the first series.
A spokesperson said: “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.
“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 season one.”
The moment in question originally saw the character Hannah Baker staring at herself in the mirror, taking her own life, including the graphic means by which she did so.
In the updated episode, the scene now cuts from Hannah looking in the mirror to her parents’ reaction to her death.
13 Reasons Why showrunner Brian Yorkey said: “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 one 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 three, 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.”
He added: “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.”
Samaritans also issued a statement to HuffPost UK, saying: “We welcome Netflix’s decision to edit out the suicide scene from the first season of 13 Reasons Why. We raised our concerns over the content and have been working with the Netflix team here in the UK to provide advice on the safe portrayal of suicide, including viewer support and signposting to helplines such as Samaritans.
“While covering difficult topics in drama can help to increase understanding and encourage people to seek help, it’s important this is done in a responsible way, due to the evidenced risks associated with covering this topic in the media. Programme makers should always seek advice from experts on the portrayal of suicide, to ensure any risk to vulnerable viewers is minimised.”
They added: “Samaritans publishes Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and has been working with UK media for over two decades, providing advice on how to cover this topic safely.”
13 Reasons Why bosses previously responded to the backlash to its first season by including a message recorded by the show’s cast members encouraging viewers to call the National Suicide Hotline if they are affected by the issues depicted on screen.
The third series of 13 Reasons Why will debut on Netflix later this year.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.