Reason Why Netflix removed '13 Reasons Why' suicide scene
13 Reasons Why is centered around a teenager Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who kills herself and leaves behind a set of cassette tapes for classmates. the The last episode of Season 1 depicted Hannah’s suicide, a decision that show runners ardently defended but was on the receiving end of lots of criticism.
Producer Joy Gorman responded to those critics after 13 Reasons Why’s premiere, telling BuzzFeed News in 2017, “I feel like kids need to know that a lot of what they go through is universal.”
But in change of events Netflix has finally removed the controversial scene from the series.
Two recent studies suggest suicidal tendencies but cannot prove — that may have been the case. The first study, published in April, found that among adolescents and teens, 195 additional suicides occurred in the nine months after the first season of 13 Reasons Why debuted. The second study discovered that the youth suicide rate for 10- to 19-year-olds rose unexpectedly by 13 percent in the three months following the series' launch. While neither study could demonstrate a causal relationship between the show and the respective increases, the findings further alarmed suicide prevention experts who'd worried about the show's impact all along.
"I wish that that scene had been removed long ago," Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the nonprofit organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, wrote in an email. "While we can’t say conclusively or with causation, the research is pretty clear that Season 1 in its totality increased risk of suicide, suicide-related behaviors, and online searching . Removing it before it aired or any time since the 2017 airing would have been best."
In fact, when Netflix contacted Reidenberg for his expert advice shortly before the first season debuted, he warned the show's creators, without success, against airing it. Since then, the series has been beset by controversy. It's often felt like Netflix and the show's creators couldn't face the possibility that their noble intention of starting a "conversation" about mental health and suicide might have tragically backfired for some viewers.
They clung to a personal conviction that showing the horror of suicide would save lives, even in the absence of research or evidence (aside from anecdote) to suggest that's true. When confronted with studies indicating that the show might be harmful to some viewers, they seemed only to want to point to positive research on the show's effects and talk about young people who said the scene steered them away from suicide.
In many ways, the response was understandably human; they'd tried to create a work of art that heightened awareness about suicide but did so in a way that arguably put some viewers at greater risk. No reasonable, feeling person would find it easy to accept that reality.
It's worth remembering that the launch of 13 Reasons Why could've played out differently had the show's creators listened to expert advice and adopted media guidelines for how to portray suicide. Some critics might have otherwise objected to the show's framing of suicide as an effective act of revenge against those who've hurt or let you down, but there would've been no outcry over a dangerous depiction of the act itself. It never needed to become a question about whether one person being helped by that scene was worth the possibility that it drove a different viewer deeper into hopelessness. ]
Reidenberg said that he respected Netflix for wanting to take on difficult issues and would like to see others in the entertainment industry do the same, with some important caveats.
"What is key to this is that those in the entertainment industry partner with experts in suicide and specifically those with expertise in safe messaging and communicating about suicide to ensure that accurate information is being portrayed safely," said Reidenberg. "Also, and this is critically important, I hope that those at Netflix and all those in the entertainment world walk away from this with one main lesson learned: How you do this makes a difference."