It’s took two years and millions of concerned parents to convince streaming giant Netflix to censor “13 Reasons Why,” a series about teenage suicide.
“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,” says Netflix in a statement this week. “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 uncut, almost 3-minute-long scene originally aired during the finale of the 13-episode series. In it, Hannah (Katherine Langford) is shown listless in her bathtub, crying and taking a razor blade to her wrist. Focusing on her face, the audience sees Hannah shrieking in pain and gasping for air before she’s shown slumping into the blood-red water. Finally, her mother (Kate Walsh) discovers her daughter’s lifeless body.
The beginning of the final episode warns viewers that it “may not be suitable for younger audiences” and includes “graphic depictions of violence and suicide.” The first season also featured a 30-minute PSA called “Beyond the Reasons” featuring the show’s actors and producers — including producer Selena Gomez — along with doctors and advocates discussing how to deal with suicidal thoughts.
Following the first season’s controversial run, many psychologists and suicide advocacy groups sounded the alarm over the series’ triggering content. Parents slammed the show for “romanticizing” suicide, some even grieving their own children — citing the show as inspiration for their suicides. Earlier this year, researchers released a report pointing to a rise in teen suicide following the show’s debut.
“We wanted to confront the fact that suicide is messy, ugly, and it’s incredibly painful. There’s nothing peaceful or beautiful about it at all. It’s horrific to endure and it’s horrific for the people that a person who commits suicide leaves behind,” Yorkey, the show’s creator and showrunner, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch. If we make it easy to watch, then we’re selling goods that we didn’t want to sell.”
The updated scene is far tamer, with Hannah taking a long look at herself in the mirror before cutting to her devastated parents, apparently just after having discovered their daughter’s death. All depictions of the act of suicide have been wiped.
In this week’s statement, Yorkey says they’d hoped the original scene would make it so “ugly [and] painful” that “no one would ever wish to emulate it,” but went on to admit they’d not been successful in their intention.
“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. 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.”