Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has been a constant topic for discussion, followed by years of controversy since its 2017 premiere. The show left many viewers unsettled with its graphic depictions of suicide and sexual assault, which went against the strict advice of mental health professionals.
The Netflix original is an adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel under the same name and follows the life — as well as the death — of Hannah Baker, a traumatized teen who broadcasts her suicide note on cassette tapes. The show depicts gruesome real-world issues faced by Hannah and other teens alike, going to the extent of explicitly showing self-harm and sexual assault on-screen.
An update on 13 Reasons Why
— Netflix (@netflix) July 16, 2019
While the show is awaiting its third season, its older episodes are currently being revised. Netflix took to Twitter with an official statement, announcing that the shocking suicide scene from season 1 will be edited out and removed from the streaming platform. The announcement was accompanied by crisis information, as well.
Though there are trigger warnings before each episode, along with mental health PSA’s featuring the actors themselves, many viewers felt as if the scene in question was extremely triggering. In fact, one viewer claims that it’s a step-by-step tutorial in self-harm.
Regarding the extreme depictions after the show’s debut, writer Nic Sheff explained, “I recognized the potential for the show to bravely and unflinchingly explore the realities of suicide for teens and young adults.”
Many do not appreciate such a “brave” approach, though, as it has exposed countless teen viewers to harmful habits and has even led to “copy-cat” suicides. While Netflix is attempting to backtrack and reverse its damage, the show has already left a detrimental effect on the masses.
The way suicide is depicted distorts the idea and after-effects of the act. Suicide, for Hannah, is a revenge method and essentially “gets back” at everyone who has wronged her (everyone on her 13 tapes). The aftermath is a drama-filled blame-game leading to cliques, violence, suicide attempts and a lethal car accident. To sum it up, Hannah gets the final punch, exposing everyone’s secrets and leaving before the chaos struck.
This message is extremely detrimental, especially for teens in this current social climate. They are in a time where rumors and pictures alike are spread viciously online — where gossip is much more accessible. They are in an unstable time, where they will do anything to get that final punch. It teaches the youth that “they’ll miss you more when you’re gone” and that “you should go out with a bang.” It teaches them that their death will be a powerful statement and will wrong those who have wronged them. In reality, suicide is tragic and has more of an effect than just exacting revenge; it takes a life and traumatizes those left in its wake. This message is hardly conveyed in the show, despite it claiming to portray the reality of suicide.
Though Netflix has taken action by deleting the suicide scene, there are still countless other graphic and triggering scenes. There are two explicit rape scenes in season 1 alone, followed by a potential school shooting in season 2. However, the most traumatic scene, following the suicide, is the violent rape scene in season 2 involving a broom. Viewers claim that the scene is scarring and should have never been aired.
This raises the question as to where the show draws a line. Why should the suicide scene be cut if horrible assault scenes are shown just as explicitly? Is it okay to trigger assault survivors, but not those who struggle with mental illness? What do they plan on airing in the future, now that they have apparent boundaries set in place? There are too many questions regarding their censoring and limits.
Regarding the scenes, and show itself, many viewers have taken opposing sides with strong opinions:
#13ReasonsWhy I personally think the scene is extremely impactful to the story. The visual really helps people see and hopefully understand how real suicide is. Talk is one thing but seeing it is another. Called me old fashioned but if you can’t handle it don’t watch the show.
— Blake Cabrera (@RepBlakeC) July 16, 2019
just curious but do those of you who criticise 13 reasons why for showing graphic scenes also criticise shows like the handmaid’s tale and GoT for showing similar, if not worse, scenes? just want to know where we draw the line on depictions of rape, public hangings, suicide etc.
— S (@moonanddback) July 7, 2019
lol get rid of the show not just that one scene #13reasonswhy
— emily (@emilyhollt) July 16, 2019
If producers didn’t want to trigger people and have to edit the show post-airing, then they never should have included such graphic themes and scenes. Regardless of their intentions, they have influenced an unhealthy view of suicide. They have repurposed the act of taking your life as a form of revenge. Deleting one scene will not change the lasting impact the show has had on a generation of vulnerable youth.
Featured Image Via Netflix