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One of the biggest conversational lightning rods in Netflix's original programming library is the young adult drama 13 Reasons Why, which has been both saluted and demonized by the public for the way it handles distressing subject matter such as teen bullying and suicide. Now, after more than two years of holding steady without changing the show's content, Netflix announced that 13 Reasons Why's most controversial sequence, in which Hannah agonizingly kills herself, has been completely edited out of Season 1.
The decision to entirely remove Hannah's suicide from the show has been something a subsection of the fanbase has been calling for since the very beginning, arguing that the overtly realistic depiction can effectively trigger those who have their own feelings of depression. Netflix claims that it was these criticisms and conversations, with both younger viewers and with medical professionals, that guided them to edit out the gory death scene.
Below is Netflix's statement in full:
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 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 of 13 Reasons Why to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1.
One big takeaway here is that Netflix didn't go back and edit the Season 1 finale of 13 Reasons Why without the knowledge and/or approval. Such a move wouldn't have been quite as positive. Indeed, creator Brian Yorkey is fully on board with the scene's excision.
Yorkey released a personal statement about the 13 Reasons Why suicide sequence removal, which can be read below.
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 heart, 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 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 younger viewers.
Fans will note that this is something of a stark turnaround for Brian Yorkey, who only recently publicly defended the show's exhaustive efforts to portray the realism of certain situations. He and the series' psychiatric adviser even called into question some of the studies that have held 13 Reasons Why in a negative light for arguably glorifying such dark moments in teens lives.
It's hard to tell exactly what made Brian Yorkey change his argument so quickly, but one probably wouldn't be shocked if it had something to do with the impending release of 13 Reasons Why Season 3. Netflix likely wants to go into the season with as little awkward fanfare as possible, considering its CEO had to defend the move to renew it in the first place.
While Netflix has already drawn renewed criticism for the timing of this widely publicized edit, it's likely that more good than harm will come from this move going into promotions for a new season. After all, the scene is still present on DVD releases of Season 1 for anyone that needs to see it for whatever reason, so it can never be fully redacted. Now about that broomstick scene...