Netflix Removes Graphic Suicide Scene…Too Late?


Megan Toole, Junior Staff Writer

13 Reasons Why is a series that startled and greatly engaged people from the moment it aired on Netflix. The shocking new show was about a teenager named Hannah Baker, who commited suicide and left tapes explaining why she did it. Originally aired in late March of 2017, the show had 13 episodes. Each episode was themed around a different tape. The 13th episode is where a scene described by The Parents Television Council, “as too graphic for teenagers and children” was watched by millions. The scene depicted a very graphic suicide.

After talking with several doctors and psychologists, Netflix altered the scene. Regarding the situation, Jama Internal Medicine journals said, “For some viewers, the series glamorizes the victim and the suicide act in a way that promotes suicide, while other viewers hope the series raises suicide awareness.” Many agree with the initial response listed in the report. In fact, after the release of that season finale, Jama reported the following: “All Google searches that included the term “suicide” were cumulatively 19 percent higher for the 19 days following the series release, reflecting 900,000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected.” Additionally, the journal reported: “For 12 of the 19 days studied, all suicide searches were greater than expected, ranging from 15 percent higher on April 15 to 44 percent higher on April 18.” So it would seem that there was a legitimate cause for both censorship and concern.

Two years since the show first aired, viewers now see a new season ender: Baker stares at her reflection in the mirror, then the show skips to Baker’s mom finding her in the tub. The new scene is not graphic, but more graphic and controversial aspects like sexual assault, substance abuse and bullying still occur in the show. “No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other,” the show’s creator, Brian Yorkey, said in a statement shared to Twitter. The creators hoped that the show would spread some light on some of the issues going on in schools all across America. High school junior Sydney Vaupel states, “Netflix tried to fix a problem way too late after it occurred. Doctors and psychologists told Netflix not to put the scene in, and they did it anyways. It’s on them.”

Some people don’t understand why the creators would take that scene out and leave so many other horrible scenes in the show. Amanda Haid, a mom of a teenager at HHS remarks, “All of the tapes in 13 Reasons Why were hard to watch. They are all about very real things that plague high schools across our country. It doesnt make sense that they removed the suicide scenes from the show, but left things like drug use, severe bullying and even multiple rapes. Teen suicide is just as real as steroid use in high school sports and teen alcohol abuse and its something we should be talking more about. I think removing the very realness of if from the show in order to protect kids from seeing it goes against the point of the whole series.”

Even though the need for reality is a reasonable argument, suicide rates in the U.S. have gone up since the show first aired. According to a CNN Health article released in 2017, teenage suicide rates have climbed up 33% since 1999. It’s a real issue that should be talked about, and more attention needs to be given to this serious matter. But is censorship the right answer? Do TV producers and their respective networks need to be more responsible for the content of their productions and potential ramifications?
One aspect is completely accurate: people need to be more responsible for friends and family members who are in trouble. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please encourage them to get help, or get yourself help. Talk to someone, a friend, a parent, or teacher.  Call 1-800-273-8255 24/7 to talk to someone for help. The Suicide Prevention online presence is: Please make use of this resource if you or someone around you needs help.