'13 Reasons Why' showrunner wanted controversial suicide scene to be "truthful"

Netflix

While there has been considerable controversy surrounding the depiction of some of the more sensitive issues in Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, there is little doubt the series has led to new conversations regarding suicide, bullying and sexual assault. The scene that has arguably generated the most discussion, though, is the shockingly graphic depiction of Hannah Baker's suicide

The scene from the show's season one finale is incredibly difficult to watch. While Jay Asher's book of the same name only vaguely references the means by which Hannah takes her life, the Netflix series shows her suicide in graphic detail. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Brian Yorkey discussed the controversial scene. 

"It's a very brutal sequence and very hard to watch, and we debated that at great length," Yorkey said. "We had some wonderful doctors who helped us to understand what the experience would be like for Hannah and in what ways past depictions of suicide, especially by teenagers, had been aestheticized and made pretty. We set about to do it as truthfully as we could."

Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in '13 Reasons Why'Source: Beth Dubber/Netflix
Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in '13 Reasons Why'  Beth Dubber/Netflix

Starting a discussion

"If the book or TV show can get people talking about these uncomfortable things, that's beautiful," Asher also told EW

Eric Beeson, a licensed professional counselor and faculty member at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, told Mic in a phone interview that while the graphic nature of the scene wasn't really needed, such discussions may not be taking place if not for the way Hannah's suicide is depicted. 

"My first inclination is to say that [the scene] was not necessary," Beeson said. "However, the other side of it is that we would not be talking about it as much if they had not done it that way. I want to say that [it would have had] the same impact had they not shown it in the way that they did, but I just don't know that that would have happened."

Beeson also said the producers "probably could have done more on the back end to elevate the story rather than showing it the way that they did."

(Editor's note: For information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or message Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Both provide free, anonymous support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

Mic has ongoing coverage of 13 Reasons Why. Please follow our main 13 Reasons Why hub here.