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’13 Reasons Why’: Inside That Harrowing Yet Honest Suicide Scene

Brian Yorkey explains the process behind the controversial sequence.

“13 Reasons Why”

Netflix

Few shows have been the subject of more debate this year than “13 Reasons Why,” with its treatment of a teenager’s suicide and its aftermath bringing praise and controversy in nearly equal measure. In a new Vanity Fair interview, showrunner Brian Yorkey explains what went into shooting the scene itself — an especially delicate process, as Jay Asher’s novel never even discloses how Hannah (played by Katherine Langford) ends her life.

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ Documentary ‘Beyond The Reasons:’ Watch the Cast Discuss the Show’s Tough Issues

Yorkey and his team of writers agonized over whether or not to include Hannah’s suicide for “days and days.” The reason they eventually opted to show it, he explains, had to do with “showing suicide as a very horrific thing to endure.” One major change was made to the final version, however.

“In my original draft, Hannah was naked,” says Yorkey. “And one of our consultants said, you know, that actually tends not to happen. When people [cut] their wrists in the bathtub, especially adolescent girls who have been body-shamed, they tend to wear old, ratty clothing. And that’s something I never would have known.”

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ Will Get More Trigger Warnings Amidst Controversy

Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who directed the sequence, researched similar scenes in preparation and made several very deliberate choices to avoid romanticizing suicide in any way. That included stationary camerawork, a lack of music and no “big, emotional crying” from Langford.

“We would always say, there’s a thousand ways to shoot this scene wrong, and like one or two ways to shoot it right,” says Alvarez. Read the full interview here.

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Comments

Sleuth1989

That’s interesting he says he didn’t want to romanticize the scene yet the main argument is the whole series romanticizes suicide. Personally, I think it’s a misguided show. That’s just me. I have friends who have felt that lowest point and many of them took offense to the story. I understand the message but the “I’m aware I’m going to kill myself and I’m going to remind everyone what they did” seems rather…odd. Like she had audio recordings of her therapist ignoring her suicide tendencies. She could have done something. But also, and this is just having a wide net of people I know from private, public, all boys, and all girls schools…but no school have I ever seen such a concentration of vindictiveness in kids as how this show portrays that environment. In a world where a show is praised for making suicide seem like some kind of pyrrhic victory, you got bigger problems. Schools have reported increases in suicide, with kids seeing this show and thinking “Maybe that’s the only way I can get peace.” The message was great, but we can’t pretend this show wasn’t contrived and almost immoral in it’s execution.

Jessica

You know, I have a lot of problems with this series, lots of instances where the directors were trying entirely way too hard, bad casting choices, too PC at times, etc… But the one real part was the suicide scene. It made me uncomfortable, which it should. If more kids are committing suicide because of this show, it’s not the show’s fault, and to even hint to that makes it even more ironic. Being sad and depressed is only one aspect to suicide, and that’s another part I thought was completely neglected. People who do go through with it don’t just think, “Oh, I’m sad, killing myself will end it” No, they do their research, not just on how, but what… As in, what then, what’s happens after you die? This is a factor, and it’s scary. The fact that they left this out of Hannah’s equation is what I find the most unbelieveable.

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