13 Reasons Why explores the hard-hitting truths about suicide through the story of Hannah Baker, a young woman who decides to end her life and leave a series of 13 tapes to each person that played a part in her decision. The show has become a worldwide sensation, as people have praised it for its tackling of difficult subjects and realistic exploration of a teenager's environment. Understandably however, it's not without its controversies.
One of the most controversial moments from the first season was, as I'm sure you can imagine, #HannahBaker's suicide. It was raw and incredibly hard to watch; rather than pulling punches, it showed audiences the entire excruciating experience. People took issue with the scene, with claims that it glorified suicide, as well as calling it an unnecessary addition to the show.
Now, the creators of the series have finally spoken about. Showrunner Brian Yorkey and the author of the #13ReasonsWhy novel, Jay Asher, sat down for an interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which they clarify their reasoning to show Hannah's last moments.
Hannah's Suicide Scene Was Meant To Show The Brutal Realities Of Suicide, Not Romanticize It
Yorkey explained there had been a long debate regarding Hanna's suicide scene. To make things as realistic as possible, they reached out to doctors to better understand how that final moment would be for our main character:
“It’s a very brutal sequence and very hard to watch, and we debated that at great length. 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.”
Expanding on making the scene realistic, Jay Asher said the realism was brought by a desire to show audiences just how brutal such moments are, something that's not regularly showed in entertainment:
“When these things happen in books or movies or TV shows, we don’t see it, and we’re comfortable with that. But then we wonder why people in our culture still don’t understand how horrific those things are.”
These comments echo what Asher talked about last month. He stated that, to understand the severity of Hannah's situation, they had to show the brutality of the moment, to make them realize suicide was not the way to go.
It's Getting People To Talk Realistically About Suicide, And That's A Good Thing
Springing off of that, #JayAsher made something clear: Even though it's a difficult subject, the show getting people to talk about the issue of suicide is a good thing:
“If the book or TV show can get people talking about these uncomfortable things, that’s beautiful."
Yorkey stated that, for him, 13 Reasons Why has two central themes: You never know what is actually going on in a person's life, and like Jay Asher signs on his books, "Everything affects everything". Essentially, the show teaches audiences to be mindful of how they treat people through what happened to Hannah Baker. She didn't take her own life because of one person, there were various factors and people in play that drove her to that fatal decision.
The showrunner added that, even though he can't be certain why the show has had such an impact, he's sure it's due to the sheer realism imprinted on the show when it comes to the life of a teenager:
"I don’t know any scientific way of knowing why the show has had the response it’s had. I’m sure it’s a combination of many things and it’s different things for different people. My hunch is it’s because we — the writers, the directors, and especially the actors — did everything we could to be truthful and to do justice to the lives that kids lead.”
Suicide is topic many aren't willing to talk about openly. But many people, especially teenagers, live in incredibly hard situations every day, and often find themselves contemplating ending their lives. Having a show like 13 Reasons Why, with an open and in-depth exploration of the subject, even if it's difficult, is healthy and helpful.
What do you think about York and Asher's comments? Do you think it was important for Hannah's suicide scene to be in the show? Let me know in the comments!