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Netflix's '13 Reasons Why' Depicts Suicide On Screen And Viewers Are Conflicted

By Aimee Lutkin

Netflix released 13 Reasons Why all at once so viewers could either binge watch the entire series or take it in small doses, but by now most people have caught up with the story of Hannah Baker. Hannah is the protagonist and her tale is told through a  series of cassette tapes she leaves behind after dying by suicide. Each tape is addressed to someone who hurt her or failed to recognize signs of depression. 

The show is based on a book of the same name and it has quite a following, but fans weren't sure how the show would handle Hannah's death. 

The show's answer is: graphically. In a guest column for Vanity Fair, series writer Nic Scheff defended the choice to show the suicide on the screen in every detail, saying, "The most irresponsible thing we could've done would have been not to show the death at all."

"When it came time to discuss the portrayal of the protagonist’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why, I of course immediately flashed on my own experience. It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like — to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens when you jump from a burning building into something much, much worse," he wrote. 

Scheff himself once considered suicide and was on the brink of ingesting pills to attempt an overdose. He says that he stopped when a memory of a woman in AA describing her own failed suicide attempt came to him, a violent and painful experience, and it prevented him from continuing. He added, "And so I stand behind what we did 100 percent. I know it was right, because my own life was saved when the truth of suicide was finally held up for me to see in all its horror—and reality." 

But lots of other people online disagree with the show's choice: