Since it began streaming on Netflix, the new series 13 Reasons Why has truly received mixed responses from critics, mental health advocates and viewers alike. However, one thing that the series has certainly faced a bit of backlash about is its graphic depiction of suicide, particularly teen suicide. Now the writer of series, Nic Sheff, has opened up about the series and is defending the rather graphic depiction of suicide that 13 Reasons Why displays in a personal guest column that was published on April 19.
According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Nic Sheff defended the series by getting personal about his own story. In addressing the graphic depiction of suicide in 13 Reasons Why, Sheff ended up revealing that his own attempt at suicide ended up playing into the series and how all the writers and producers discussed the need to feature the rather jarring scene in which the character of Hannah Baker commits suicide in the final episode of the first season.
Nic Sheff explained that when the discussion arose about including the suicide scene in the series, it immediately had him flashing back to his own experience. He explained that for him, it was the perfect opportunity to show the viewers what a real suicide looks like, and to dispel peoples thoughts that it is just a quiet drifting off. It was a chance to make viewers face the reality of jumping from a burning building into a worse situation. In fact, he actually felt that if 13 Reasons Why had not shown the death at all it would have instead been overwhelmingly irresponsible.
The writer compared the idea to AA in which one “plays the tape” in order to show alcoholics what could happen once they relapse. In terms of suicide and the shows depiction of it, Nic Sheff felt it was very similar in terms of the idea of playing the tape because this was a way to show that there is no relief through suicide at all. Instead, this depiction showcases that suicide is actually, “a screaming, agonizing, horror.”
For Nic Sheff at least, the depiction of suicide in 13 Reasons Why is all about being able to face the realities of the situation and all of the issues surrounding head on. He feels that even having this discussion at all is progress and he hopes that with the series it gets more people talking and discussing what suicide means beyond that idea of someone “quietly drifting off.”
By Dorothea James
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