I’ve heard the argument that different people, based on the experiences, can be triggered by different things. And that’s true, it’s valid. It’s impossible to know what’s triggering to whom. Real-life—reality doesn’t give trigger warnings. But does that mean we shouldn’t have trigger warnings? Absolutely not. We should have always, always have trigger warnings. When we pick up books or watch movies, even though they are inspired by real-life events and experiences, they are scripted and filmed/written. They don’t just come out of nowhere and hit you with full force as life does. It’s put out there for people to consume, which means people have the power to put trigger warnings, to be able to warn people of what might be triggering even if they can’t possibly know all the different triggers people have. They can soften the blow, give people time to think, to choose whether they want to consume the content with these triggers.
By not giving these trigger warnings, you’re taking away their right to choose whether they want to be subjected to this content and you’re invalidating people who have PTSD. Give trigger warnings, if applicable. Even in your reviews. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. I read an article recently written by a Professor, I think, and it said—
“I want to tell my students: sometimes I might not warn you. Not out of malice, but because I care. Because the outside world is full of triggers. Because any number of things, at any point of any day – the first few notes of a pop song, or the smell of french fries, or looking into the eyes of the man behind you at the bank – can trigger you. And you need to be ready and strong. You need to be prepared.”– Lori Horvitz, The Guardian
I’ll say this, people know the outside world is full of triggers. What you face in the real world is more often than not uncontrollable. But media is controllable. You make an active decision to show your content and let people consume it. You are making an active choice when you decide that just because reality is grueling, entertainment media should be too—without any trigger warning.
Anything can be a trigger, yes, I know, everyone knows. But the things you know are triggering, mention it. if you don’t, think about it long and hard or google the triggers. That’s the least you can do. It’s simple enough to put “TW: Abuse, violence, homophobia, racism, racial profiling…”
Do that. Put the trigger warning. I usually put it before I start my review, but sometimes when I forget to do that, I usually have the triggers embedded within the review itself. But putting it on the top makes it accessible and easy to look out for. So put it on top.
Trigger warnings don’t really give away important plot twists nor are they spoilers because you don’t know to whom this is happening to or in what context. Authors giving warning about mature circumstances isn’t enough of a trigger warning because there are different levels of mature content. Specificity is kind of needed. When people say violence, is it the fight scenes like in action movies? Or is a torture scene? Is it gory? That sort of content is extremely triggering to read and watch.
A book I read had warning of mature content and when I read it, it had detailed depiction of mental and emotional abuse. That was triggering. Just saying there are mature circumstances doesn’t cut it because mature circumstances also include strong language, sexual content, drug abuse, alcoholism, etc., and not just graphic violence, rape, abuse, racism, homophobia and more. When people say mature content, they often mention 18+ content. Saying a content is 18+ doesn’t mean every adult can watch the content that is depicted in the books or movies. They can still be triggered.
The question isn’t how detailed warnings should be. Trigger warnings are not detailed, they are supposed to be specific and not just rounded off to mature content because it has different levels. Trigger Warnings are not meant to be spoilers. They just specifically mention what to expect that is potentially a trigger for people. The way people push for others to include spoiler warnings, we should be pushing for people to include trigger warnings.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND PUT A TRIGGER WARNING!