As someone who spends much of their time online, I've seen a lot of discussion going around recently on the subject of "Trigger Warnings" for media content. For the most part, there seems to be a capricious disdain for this idea of having a warning preceding a piece of published content. The very mention of the phrase seems to send some people into a dizzying tantrum of vitriolic opposition, in which they seem to see the very idea of a "Trigger Warning" as the infantilisation of society along the lines of extremist college liberalism and overt political correctness. There's a primal disgust with the entire concept; as if its simply the emotional frailty of the kind of youthful hipsters who inordinately avoid gluten... Personally, I've never understood this backlash.
WARNING: Mild language and intellectual discourse contained within!
A "Trigger Warning" is essentially just a disclaimer about the kinds of content contained within a piece of published media (print, audio, video, etc...), telling the consumer that there are descriptions or depictions of graphic violence, sexual assault, etc... As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing wrong with giving more information to consumers before they invest their time or money in a product. Having a warning about the kinds of content contained within a publication only serves to provide for the consumer. At the very least it's courteous, and at the very most its an excellent practice which I think should be adopted on a larger scale.
Here's a good example- when you go to buy any food item, there's a label which provides information to you about that product. Nutrition facts, ingredients, and allergy warnings often along the lines of "this product was processed in a factory that also packages nuts". This label doesn't prohibit anyone from buying and consuming the product. You're free to ignore the label if it doesn't matter to you. However, for discerning customers who don't like certain foods, or those with allergies, or who are dieting, or are perhaps vegetarian or vegan, or have religious restrictions about the consumption of certain foods (Kosher, etc...), or anyone who simply wants to know what's going into their body and where it came from, these labels provide valuable information. It takes nothing away from the product, it only serves to inform the consumer.
Here's a better example- when you go to watch television or a film, there's often a rating associated with it. "TV-Y7", "PG-13", etc... These ratings almost always come with a brief list of the kinds of content which garnered it that rating. "Graphic violence", "Nudity", "Explicit Language", "Drug Consumption", etc... These warnings provide information to the consumer about the piece of media before it is consumed. You're free to ignore it if it doesn't matter to you, however, for discerning customers it provides valuable information. It takes nothing away from the product, it only serves to inform the consumer.
The controversy seems to be that these labels are things designed solely for children, and adults shouldn't need such warnings. The word "Triggered" is thrown about with sarcastic condescension as the cry of a juvenile. I find that association to be grossly unfair and limiting. Just because you are an adult doesn't mean you welcome content of every kind, or cannot dislike certain things. Personally, I'm often uncomfortable with "gore porn" body horror and ultra graphic displays of violence. I tend not to go in for slasher films or series like "Saw" and "Final Destination" simply because the depiction of such dismemberment isn't appealing to me. It's uncomfortable, and if I'm going to consume media for the sake of entertainment, why shouldn't I know what I'm getting into before I put down the price of admission for a film or invest my time into a television show? That doesn't make anyone less of an adult, and I resent this idea that only the most "hardcore" of souls are allowed to consider themselves worthy. It feels like weak projection, a testosterone fuelled macho masculine dick-measuring contest for those insecure in their own maturity.
I've also heard the backlash that people should just know what they're getting into. If they want to be informed before going into any piece of content, they should be looking elsewhere for reviews and asking other people... my rebuttal is, why should anyone have to rely on whether or not someone else may or may not have vetted a piece of content when the creator themselves knows what they've put into it? If I'm about to start watching a podcast, or catching up on a television series, or playing through a youtube channel, or reading through a blog... how am I meant to know the reputation of that creator? Am I only meant to rely on other users on the internet and whether they may or may not be forthcoming and considerate enough to help inform newcomers? When you go to buy produce at the grocery market, are you relying on grabbing someone in the aisle and asking them if they know what the ingredients of the product are, or does it make more sense for the producer of said item to be open about that themselves?
Now, I understand that as adults, life doesn't cater to you. You're going to be faced with constant obstacles, and real daily life doesn't come with "trigger warnings". I also think it's important to occasionally push the boundaries of what you normally are comfortable with to broaden your views and gain new perspectives. I understand all of that, and yet I still don't understand how venomously people oppose such labels. Just because it isn't practical in the real world for every single action to be preceded by a content warning, doesn't mean that it isn't a good practice for published media. If as a content creator you are aware that your publication contains graphic violence, depictions of sexual violence, etc... it's at the very least courteous to have it listed somewhere.
In the end- what does a label take away from the product? You are absolutely free to ignore it. If you don't care, all power to you, go right ahead and enjoy your media at your own leisure. For those who do care, though, it's nice to have. Providing more information to the consumer is never a bad thing.
And if a warning label sets you off, it sounds to me like you're the one who's been "triggered".
My name is Jeffrey Hepburn, and I'm a young writer, graphic design artist, and aspiring filmmaker.