On Content Warnings

from The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

Spoilers: I’ll be implementing some content warnings from now on. I’ve been spotty so far, and I don’t think I’ll be very good at trigger warnings, but I find value in content warnings.

Aside: if you like the above pictured snippet, please check out my review of The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker.

The idea of triggers is not new. People who go to therapy talk about what upsets them, what sets them back as they recover from trauma and past hurts, but recently the coded use of the word ‘trigger’ has gone from evoking the part of a gun that you press in order to fire it or the mechanism which enables a bomb to blow, to a word that, like political correctness, has been weaponized against those who benefit from it.

It seems to me that trigger warnings are specifically for those who suffer PTSD, have been victims or survivors, and who generally find certain things, often very personal, sometimes general, to trigger a reaction which varies from ‘minor’ to full blown panic attacks. I am not aware of worse things happening, but do not wish to suggest that nothing else can occur when a person is triggered.

However, I feel that I am not well equipped to label certain content as “triggering” and after reading an essay on xojane.com feel that the use of occasional content warnings would be better suited to this book review blog.

The author of the article, s.e. smith, makes a point that some things don’t need trigger or content warnings, such as a book’s blurb talking about rape, murder, bigotry or other traumatic events. I agree that it is more valuable to mention the incidental things, the shocking plot twists what may not only stun the reader, make them question the world in constructive ways, but may leave them lastingly upset.

I find this useful because while I cannot foresee all the passages that will make me uncomfortable in a work, I can guess as to what subjects I would rather not deal with at a given moment. Sometimes we just want something truly escapist in a world that frequently makes us feel powerless, uncomfortable and miserable. Sometimes I’m just not up for dealing with certain baggage, and other times I would like a heads up before there an on-page beheading. (Fucking hell, God in Pink. That was unbelievably graphic.)

Content warnings, I think, are also part of helping readers not waste their time. I am part of a group of readers who seek out works that portray queer/MOGAII characters. I prefer those depictions to be nuanced, but definitely am no longer happy to read for rumors, subtext and baiting. Ships are nice and all, my fellow kids, but canon is where it’s at. I hope to be useful in my reviews to this end as well.

So, expect to see content warnings on my blog in a similar format to how I have been sharing spoilers, and feel free to skip past them.