Trigger Warnings vs. Spoiler Warnings: Which Are Destroying Society?
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I was reading an io9 post about Game of Thrones the other day about the producers responding to complaints about last season’s prominent rapes. Oh, by the way: trigger warning, I’m going to talk a little bit about rape. And spoiler warning, I’m going to talk a little about what happened on Game of Thrones last season.
Back when the episode aired in which Sansa is raped, I wrote about my reaction to it and my problem with it. It wasn’t that Game of Thrones featured one of the main characters being raped — it’s a horrible world where horrible things happen, particularly to women because it’s an amped up patriarchal world where women are treated like objects. That is part of what makes the show and the books interesting to me — I enjoy seeing the different ways that the various female characters survive that kind of world, from Cersei’s unapologetic scheming to Cat’s embracing of what it means to be a strong mother.
My problem with the rape of Sansa was that it didn’t push her character in any new direction. In fact, it trapped her into yet another season in which she’s a victim who only serves to further other characters’ arcs. Meanwhile, at this point in the books, her character is my favorite arc because she’s busy developing her cunning, and using it to keep herself safe. She’s actually gone from being a passive object who dreams of princes rescuing her to really understanding the game, and taking control of her destiny. In a way she’s turning into a better Littlefinger. It’s a way more interesting story than “Sansa gets abused. Again. News at 11.”
Anyway, the tv producers say they’re taking the feedback on Sansa’s rape into account, but they don’t say how. I really hope that their response is to get her arc moving, but who knows.
Back to the io9 article. I scrolled down and read the top comment, which was this:
“Is the trigger warning in print here to stay, will every grown up and hard to discuss, or accept,thing now be self censored, and forewarned, and cut out in the future to suit the selfish purview of a vocal minority? Do the Millennials get to force a world upon us where we pretend nothing hurts their-feelings-ever, and they are perfectly safe from how real adult life really is? We’re doomed if so.”
I scrolled back up and see that the commenter is responding to this trigger warning in print: “(Warning for those who need it: discussion of rape scenes in storytelling)”
Oh, poor baby! I find the mewling over trigger warnings to be one of the funniest ironies of the current trend of complaining about complaining. This poor commenter felt the need to write 73 words because he was forced to read 12 words. Meanwhile, elsewhere on io9 there are several articles with redacted headlines to save people from Star Wars spoilers. They’ve actually self-censored! But strangely, this guy isn’t complaining about that. He is only triggered by trigger warnings, which makes one wonder how exactly to go about making sure he’s aware that a trigger warning is forthcoming so he could better avoid them. It’s like having a severe phobia of psychiatrists. The thing is unfixable by definition.
I suppose the only solution is for people to lighten the fuck up and stop whining about trigger warnings, or at least not be a hypocrite and boycott all content warnings: trigger warnings, spoiler alerts, those signs telling construction companies where sewage lines are, packages of crackers that say they may contain nuts, and boxes with live snakes inside.