Skip to main content

In Defense of the Trigger Warning

As I sat down in one of my film classes today, my professor did something that surprised me. Before screening Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a film inspired by the 1999 shooting at Columbine, she gave a warning, offering anyone who may be negatively affected by the film because of past trauma the opportunity to watch an alternative film for credit. She continued to warn the class about an upcoming film we would be screening later, mentioning the themes of sexual assault and offering another alternative film to screen.

I don't remember when I first started seeing "trigger warning" on the Internet. The tag, most commonly used on sites like Tumblr to warn people of content that contained explicit references to things like drugs, eating disorders, suicide, abuse, and other elements that people who have gone through trauma may find upsetting.

Though I never had to stay away from anything with a trigger warning, I definitely understand the value of the phrase. I even put a warning on the link to our short film last week to warn viewers of the drug content in it. Lately, though, I've seen a lot of backlash against this kind of warning, and I really don't understand it.

Usually, this backlash comes from people who believe Internet users who utilize the trigger warning phrase are being too politically correct. To me, the issue of political correctness is completely separate from that of the trigger warning, though I find both arguments insensitive and, quite frankly, ignorant.

Here's why the trigger warning should exist: films, books, TV, movies, and Internet content should be safe for everyone to enjoy. These things are meant to be entertaining, thought provoking, and stimulating, not traumatizing. Those who have been through trauma because of violence, mental illness, and substance abuse should not have to relive it because they use the Internet or want to watch a movie, listen to music, or read a book.

I never thought I needed to heed a trigger warning until I saw the movie Whiplash. I was moved by the movie and admired it for its incredible performances, visuals, and storytelling, but, ultimately, I was reminded of the verbal abuse and manipulation I experienced under an authority figure similar to J.K. Simmons' character, leaving me physically sick after I left the theatre. While I don't regret seeing the film, I recognized the value of that kind of warning firsthand.

There are kind souls out there who don't just warn against triggering elements in Internet content, but in other media, like films, as well, and to them I am grateful, not just because it keeps me from reliving trauma, but saves so many other people who have been through so much worse from reliving their pain.

To those of you who warn, thank you. To those of you struggling with trauma, keep your head held high and know there are good people out there. To those who don't understand these warnings, I beg you to put yourself in trauma victims' shoes and reconsider.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I'm Still Not Sure

I've tried to start this post several times over the past few weeks. For one thing, it's incredibly difficult to write after not doing so for months (seven, to be exact). It's another thing entirely to admit that I don't know what I'm doing, where I'm going, or who I am.

That being said, I've done it before. Two years ago, I posted a video on YouTube entitled "I'm Not Sure". Now, if you've never seen this before, I completely understand. I just watched it for the first time since I posted it, and it was cringeworthy. This is not only because it's weird to watch 20 year old me go through her YouTube phase, touch her face too much, talk with some strange inflection in her voice. Well, that's certainly part of it. Really, though, it's because nothing's changed.

At the end of the video, I say I'm grateful that I have a year and a half left of college to "figure it all out". That year and a half has passed. I gradu…

Am I Too Old for This?

When I turned 22 in August, I made the joke that I was scared to go into a Forever 21 for fear of setting off the age limit alarms. It was a bad joke. Still is.

In truth, there are a lot of things I should have outgrown: Disney movies, old cartoons, comic books, procrastination. That's not the end of the list, but those were the only things I could think of off the top of my head. One of the things I never thought would be on the list, though, was teen movies.

As I sat in the theater watching The Edge of Seventeen (fantastic movie, by the way), I realized I was five years older than the protagonist. Granted, that's not a huge age difference, but it was enough to make me realize I'm in a different place in my life than the characters in the movie for the first time in a while.

Teen movies are and have always been one of my very favorite things. I grew up wanting to be like the older characters in teen movies, then relating to the characters when I aged into their stories, a…

Talking to Myself in the Mirror

I think it's a pretty safe bet that a lot of aspiring actors/writers/directors/filmy people practice their future Oscar speech in the mirror as kids. I did. Who am I kidding? I still do. It comes with the territory. My mirror talks go, ahem, went (who am I kidding? go) further.

Sometimes, I do my makeup while talking to Barbara Walters. Other days, brushing my hair turns into a podcast interview. Most of the time, though, I rehearse what I'm going to say to my heroes. These hypothetical moments are incredibly important, and I can't afford to say anything stupid, so car rides, showers, and mornings getting ready are devoted to preparation.

This probably makes me sound crazy. The word "narcissist" may also come to mind. I think one of my heroes would have appreciated both the crazy and the narcissism in this bit of oversharing, though, but we lost her this morning.

One of my first posts on this blog was a tribute to Carrie Fisher. I read it over this afternoon after…