Trigger Warnings

I was horrified the first time I watched Get Smart.

Max shot several people suspected of being Kaos agents. Then the Chief tells him that he’s posted a number of Control agents to protect Max. Canned laughter played as Max realises he mistook the Control agents for Kaos operatives and tells the Chief that maybe one of them has a chance of pulling through.

I was a kid at the time and was horrified. People have just been killed and that’s supposed to be funny? By the end of the episode I gave into the humour and since then have relished in dark comedy.

Photo by Sam Williams courtesy of Pixabay

Recently I was given a list of trigger warnings to catagorise books.

Some like animal abuse, rape, abusive relationship and pedophilia make sense. Others like classism, insects and swearing do not. The list also has spiders, snakes and skeletons. Really?

Even murder is on the list. Imagine if you were warned about a murder every time you saw an Alfred Hitchcock film. Or, if back in the 1940s, an audience about to enjoy Arsenic and Old Lace was given the spoiler warning of ‘this play contains murder’.

Hell, I survived the killings on Get Smart!

And do we really need to be protected against classism when it is often found in British period dramas? It’s usually there to make a point about society.

One reviewer complained I added an unlisted paranormal element in one of my novels.

How dare I add a twist without warning the reader there was a ghost in the story. Yes, she actually gave the twist away on a Goodreads review because there was no warning of said ghost. And she didn’t click ‘spoiler alert’ on her review.

Image by brenkee courtesy of Pixabay

The ghost wasn’t creating a horror element to the story. It represented the main character’s inability to grieve and has often been used as a plot convention on many Australian television shows in the past.

Plus, I once had a beta reader who didn’t like a character because he was committing adultery.

Sorry, murder, adultery and several other contemporary trigger warnings have been normal plot twists for centuries. Scores of readers and theatre audiences have relished in the complexity of the human condition. They didn’t need to be warned and somehow, they weren’t scarred.

Image by Engin Akyurt courtesy of Pixabay

I agree with using trigger warnings when they actually are a trigger. But we’re getting to the point where we are treating adults like children, protecting them from the world and stunting their growth. Think ‘Caution Hot’ on your take-away cup of coffee.

As someone once said, the more you idiot-proof the world, the more idiots you create.

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