I was going to open up this post with a story about my best friend eating over-medium eggs in a way that I hate, but as I was writing it, it felt more and more like I was belittling a very real issues. And even if I have some of the issues, it’s still not okay for me to be dismissive of them. Unless I’m also being self-deprecating and making a joke with my voice and no ability to backspace my way out of a place I didn’t mean to be in.
I guess I’ll start off with some warnings. This is a post about trigger warnings. I’m going to be discussing domestic violence.
When I was younger, my mom had a terrible boyfriend. We lived with him for a while and he checked basically every box on the Bad Stepfather Starter Sheet. I ended up with a lot of problems, a lot of therapy, and some good medication.
One time, someone shared this video with me. It’s a Whitest Kids U’ Know skit about pizza bagels. It starts like a standard TV commercial and then quickly turns into a domestic violence situation, complete with the sounds of hitting and the wife screaming off screen while the upbeat voice-over talks about Pizza Bagels.
I fell apart when I watched it. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t even move to stop the video. It was horrifying and it kind of messed up my whole day. I couldn’t get through anything without thinking about the damn Pizza Bagels. I never watched any of their other skits. I only rewatched that one today to include in this post. It still made me feel gross and bad. Like there are worms in my stomach. But I knew it was coming, so I could stop. I could close my eyes. I could deal with it in a way I couldn’t before.
I understand the purpose of trigger warnings completely. But I don’t like them. As a creator, it feels like the responsibility of who consumes my art lies on me rather than the consumer. And that causes me quite a lot of anxiety. It also feels a bit like sticking spoilery labels all over my stories. I made this art so you would feel something. I don’t want to dilute the emotion.
I also, primarily, deal in horror. It feels, to me, that putting a trigger warning on horror is like telling the consumer that scissors are sharp. That knives can cut. That wounds bleed. If you’re picking up one of my books or diving into one of my stories, it’s probably not because you heard it was happy and full of unicorns (unless they’re dead or otherwise puritanically-compromised). The trigger warning is inherent to the genre.
But, here’s the thing. I don’t like a lot of things. It’s basically my superpower. But I still understand the purpose of trigger warnings. I know how they can help. So, while I don’t like them, I will never, ever fault anyone for wanting them. Because I don’t want to be an asshole. In fact, my main goal in life to not be an asshole. And when someone tells you there’s a problem you can easily fix with minimal effort or sacrifice on your part, and you do nothing, you’re an asshole. So, I don’t like them. I don’t use them. But it doesn’t hurt me to include them or have them included.
I recently met Courtney Knight of Clean Teen Publishing (http://www.cleanteenpublishing.com/). After seeing what they’re doing over there with content warnings, we Murderers have decided to try implementing something like that for our books.
We want you to feel something, something probably not always good, when you read our books. But we also want you to come back for more.