Content Warnings In Art – Writing


A subject I’ve discussed in recent weeks has been content warnings in literature, and art in general. With Mental Health becoming less taboo, and people speaking about their experiences, do we as artists need to be mindful of this when making our works available to the public?


The general consensus I’ve found in online discussions is that yes, content/trigger warnings are appreciated, especially for themes like SA and DV. And I can understand the reasoning behind this. I have my own experiences that I would rather not revisit. Another side of the discussion was that a well written blurb on a book should be able to indicate what might be in store for the reader. And I would agree with this also to a certain extent. To say that there might be a heavy subject in a book that might be eluded to, is one thing, but to say it is the main focus of the story (which is what a blurb portrays) is not entirely accurate. A third side of the discussion was that, if an author writes a trigger warning on the book content, stating everything that’s in it, it has the potential to scare away a huge reader base. For instance, a book might have two people talking about DV, or it might have a long scene depicting DV. Where do you then draw the line as including this as a trigger warning. Does it become a form of self-censorship if the author does this?


At the end of these lengthy discussions, I came away no clearer on what was acceptable and what was frowned upon. Having left the conversation up to the readers, I received a huge mixed bag of opinions and little direction. I had asked the question because films must have a rating, and streaming services will offer content warnings for movies and TV shows, with specified themes shown on the screen at the beginning of the program. I wondered if it applied to books at all. And I am still no closer to finding an answer.


Should there be a standardised place in a book, say, the back page, where people can check for triggers? Or do we carry on with the current system of reading books not knowing what’s in store?


I’d love to hear your thoughts, please get in touch or leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!


Shan

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