There are always those guys


Jeffrey Cranor is a writer for the podcast, Welcome to Nightvale (I listen to it, it’s entertaining). And he gets messages.

I was just about to listen to Episode 3. If you continue to advertise “trigger warnings”, I will no longer listen to your podcast and will advise every person whom I know not to listen.

The clarification that the podcast contains a description of someone being assaulted is pathetic. Stop it or lose listeners.

You know what’s pathetic? The people who get upset that a writer might show a little courtesy to someone who has had a more traumatic experience in their life than they have had; that a writer or a professor can recognize that the people listening to them are not blank, passive ciphers but have also brought their own history with them, and that what is merely an entertaining or academic exercise for us may actually be a lived experience for our audience.

So we give a small nod to those listening. We say, in effect, “I’m going to tell you a story, but I appreciate that it may bring back unpleasant echoes to some of you.” It’s saying that we respect the audience and understand that there are deeper contributions that some of them may make to some parts of what we’re telling them.

And then, of course, there are some members of the audience who are blank, passive ciphers and have never had a stressful experience…or they have, but they never learned from it. And they resent being reminded that there are other people present who have had more complex lives than they have had — and they don’t like being reminded that they are privileged little puddings. So they complain. Their lives are so fortunate to them, that having to listen to a 20 second warning message that a story includes a description of an assault is more traumatic to them, by their accounts, than an actual assault was to someone else.

It’s no surprise that the same people who are aggravated by trigger warnings are also the people who deplore codes of conduct at conferences. How dare you tell me that others might suffer from my actions? Freedom! Freedom excuses everything!

Of course, Cranor is a professional writer, while I’m just a guy with a blog. So what took me several paragraphs to explain, he can whip off in a line. A perfect line:

Grow up, you whiny little shit.

I’ll have to remember that. My usual response is to just roll my eyes, but that lacks the verve of a good punchy dismissal.


  1. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    To be fair, it probably is fairly panic-inducing for that kind of person to be reminded that people other than them exist and have their own thoughts and feelings. We should probably come up with a warning for them, too:

    “This show may contain content not designed specifically for the least challenged and most reactionary members of society. Viewer discretion advised.”

  2. gijoel says

    Maybe they could do trigger warnings about trigger warning. But I find trigger warnings about trigger warnings that are warning me of trigger warnings triggering. But not actual trigger warnings, them I’m okay with.

  3. kevinv says

    Same person probably sending diatribes to movie discussion podcasts for not having spoiler warnings.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Oh but you know those trigger warnings are there not out of courtesy but they were forced to include them so the audience will stay and listen to the details of the story no matter how horrific they may seem to some of the squeemish. so let the person tell their story unhindered with mandated warnings and other superflouos nonsense.
    that’s just how I imagine their argument to be, kinda. sorry for strawmanning…

  5. Owlmirror says

    But his response probably needs a trigger warning:

    “I’m going to be insulting and dismissive to a insulting and dismissive privileged critic.”

  6. chigau (違う) says

    His other answer is pretty good, too.

    what i meant to say was “thanks for your email. unfortunately Alice Isn’t Dead hasn’t really been targeting the Entitled Solipsist demographic. good luck avoiding content warnings in your other free media consumption.”

  7. Saad says

    Freedom, of course, is a fake shitty excuse. Just like the theocrats use religious freedom, atheist bros use secular freedom.

    They can whine and mansplain all they want. There really is no other reason than that they want to be assholes to people who have suffered trauma.

    If you enjoy reading about sexual assault, a four word phrase preceding the description wouldn’t bother you. I like music. If someone says “let’s talk about music” before talking about music, I don’t throw a tantrum.

    If a little phrase saying ‘discussion of rape ahead’ offends you, you’re the sensitive one.

    If you want to force others to unexpectedly read about rape, you’re the asshole infringing on the freedom of others.

  8. jaybee says

    If you continue to advertise “trigger warnings”, I will no longer listen to your podcast and will advise every person whom I know not to listen.

    In other words, this guy is going to provide a trigger warning to all of his friends who find the phrase “trigger warning” upsetting.

  9. chris says

    I wonder if that guy is also writing all of the writers of television programs like “American Horror Story” or other podcasts like “This American Life” that warn of depictions of violence, disturbing situations or content inappropriate for children. I am sure they would all love to hear that the warnings they use, and possibly required to use, are totally unnecessary.

    My husband and I have a common history of each of us losing a parent while we were children. We both have a deep and abiding loathing of the for the 1983 movie “Terms of Endearment.” It was totally advertised as a comedy, with nothing to indicate the death of a parent of young children. We could have used a trigger warning. Who knows, we may have enjoyed the movie if we had known before hand about the true nature of the film. I do watch fractured family films to compare them to our own family history, and ours is a bit more wacky.

  10. ZugTheMegasaurus says

    @Chris #10:

    I couldn’t believe when I saw the ads for the movie of “Bridge to Terabithia” that came out a few years ago, which was based on one of my favorite books as a kid. All the commercials and trailers made it look like a typical “two kids on a magical fantasy adventure” movie. None of them even mentioned the fact that the main conflict in the book is [SPOILER AND TRIGGER WARNING] one of the children accidentally drowning and the rest of the story is about the other kid coping with his friend’s tragic death.

  11. chris says

    Yeah, another example where the entire point of the story is glossed over. My daughter read that in an American children’s lit course. She urged me to read it, but did mention it was a tragic story. (I also got an earful on how terrible Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret).

    I see no reason why someone selling a movie/story can’t be honest about the content. Even children can handle some terrible stuff, like in “Bridge to Terabithia.”… the original Grimm folktales were often very very grim. Just don’t make it out all happy fluffy fun time, and then go tear out the child’s heart (both figuratively and perhaps literally in the story — which is kind of a theme in the Storybrook world of “Once Upon a Time”, where the Disneyfied fairy tales have gotten their bite back).

    By the way, I am enjoying “Alice Isn’t Dead.” Again, it was my daughter who suggested I listen to Night Vale.

  12. Holms says

    So Whiny Shit is bothered by some of the content, to the extent that he is finding himself unable to continue enjoying the content. But he objects to warnings that might help other people who are bothered by the content to the extent that they will not enjoy the content.

    K then.

  13. says

    Way back when I was taking the kids back home from a weekend visit to grammy, we stopped to eat. We saw a multiplex across the street and decided to take in a movie. We looked at all the posters and decided that a great sea adventure (according to the poster) was in order. It was called “A sailor who fell from grace with the sea” and there are not enough trigger warnings on this planet for what was on that screen. If you know the movie, you know, if not, check it out. I still wonder what damage I might have done to their young minds to this day…..

  14. anbheal says

    @14 David — Omigod, my parents took me to that movie…..maybe Richard Dreyfus and Spielberg’s wife (Amy something?). I was sooooooo embarrassed for my parents! The poor grown-ups, having to watch graphic (for that era) sex! I seriously wondered if they would ever recover.

  15. anbheal says

    @14 David — or was it Kris Kristofferson? I refuse to Google. But man o man, did I worry about the parental trauma inflicted.

  16. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    I wonder if their real beef is that they didn’t get a trigger warning that “Alice isn’t Dead” is a story about a woman searching for her missing wife. They sound like the sort of douchebags that wouldn’t like that concept.

  17. chris says

    ““A sailor who fell from grace with the sea”

    Yikes! I had seen the novel of that in the campus book store. It did not look like my cup of tea. (by the way I did look it up, and remembered something like that making my eighteen year old freshman brain go “Aaaaaah!”, but it may be a false memory).

    Oh, and one reason I like “Alice isn’t Dead” is the memories of their times together voiced by the narrator. Whenever I hear someone pontificate on the evils of the gay lifestyle and marriage, I wonder how gardening, taking kids to soccer, helping with the PTA, walking their dog past and chatting with me as I garden is part of some “evil lifestyle.” I don’t peek into their windows, but I am sure they cook in their kitchens.

    I also like the Twilight Zone type stuff of ending up in the same town, the invisible threat, and the weird time warping at the “factory.”

  18. Muz says

    Although it’s completely beside the point here, I kinda wish people would stop saying ‘trigger warning’ too. It’s a very culturally and treatment-framework specific term. We already know how to do content warnings and have been at them for decades in one form or another. So people should just do that.
    Broadening those practices to include the latest notions of triggers is fine. But the short hand is limiting the scope. Not everyone knows the term or what it means (and in truth it’s quite possible to be upset by and appreciate a warning for all kinds of material that is not technically ‘triggering’, in the PTSD parlance). This amounts to poor efficacy and superficiality, even though the intent is probably otherwise.
    But, again, it’s beside the point of the article.

    If simply using it gets letters like the above it’s got a bonus of annoying crank-y bros, so that’s a good thing all by itself.

  19. says

    anhheal – It was KK who eventually gets offed by the kids.
    Muz – I take your point and understand content warnings to be more appropriate, but here we are in the way sensitive youth times trying to actually understand “real” triggers vs entitled sensitivities and such.

  20. llyris says

    Why is this a thing? Really!!! I’ve been hearing content warnings on tv all my life. “A warning that some viewers may find scenes in the next article distressing” (can’t remember the exact wording). Or “Warning, contains coarse language and adult themes”. “Rated MA for mature audiences”.
    I’m Australian and I don’t know how this differs from USA, but it never seemed to be an issue, it was always there. “Coming up next, the war in Iraq. A warning that some viewers may find these images distressing.” Done. If you’re in a position where that might be triggering go to the toilet and make yourself a cuppa. What’s the problem? If you want to watch it, fine. It’s taken 5 seconds out of your time, and you now know to expect some unpleasantness.
    I agree with #20 Muz, that maybe the words ‘Trigger warning’ are a problem. But maybe because it’s a new buzzword. Will these idiots be just as offended if people call them ‘content warnings’? Probably. And yes, content covers more than just triggers. Australian TV also has a content warning for images / footage of indigenous people who have died, because it is a cultural issue for them.
    Some idiot is sitting alone, busily calculating how much of his life has been wasted listening to content warnings.

  21. leskimopie says

    @3 gijoel – A Let’s Player I watch made the grave mistake of putting a trigger warning on some of her Silent Hill videos, so of course some folks took dolores umbridge with that fact and decided to harass her over it (or continue to and amp it up for a while, since as a feminist in gaming circles, she has a bit of a constant background level of it.)

    So she did go ahead on and make a trigger warning for trigger warnings:

  22. anat says

    To Muz and llyris, the difference is that most trigger warnings are more specific and give people more information, so people can make a more informed decision about whether to watch/listen/read or whether they need to prepare themselves before watching/listening/reading. Disturbing content, adult themes are very broad, not quite as helpful as ‘warning, explicit depiction of child abuse’.

  23. chris says

    anat: “Disturbing content, adult themes are very broad, not quite as helpful as ‘warning, explicit depiction of child abuse’.”

    Exactly. I have noticed the warnings before certain cable television programs have become a bit more specific. One example that varies between episodes is “American Horror Story”, where there is some very graphic scenes. Including some that are related to actual nightmares (like hands coming up from a mattress and pulling in the victim). I appreciate the warnings before “Vikings”, because I know that there will be a drawn out bloody battle that I can tune out because they are just simply boring (like the “Superman” movie where I almost fell asleep during the long drawn out of fight scene that destroyed Metropolis).

  24. Muz says

    Anat @24

    Like I said, you can include those things. It also varies wildly according to who does the rating (The BBFC for example publishes voluminous description of any potential trouble spot in anything they rate).
    In large part it’s the term itself that’s the problem. I think a lot of people think a ‘trigger’ and any warning about it is self explanatory and/or currency because of the internet circles they move in. But while it’s had a fair bit of outgrowth, it’s still mainly something you find in victim support and activist networks and sympathisers, probably academia as well, on the internet and with chiefly North American users. As wide as that circle can seem, it doesn’t include every victim out there who consumes some piece of media (I’d wager only a small fraction of them.)
    If I’m being frank I do think at times people have adopted it as a mark of solidarity as much as for any practical reason. Either way the substance of the warning ought to be the thing and I think there’s no need for wheel reinventing with the terminology there (Or if people really want to, they should remember to aim wide as well. AID/Nightvale don’t even use any technical phrasing. It’s just Joe Bro up there sees SJWs under the bed, I suppose)