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Friday, 7 April 2017

Triggers and TV


Trigger warnings aren't always about avoidance. Often it's just that, a warning, a chance to be aware and prepare yourself. Depending on the type of content the warning is on, you might decide to power through. For the sake of clarity in this post, I'll be referring to trigger warnings regarding self-harm.

One of the most difficult kinds to navigate are when the entire theme of a book, movie or show is like a trigger warning in itself. Like the rest of the world, this week I've watched 13 Reasons Why. I know the story and its themes well, having read the book three times. Still, based on little things I saw online, and the fact that I find visual triggers to be the worst, I knew it could become tricky to watch at times.

Still, there's only so long you can keep your guard up. By Episode 11, I can totally engrossed in the show, I'd stopped thinking about potential triggers. Naturally, that's when the first one crept up on me. (SPOILER ALERT/TRIGGER WARNING) This is the episode where we see cuts on Skye's wrist for the first time, very well done, realistic cuts. Although the camera doesn't focus on them for too long, it does linger enough that it struck me, hard. After that I was on guard, and it was too late anyway, so the second time was less of a shock.

(For anyone who hasn't finished the series yet, and I do think I'm pretty late in finishing today, there is something that is hugely potentially triggering in Episode 13. It's well sign-posted. I had time to look away and my wife told me when to look again. Side-note: the acting in that episode is incredible! It's a high standard throughout, but particularly in the last episode it's fantastic.)

As I did find the shot of Skye's wrist so triggering, it got me thinking, or maybe I was just trying to distract myself. I was torn. thinking perhaps it's stupid of me to watch movies or shows that will obviously contain visible self-harm. Then immediately I thought, I can't imagine not watching them though. In the same way that every minority wants to see themselves represented on screen, it's ok if we need to see people with our issues. Obviously it's also ok not to see it.

My wife finds it hard to understand why I can't go a month without watching Thirteen or Short Term 12 or why I'm one of the few people who genuinely fucking loved Jenny Schecter. Especially because I find the subject impossible to talk about, (let's be honest, this is the most directly I've even written about this here, even if it is often hovering in the background) I need to see these characters, to relate and connect with them. Even if that sometimes means sparking that uphill struggle many of us know so well.

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