I have no doubt this will be touchy subject for people. So before we even get started lets get one thing straight. I will not tolerate flaming, rudeness, or attacks on anyone who comments on this blog. We’re all adults which means we’ll disagree on variety of things. And as adults we can have rational discussions without lowering ourselves to name calling.
Now that we have the ‘Warning’ out of the way… *grins*
I actually personal despise these things. As a writer and a reader. Why? Because the idea of a story whether it’s told via film, tv, book etc… is to entertain. Not to be warned that something may upset me. If it does the writer did their job – they made me feel and think. It doesn’t matter the emotion – the writer got a reaction out of me – they did their job.
Now before you already go off screaming.
Ratings are not Warnings.
If I see the standard Ratings I can expect certain things. If it’s rated G – I’m not expecting anything that is shocking. PG – I can expect some language. Pg-13 – some violence and some sexual situations. R – language, violence and sex. Nc-17 – all that in technicolor. These 5 Ratings already gives a viewer some heads up of what they will expect. If you walk into a PG and get graphic torture and rape scene you’ll be shocked cause wait what? If you’re watching R and it’s more a kids film you’re also going to be shocked.
These Ratings have been standard in the movie, tv, video game industry for over 50 years. We use a version of these ratings for fanfic – giving the reader a quick reference of what to expect.
So why Warnings?
There are no warnings on a TV show, Movie, and Video Game The Rating system is your warning. If you walk into a NC-17 movie you can’t be surprised by the violence, sex or combination there of… it’s NC-17 which means the Movie Industry has deemed this not view-able by anyone under 17. If you pick up a game and it says Mature – you shouldn’t be shocked when your ‘Assassin’ starts killing people and blood cascades onto the walls.
Now Books don’t even get a Rating System. When you pick it up, check the summary on the back, flip through a few pages and decided to buy it you’re taking the chance that there is things in it that may shock you. There may be sex, violence, rape, torture, and you really have no idea of the character you fall for will survive the book. You can get ideas of what to expect from the book you’ve picked up by its Genre. If it’s Murder/Mystery you can expect some type of violent act. It’s in the Gay/Lesbian section – you can expect their to be a same-sex couple somewhere in the story. Romance is likely to have vivid sex scenes. True Crimes – could have bloody details of deaths. Kids section not expecting much violence/sex.
So if we accept Ratings for Movies, TV Shows and Video Games, and Genres for books to give us a clue on what to expect.
Why? Why? Why is fanfiction so rabid on Warnings.
My God I’ve never seen so many fights/wars/viscous attacks on authors over a simple warning or lack of one. You walk into a movie, sit down for a tv show, pick up a book having no clue where the story will take you. You are letting the writer/showrunner/director tell you the story. You didn’t sit at the end of Sixth Sense and go OMG M. Night Shyamalan should have warned us that he was already dead! You didn’t scream at Tolkien and demanded that he warn us that Boromir was going to die in the FIRST BOOK! *though I still haven’t forgiven him for that :D*
Yet you will reply to an author and scream/rant/rave at them for not warning you that *this will happen in this story*. Yet won’t reply to an author to tell them you enjoyed their story – But that is a whole different discussion.
I have a standard warning on the opening screen for the Sylum Archive. You could possibly find any of these things in this series.
And I hate it.
Because my job is to make you laugh, cry, throw things, stare at the computer in shock and call me every name in the book but a child of god. My job is to surprise you, make sure you didn’t see that coming, fall in love with the characters, look beyond your expectations, and hopefully you’ll walk away with new perspectives. But mostly my job is to entertain – to lure you into the story to the point that hours go by and you have no clue.
My job is not to hold your hand in case something you read upsets you.
Warning for Death
I admit who wants to see their favorite character die – hence fanfic in general – Let alone Sylum *pointedly looks at Speed* But at the same time why limit yourself to what you are willing to read. Some of the best stuff I’ve read have revolved around a characters death. Though I still hate Tolkien for killing Boromir – that scene in the book is amazing to read and I choke up each time.
Another good example: Transformers 3 – I sat there in shock watching my beloved Ironhide die. I was like wait what… then promptly called Bay every name in the book. But I didn’t demand my money back or demand that he warn us that Ironhide was going to die. Can you imagine for a second: Opening Credits ready to role – then before we get to see Optimus…
Warning: This story may upset you as I’ve killed off Ironhide.
Sounds ridiculous right?
So why do you make a fanfic author write that exact thing?
Warning for words that are non PC
I’m not even having the discussion on the idea of how society as gotten to PC over the past years. Sometimes you really just need to call an idiot an idiot. Anyway moving on.
Words are powerful. Seeing hate filled words hurts. I’m not going to deny that. It’s uncomfortable to see derogatory words used by characters we love and even by those we don’t love. I’ve already discussed how you need to take the modern thinking out historical characters. But you also need to look at the characters and their position in life.
So why am I as a writer warning you that a racists, sexists asshole character is not going to speak PC? And why are you as the reader yelling at me for using the words? It’s not me it’s the character… A KKK card caring member is not going to use the words African American or Mexican American. He doesn’t in real life and he sure as hell not going to do it in a fic. Yeah it’s shocking can even make you stop and go what? Why does it do that? Because you aren’t a KKK Card Caring Member… but don’t assume that because the author wrote it – they are.
Warning for Sex
If my fic is R and Nc-17 – be shocked if there isn’t sex. I’m not going to warn for sex. Now if you list pairings: Horatio/Timothy – that should indicate it’s going to be Gay Sex. And if it says Indiana/Lara – that should indicate Het Sex.
Now yes when you walk into a book store and pick up Harlequin Romance you would probably be shocked if there is a gay couple – I would hope at some point this won’t be shocking but we’ve got a while to go on that. If you walk into the gay/lesbian section – the gay sex shouldn’t be shocking.
Hopefully when you read the summary and it says Tom is a lawyer new to Chicago and his life takes a turn when he meets Brian the Barista at Starbucks. Does the author really need to warn you that – gay sex may pop up?
Oh and just because your favorite character doesn’t end up with the one you want them to – doesn’t mean the author has to warn you. Now I’ll admit I’ve read that story – it was my favorite pairing – even listed as it – at the end they both where with someone else … I was like wait what? Oh they got ripped to shreds. The key here is not that they should have warned for it – they should have stated a different option in the pairing listing… So that isn’t a warning – its making sure you label your story right.
Next is even more difficult thing to discuss.
Warning for Triggers
I’m lucky. I’m going to say that upfront. I’ve not had major traumatic experiences that watching/reading something could trigger a flashback. And I honestly can’t imagine going through something like that and dealing with the emotional, psychological, and physical ramifications. I do understand that aspects of stories can trigger memories. I will not deny that. But then everyday things can trigger memories – from smell, a touch, sound.
But why is it my responsibility to make sure you don’t get triggered? I’m being honest here.
My fic is NC-17 its a strong possibility there will be graphic violence and/or sex. I get yelled at for triggering them…
My fic is Pg – there is no graphic violence and/or sex but I still get yelled at for triggering them because there as a line that reminded them of ….
In the end I can’t win. I can’t write a fic with the idea that a word, sentence, scene, will trigger someone.
So here are some questions for thought:
Your brother was killed in an accident – you blame Tolkien for triggering those memories when Boromir dies?
You walk by someone who has the same cologne as your ex – it flashbacks to the memories of fights and the breakup – do you blame the stranger walking by?
I know these are simple examples and there are lot more horrific moments in life – but the question is do you blame the person who inadvertently triggered them?
For some yes they do – they blame the fanfic author – Cause how dare they not warn that there could be something in their fic that could upset them. I’ve heard the argument I shouldn’t have to read about Rape or Child abuse and its shocking when it shows up in my fanfic. It’s also shocking when it shows up on your tv show/movie/book. The problem is that the author does not know exactly what can trigger someone – a person could be triggered by variety of ways a rape scene can be written, someone may react to a cop talking to a kid about being abused, while someone else flinches when the main character is slapped because they were abused.
I’m not taking away that these moments have impact on people. But what I’m pointing out – an author can write the same scene different ways and styles – detailed not detailed and still end up triggering someone.
That’s why you need to put a warning on it!! So the reader doesn’t get triggered!!
Okay. So when do you add the warning? When Rape or Child Abuse is just mentioned? Or when it’s graphically detailed? The Author starts to get antsy on what to warn for – either warns to much and gives the story away or not enough and gets yelled at. Which leads back to the original question – why is my job to warn you? If you walk into a bookstore buy a book or sit down for a TV Show/Movie and something happens to trigger you – what do you do?
– Keep reading/watching?
– Put it down/turn it off?
Do you contact the bookstore/studio, publishing house/cable channel, author/director and yell at them for not warning you?
So why do you contact a fanfic author and do just that?
Now I’m pretty sure I’ve either pissed you off or have you nodding your head in agreement. Either way I’m hoping a rational discussion can come about on the subject.