There have been several commentaries on an article about a student government request at one of the University of California branches. It seems that we now have a generation of young people so crippled by trauma of one sort or another that they needed to be warned when heavy weather is ahead in the literature they’re expected to read. What they want is trigger warnings for each work.
I’m not going to go into the pros and cons about whether this is a good or bad thing, or about the causes for the apparent inability to deal with literature that reflects real life. That’s been done well enough.
More important is what this means for writers. Are there really so many traumatized youngsters that respecting their sensitivities should be a consideration when we write a novel or story? More crudely, can this phenomenon, if it truly exists, affect the bottom line?
My personal view is that we’re obliged to be truthful to our characters. There has never been any time when a particular book would please everyone. Modifying what we write to suit some unknown set of readers who might be offended or disturbed by it is a betrayal of ourselves and our creativity.
Moreover, I believe this is a trend that shouldn’t be encouraged. There has already been too much mindless acceptance of the victim mentality. Acknowledging that there are people out there with trauma of varying degrees of seriousness doesn’t require us to be their protectors and therapists. Part of overcoming trauma is facing it. Individuals are entitled to whatever help is available. Beyond that, they have a choice. Learn to deal with reality or hide from it.
And here’s an excellent blog post, by Audrey Kalman that goes into some depth. Word Up