etc // first world fandom problem

Over-warning?

gears


So what's the deal with what I'm going to go ahead and call 'overwarning' with regards to fic? It used to be that you just had to put a rating on a story, and whether it was gen or slash or ship, and what pairing if there was one. But now... I don't know if it's the influence of AO3 or if they took it from somewhere else, but...

I understand warning for character death, I guess. Torture, I suppose. Graphic violence, maybe... but isn't that something that should be covered in the rating? I mean, if I go to a rated R movie (or watch a show on premium cable), I don't get to complain when folks get hacked up or there's naked people. When I go to read a fic and it's rated Mature, I don't need to be warned that there's violence and bad words or... gosh, what else have I seen warnings for. Racism. Bullying. 'Temporary' Character Death.

I read a book a few months ago that was a sequel to another book I really enjoyed. The sequel was darker, which wasn't a huge surprise since it takes place during a war. There's a scene in the book where one of the main character's uneasy allies tries to rape her, and she's forced to kill him in a rather gruesome way. It was kind of shocking and one of my first thoughts was "man if that was in a fic the author would have been expected to warn for it." And yet if the author of this published work had put in a forward with "oh hai btw warnings for attempted rape/non-con and character death lol!"... well, it wouldn't happen. Even if it did, it would have taken all the punch out of that scene. And books don't even come with ratings. And this was a YA book to begin with.

So why are the expectations so different for fic? Yes, it's not fun to read about stuff you don't like. Yes, there's a lot of it out there. And yes, especially when you're using AO3, it can be kind of addictive when you start tagging stuff. But there's also something to be said for being a responsible consumer and not expecting to get a CliffNotes version of the story before you even read a single word.
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You have a point. And nonfiction professional writers do it in articles too, sometimes. "Trigger warning" and all that. Which is considerate, but sometimes, as you say, kind of overkill.
As in all things, I guess it's moderation. I don't mind warning for big, triggery things, although I tend to rather stick them in notes rather than having them be the first thing people see when they come across a fic. But it seems inevitable that people go overboard.
I really hate it. I had a very tame scene where Clint, Phil and Natasha make out with each other and it's implied that they have sex. I got a comment about how I should have warned for it!

I still remember when the internet was new, you labeled for the main coupling, the rating and how you didn't own them, that was it. Now people expect everything. I can't have any big twists because I have to warn for every possible death that happens.

It sucks because actual books don't have warnings as you pointed out and neither does real life.
I was thinking how if published authors were expected to warn for stuff the way fic authors are, GRRM would have had to add an extra chapter to each book of the Song of Ice and Fire series just to divulge all of the deaths, murders, rapes, attempted rapes, mutilations, sex, weird sex, pagan rituals, language, war, meanness, name-calling... and people would look at all that and never read the book!

Full disclosure: this is something I've been thinking about for a while, but today I came across a comm or blog or whatever you call it on Tumblr that had recced one of my fics. Generally of course I'm thrilled with reccs, but the person in question took issue with the fact that I hadn't used content warnings despite the fact that the story dealt with rape (even though it doesn't actually *happen*). And no, I didn't use an AO3 content warning... but I did put a warning in the notes. I mean, geesh, people, what do you want?

Okay done whining now.
And you can't just put the warning, you have to explain how much of the chapter they can read and when they should skip to the next chapter in order to not read "the bad part".

I agree -- the menu of warnings people seem to expect should come with a spoiler alert ("Beware! Full content of story disclosed in note!"). Personally, I want a torture/graphic violence/rape warning, as that will make me consider whether I want to read the story (too many people lovingly dwell on these things for their sensational quality, without regard to whether they are actually necessary to the story -- I will read them if they come from an author I trust). Those are all standard warnings though, and should only have to be used if the acts are actually described. If there is an oblique reference to something that may have happened in the past, who'd really be triggered by that unless they chose to be? I haven't used warnings myself in that context.

I had a reviewer complain to me (on FFN) that I didn't make it clear that Clint/Natasha were a couple in "The Skies Over Manhattan" -- I had labelled the story as "friendship," since it deals with the team getting to know Clint, not "romance". That's because it wasn't a romance -- I don't write romance -- and they were listed as the primary two characters; their relationship is a backdrop. Ummm.... hello?

I agree about the big stuff too, but yeah, I think in a lot of ways readers have gotten so spoiled... again, in a way I don't think they'd even consider being if they were reading a published work.
Yup. Sadly, we live in an age of externalized common sense and responsibility, where coffee cups carry a warning that "contents may be hot", and baby clothes come with a label that says "do not expose to fire".
I have mixed feeling about warnings. As a sexual assault survivor, I sometimes find excessive warnings for SA a bit insulting. I'm not made of glass! I'm capable of back-buttoning if I encounter something I don't wish to read, and I find it annoying when someone steps in on behalf of survivors when they're not a survivor themselves. I'm capable of speaking for myself, thanks.

But then I also understand why warning exist, and I use them out of consideration for other people (after all, just because I'm hard to trigger doesn't mean other people handle things the same way).

AO3 does have the "Choose Not To Warn" option, and it bothers me when people yell at authors who use that option. "Choose Not To Warn" is "read at own risk," so the author is not responsible for you reading it. I'm working on a fic with a big twist at the end, and warning for it is going to spoil the ending, so I'm going with the "Choose Not To Warn" option when I eventually post it.
AO3 does have the "Choose Not To Warn" option, and it bothers me when people yell at authors who use that option. "Choose Not To Warn" is "read at own risk," so the author is not responsible for you reading it.

Yeah, so far that's been my go-to label. I only think I've used the No Warnings Apply when I truly believe there's nothing triggery or objectionable in a story (which doesn't happen often, because really, how much fun is it to write something completely unobjectionable? ;))
The tags/warnings at AO3 make me laugh and cry at the same time....
Sometimes I can't decide if it's about warning or getting attention or just 'hmm I wonder how many things in my story already have a tag'.
*nods* I think "for the attention" is the correct explanation for most of the internet.
Postscript: I just got excoriated on AO3 for not putting appropriate warnings on "Highway of Diamonds". I'd tagged for "disturbing themes" but "chosen not to apply archive warning". At the request of a f-lister I added "dubious consent", then got the shit kicked out of me because someone decided that what I'd actually written was rape. Well. I'm a lawyer by profession, and "dubious consent" means exactly what it means -- you can argue the matter in court. Clint has views in the story, and I as the author do too -- and they are kind of what the whole story turns on. Anyway. Kinda killed my evening, that. Maybe I should stick to meaningless fluff, where everyone lives in Stark Tower and watches Thor fight with the toaster. Then all I would have to warn for is "burnt bread".

Edited at 2013-05-31 02:46 am (UTC)
Ugh, I'm sorry to hear that. Do you want me to go beat them up for you? *puts on her beatin'-up pants*

This is kind of why I think I'm better of just not using content warnings and leaving it at that. That way if you (you being this stupid person) reads it and finds something to bitch about, IT WAS YOUR FAULT FOR READING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. :-p

ETA: I think in cases like this there also has to be a certain amount of leeway given because not everyone's standards are the same. Take 'graphic violence'... what constitutes 'graphic?' Graphic to me may be something completely different to someone else.

I dunno, I just feel like if rape was a trigger of mine, I might just avoid dub-con as a matter of course.

Edited at 2013-05-31 04:06 am (UTC)
Thanks ... feel a bit better. What gets me is the person who decided to be "fucking appalled" then got a couple of her buddies to weigh in. They were a lot more respectful and even a bit constructive in their comments, but the whole thing left an icky taste in my mouth. Although maybe I should just be happy that my writing is obviously potent enough to cause a reaction ...? (I considered deleting the comments, but free speech and all that.)

Anyway. I'll be posting Chapter 4 soon and then maybe one of my regular readers will say something nice and the sun will shine again.
Constructive discussion is fine (although if I was possessed to do as much, I'd probably PM the author rather than making it a public thing. AO3 has some kind of PM function, right?) but that first person was ridiculous. "Oh I'm going to have a temper tantrum because I don't like how you labelled this." And tell people not to read your stuff? Give me a break!
Yeah. SIGH. What gets me is that I am writing my more serious stories for a reason -- to get people to think. Guess I should be flattered that it's obviously good enough that they feel compelled to think out LOUD, even if it's only to shoot the messenger.

Thanks for the moral support - I needed that. I notice you haven't friended me back on LJ -- I'd be delighted if you did.
Guess I should be flattered that it's obviously good enough that they feel compelled to think out LOUD, even if it's only to shoot the messenger.

Well it's true that good art inspires emotion :)

I notice you haven't friended me back on LJ -- I'd be delighted if you did.

I'm so bad at LJ-friending. Almost as bad as I am at Facebook-birthday-wishing. Doing it now!