Well, I think I've seen it all now. It's a bit of a quandary, actually. I thought we'd come away from labeling people, quit using hateful names and tags, identifying them by their color, their religion, their sex or sexual preference. Now it's no longer pc. More importantly, it's not humane, and that's cool.
But when did we start labeling our books for content? I can see a label for sexual content. Not everyone wishes to read sexually explicit material. But now we have to come out and reveal other aspects of the plot because perhaps someone might be offended in the reading of it? Isn't that like exposing your plot before the reader even gets a chance to discover it? Seriously?
I don't get it. Isn't the purpose of a book to explore different kinds of people, different kinds of themes, plots, etc, and to do it safely, from the confines of wherever we choose to read? Why are we attempting to sanitize this experience before it's even begun? Why are people so presumptuous as to know what everyone feels and thinks? And to feel obligated to warn them in advance?
Have you never read a book that upset you? I have. More than one. There are books and authors that make you feel. You invest yourself in their characters and maybe things happen to those characters and you hurt for them, and maybe the plot doesn't go the way you hoped, and you feel pain for them. Does that make the book wrong? No. And it never occurred to me that maybe I should have been warned about it beforehand, given the choice to avoid it. Movies are the same way. Some are very upsetting. There are some films that are so depressing, I'll never watch them again. Terms of Endearment springs to mind. Sophie's Choice. Or maybe I will, after a long period of time elapses. Do I think the film needs to come with a warning? No, I don't.
Adult books have adult themes. If you can't handle that, stick with mindless pap and erotica. There's lots of that out there. If that's what you want, that's fine. But don't force us to put labels on our writing just so you don't squirm, or just because you think or assume someone else will.
Did anyone try to label Shakespeare with content warning? Titus Andronicus - warning, rape, cannibalism, and death. Romeo and Juliet - warning, violence, teenaged suicide. Hamlet - warning, incest, ghosts, violence. Midsummer's Night Dream - warning, possible bestiality. Of course not, we'd never think of it. So what has happened to readers that they feel the need to be warned now? Damned if I know.
Maybe this is the warning we should attach to our books: Warning, contents just might make you think or feel.
It's life, folks. It doesn't come with warnings or roadmaps or infallible rules. It's meant to be lived. Books are meant to be read. Since when have we become allergic to ideas? It's a scary thought, and makes me wonder about the future of literature. Are we dumbing down books the way we've dumbed down our television viewing? And where do we draw the line?
By the way, another name for this is censorship.
I'd love to know what you all think! Please comment, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.