Supernatural’s “Red Meat” Or, The Importance of Trigger Warnings

Banner by the Collected Mutineer
Banner by the Collected Mutineer

Episode 11×17 AKA “Dear CW Network, Please Read This”

I did not watch this week’s SPN episode, “Red Meat.” If you are looking for a recap of the episode, this is not it. Allow me to refer you to Supernatural Wiki for a synopsis.

Actually, let me rephrase my opening statement: I cannot watch this week’s episode, “Red Meat.” 

Be warned: I discuss trigger warnings and anxiety in the following paragraphs. 

I suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety, and at my lowest points, those can manifest as extreme sensitivity to things I see and watch. When this happens, I don’t watch tv, I don’t read books, and I avoid most of the internet. However, one thing I do not avoid is fanfic. Why? Because almost every fanfic writer will include trigger warnings for thematic content that is potentially disturbing to sensitive readers. Warnings for things that will, you know, trigger an anxiety or panic attack.

Yes, before you say it, we have heard the argument: “But television is not real.” That isn’t the point. It doesn’t matter if what we watch or read is real or not, or if we look away after .5 seconds or ten minutes. No one can dictate the material that will or will not provoke an episode of anxiety because if we could control it then we would not be anxious. At best, we can haphazardly guess that things like graphic depictions of torture, rape, murder, or suicide will be too much for us. At worst? We guess wrong and our minds (and sometimes our bodies) pay the price.

Last night, I was fortunate that I saw a spoiler on Tumblr and I could avoid various triggering situations for me (namely, overdose). Other viewers, however, were not so fortunate. I value writers and creative autonomy, but I implore television networks to include trigger warnings before scenes like the one that appeared in last night’s episode. Fanfiction writers do so, and it indicates a level of respect for their audience, as well as offers a choice to the reader: continue with the story, or stop if it’s too much. It is courtesy to the viewer, but more importantly, it spares those who are vulnerable from being placed in a potentially harmful state of mind. 

I have nothing but the utmost respect for the creators of Supernatural and other shows that I enjoy, but I urge more networks to consider adding trigger warnings before potentially disturbing content. Please, let us continue to enjoy the shows we love so much, before it becomes more than we can bear.

Until next time,

-The Collectress

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