Movie Triggers: How to Navigate Triggering Scenes in Films

Understanding Triggers in Movies

We’re all familiar with content warnings and the movie rating system (Rated G to X), communicating the kind of content a viewer can expect to see in a film. Now there is the addition of trigger warnings, a term stemming from the field of psychology that means a stimulus bringing up difficult or painful emotions, memories, or physical feelings. For example, a veteran with PTSD may find the sound of fireworks triggering or a type of dog may trigger someone who was once bitten by the same breed as a child.

These triggered experiences stem from past traumas or post-traumatic stress disorder (PRSD). During a traumatic experience, our brains include the sensory stimuli in the memory, like an association, where similar sensations (sounds, textures, topics, visual cues) can cause the body and mind to react to it as if reliving the experience. A good example is having been assaulted while a song was playing and hearing that song causes extreme fear or the desire to flee the area.

Examples of Trigger Warnings in Film

A trigger is a broad topic due to the variety of traumas any one person can experience, from victims of assault to veterans or those grieving a loss, which many films and shows show in their content. For example, some common triggers in the film industry are listed in this section.

Each of these common subjects in movies is a potential trigger, not only causing unnecessary emotional pain for the person but potentially upsetting those with them. By placing trigger warnings before the film, individuals can choose for themselves whether to watch the movie or avoid it altogether.

Torture, gore, or brutality, can be triggering for some viewers, particularly those who have experienced physical trauma.

Depictions of sexual abuse or rape can be highly triggering for survivors of assault or abuse.

Scenes depicting suicide or self-harm may be triggering for people struggling with suicidal thoughts, or depression, or who've lost loved ones to suicide.

Drug and alcohol abuse or addiction can be triggering for those who've struggled with addiction themselves or have been affected by a loved one's addiction.

Certain sounds, sights, or situations associated with trauma, such as explosions or gunfire for military veterans, can trigger flashbacks or intense emotional reactions.

These topics and depictions can be triggering for people who've experienced or witnessed prejudice and discrimination.

These depictions can be triggering for individuals who have experienced loss or are facing their own mortality.

Scenes involving common phobias such as spiders, heights, or enclosed spaces can trigger anxiety or panic attacks in susceptible viewers.

Depictions of child abuse or neglect can be triggering for survivors of childhood trauma or individuals who work with children.

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Creating Your Custom Trigger Filters with Enjoy

While a trigger warning before a film and websites that provide them are useful, it ultimately means that those struggling with trauma can’t watch a wide array of movies and shows unless attempting to fast-forward through them. 

We at Enjoy Movies Your Way know that many people have loved ones who’ve experienced trauma and share our goal of making movies and TV shows more accessible. Our Tag Tool allows you to cut those segments from titles that you’d otherwise watch if it weren’t for the triggering scenes in them, allowing you to share films and shows you enjoy with loved ones while sparing them unnecessary pain from those few choice scenes.

Explore how you can easily create custom trigger filters and remove scenes for your loved ones

  • Enable Tag Mode
  • Locate the point in a movie or show where you want the tag to start and click “start tag” then locate the end and click “end tag”.
  • A preview of the tag pops up for review and edit it
  • Click on “Edit Tag Details” and complete the list of action items
  • Save the tag with the right category to set the tag type.

We at Enjoy know that there is a community of people with loved ones with traumas and shared values who like to help others avoid certain subjects in the entertainment they watch. That’s why we set up a community for people to trade tags and avoid common triggers.

An example of custom filtering parameters with Enjoy Movies Your Way UI.

Explore how Tag Mode can help you avoid uncomfortable topics, scenes, and depictions without spoiling films.

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