Friday’s Feature: My Trigger, Your Trigger

This week the premiere of Goblin Slayer came out and clearly rubbed some viewers the wrong way. I’m not going to try and tell you that there’s nothing objectionable about Goblin Slayer or that it is something that is fine for everyone to watch. Quite clearly it isn’t and quite clearly it is going to trigger certain viewers. And also, yes, I do agree that streaming services needed a lot more in the way of content advisories present so that viewers at least were warned about the nature of the content in the episode – though another blogger has since pointed out that Crunchyroll have in fact now added a warning to the beginning of Goblin Slayer (a little late but at least future viewers are now given the chance to opt out if they are concerned).

I’d like to apologise for any lack of coherence in this or rambling. This week  I ran low on time and then suffered a fairly major headache so putting an apology in was the closest I got to an actual rewrite and edit of this post.

With all of that out of the way, I’d like to turn the discussion to the idea that what triggers one person doesn’t necessarily cause the same reaction in someone else which is why comments such as claiming that Goblin Slayer shouldn’t exist or is only enjoyed by people with questionable moral values kind of rubbed me the wrong way (keep in mind, I’m not trying to change your mind about your opinion on the show itself as you are clearly entitled to your own opinion about it and I respect that some viewers are not going back for any more).

Goblin Slayer1a

As a fan of the action genre, the horror genre, the sci-fi genre, among many others I’ve seen all manner of gore-fest, characters with murderous intent, and plenty of scenes in live action and anime that have made me feel a little squeamish. And I enjoy that feeling while watching a fictional entertainment, because it is safe. All of those horrible things are happening on a screen and not to me and not in my real life or to someone I know, or even to a real person. That distance of fiction is really an important element. Watching them play out is entertaining, but it also raises questions and makes me wonder about the motives and whys and wherefores of the characters and their actions and when well done can even make me curious about the real world and the implications of such events for real people.

The main scene that has been criticised in Goblin Slayer is the rape scene. For victims of assault or just for people who are quite sensitive to that sort of content, it crossed a line that they have drawn. The content is not for them.

For me, watching this scene was difficult because it was brutal. I couldn’t look away as that poor girl was overwhelmed by the hobgoblin and thrown to the others before being pinned. The look on her face as she knew exactly what was happening to her was intended to be and is distressing to say the least. It was horrific and it made me horrified for her. For me, this scene didn’t glorify anything. It didn’t condone the actions. If anything, the exact opposite.

It made me feel that the story believed rape was a monstrous act committed by monsters. And that put it firmly in the camp of acceptable viewing for me. There was none of the uncomfortable moments where they tried to later justify the rapist as anything other than a monster. Admittedly, it does this by making the perpetrators actually inhuman monsters so subtlety might be lacking, but the message was clear to me and its purpose of showing the danger, the terror, and the way things can go so horribly wrong worked within the episode.

However, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to view it that way, nor does it mean that everyone is going to want to view that kind of content regardless of the message or how the scene is framed. For some people, this scene will most definitely trigger that fight or flight response that will make them hit the stop button and walk away from the screen and not want to come back.

Reading other bloggers thoughts on the scene, there’s been the suggestion that the scene is fan-servicey (and that’s something I’ve seen in a number of blogs this week as the myriad of goblin slayer reactions, defences, and rants have come out). I’m not going to disagree but I wasn’t seeing it when I watched the scene. I was seeing a horrible nightmare play out and a victim in need of a rescue that would come too late.

Goblin Slayer Promo

But back to that idea of hitting the stop button and walking away, I know that feeling. I don’t get it very often because my big trigger is fairly specific but when it gets set off it gets set off.

And do you know which anime is the only anime I couldn’t finish because I was triggered and absolutely could not watch another episode of even though I know from reading episode summaries they don’t repeat the event ever again? It’s an easy guess given the first image in this post.

Yep. It’s ‘Free‘.

I actually wrote a post (linked above) almost exactly two years ago about why I was putting my watch of Free on hold. I haven’t gone back. I can’t. Even looking for the image I’m about to include in my post caused me to break out in a sweat and feel my stomach tightening into knots. There’s no way I can watch it.

Free1

Drowning in the ocean shown, outside of the context of a horror or thriller where it is so over sensationalised there’s a disconnect from reality, hit me hard while attempting to watch Free. And I have plenty of reason to feel that way about that sort of sequence.

That said, I don’t discourage anyone else from watching Free. I don’t judge the entire rest of the show to be of lesser quality simply because they chose to be overly dramatic in the mid-season in a manner that managed to trigger me. And I certainly don’t claim that the show is encouraging unsafe practices in the water just because someone nearly drowned.

Free has every right to exist as a story and it is one that many people enjoy. However, for me it brought about a memory I don’t want and emotions I’m still not really equipped to deal with and that most certainly is not what I am looking for in my ‘entertainment’.

I think sometimes we need to be careful when we call for bans on things or for things not to exist. Because, it is usually worth remembering that our reaction isn’t the only one and what triggers one person isn’t necessarily going to have the same impact on another. Now, I still stand by what I said at the start about including warning labels. Going in blind without at least someone giving you a heads up is not a pleasant experience.

Goblin Slayer Episode 1

But to say that something created as entertainment shouldn’t exist just because it doesn’t entertain you creates a very slippery slope where the opinions of some group (whichever group it might be appointed to determine which entertainment can and cannot be viewed) get to exert their influence over everyone else. I find that to be more objectionable than occasionally crossing paths with a piece of entertainment I personally object to.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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43 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: My Trigger, Your Trigger

  1. I agreed that this part made sense with the plot and the set up. I don’t think it was just for shock value but it was part of the story.
    Also I didn’t see people getting upset about the new yaoi and the rape that happened there… I guess if the main problem was that it was unexpected and I guess we are now used to seeing rape in yaoi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really do think a lot of the issue came about because of the lack of adequate labelling. Really, the promo image for Goblin Slayer looks more or less the same in terms of what you would expect to watch as That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and there was very little in terms of tags to tell viewers they were getting something else.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think most of us who have watched anime are used to things like that happening. I think the first time I was shocked was Re:Zero and that was almost the same. The art looked like an innocent fantasy and a loser guy going to a different world. Then it went to 100000 pretty quick.

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  2. Rape scenes always bother me, whether they are animated or live action. Not just the arrogance of the male perpetrator but the screams of the woman haunt me, as though I should feel guilty for not being there to do something to help here.

    I know that sounds silly but presumably the intent of the author (in most cases) is to guilt the audience and make them feel uncomfortable – especially us chaps – so they take rape seriously in the future.

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    1. That doesn’t sound silly. And that would be one of many fairly solid arguments I would put forward as to why such scenes should be included in some media (not saying everything should include such subject matter) because it does make people react and think about an issue that might otherwise become silenced once again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen a lot of fanservice in my day, and I didn’t think the scene was all that fanservicy. Sure, they could have chosen to leave the female adventurer’s clothed, but that wouldn’t really fit with the savage, animalistic depiction of goblins they were going for.

    The very nature of clothes coming off doesn’t inherently make something like that fan service. Corpse Party, for instance, was both violent and fan-servicy in that the suggestive camera angles and such were almost entirely unnecessary. Fan service is about intent, and I don’t think the intent of that scene was to slightly arouse or show favors to the audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, but I’ve read a number of posts that discuss the framing, positions and the like and I can kind of see where that is coming from. Again, I didn’t see the scene that way but it is another view of the scene.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I disagree with this: “Sure, they could have chosen to leave the female adventurer’s clothed, but that wouldn’t really fit with the savage, animalistic depiction of goblins they were going for.”

      If the goblins had slaughtered the girls the same as the boy, would they really have come across as less savage, and especially as less animalistic? Imagine they’d just take the livestock at fist, and once none are available they’d go for humans, too. And then adventures get turned into food, too. And it’s all just as gruesome the scene where they dismember the boy.

      And now imagine someone offering as a point of critique: “This isn’t savage enough. The girls weren’t raped.” Would you really consider this a valid criticism?

      The addition of rape sexualises the violence, and in contexts of war rape is often power play (male prisoners of war face various forms rape and sexual humiliation, too, if you’re going for realism). This is not what we’re seeing here: we have four adventurers; one’s a boy, and three are girls. The sexualisation of violence is not a necessity; especially if we’re talking cross-species rape. And especially if the other species is portrayed as animalistic.

      I have a theory about the goblins in this world because of what I think I haven’t seen in the first episode… If that’s true, the inclusion of rape is definitely a deliberate twist.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sexualising violence isn’t the same as fan-service. As you’ve pointed out, in the context of war sexualised violence is a real issue and its purpose isn’t to appeal to fans but rather to brutalise the victims.
        In the context of the goblins, they use human females to reproduce (not sure if that was clear in this first episode or not but it was in the source – not an excuse if the anime doesn’t include that fact and I don’t remember) so it makes sense the male character isn’t raped as that would serve no purpose for the goblins.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That feeling when you wish you hadn’t made a post? It often comes after disagreeing with a point in reply to a post that didn’t make it: I apologise to Derek for misreading his post.

          (I read the post, but couldn’t reply right away, then came back and… I’m not sure what happened. Maybe somewhere out there is a post I mixed up with this one. The reply to this post would involve a visual comparison – camera and storyboarding, sound-design – between the way the guy ended up, and the way the girl ended up. I think the treatment is unequal, but how strong an effect it is I can’t tell, and I’m not really up to the job of visual analysis unless it’s blindingly obvious, which – to me – it isn’t.)

          As to the reproduction method: I had my theory on account of not remembering seeing any female goblins, but seeing children, but I wasn’t sure if I’d missed goblin girls in the melee. I think it hasn’t been explicitly revealed (though I could have missed it). I assumed that, should my theory be correct, that one of the girls survived so that she could make a come back to reveal pregnancy. It definitely makes sense, but I don’t think that trait is in the DnD manual (or very common in goblin lore). I think that particular goblin trait actually re-inforces my argument rather than weakening it. Somehow, rape is important enough to bake it into the very concept of the show, but not important enough to have who I assume is the point-of-view character (Priestess) experience it and deal with it (rather than just witness it and deal with fear).

          But none of this is about Derek’s post to which I replied. I do think I have a point, just not one relevant to where I put it. I really want to end this post on an apology. So once again: sorry for misreading.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. No problem. While I don’t necessarily agree, you put forward your opinion and reasons and I fully encourage that in the comments.
            And with this topic already having been discussed to death this week, there’s no real surprise that it is hard to remember which post or comment made which argument.

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        2. Yep, there it is.

          Even so, I’ll still contend that–while an interesting plot point–that notion is potentially more detrimental to rape discourse than just the portrayal of rape itself.

          That’s probably a post for another time, though, should the situation arise (sounds like it will).

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      2. “If the goblins had slaughtered the girls the same as the boy, would they really have come across as less savage, and especially as less animalistic?”

        In my opinion, yes. An ordeal like the one depicted in GS is made more brutal/savage/whatever you want to call it with the inclusion of the rape. Yeah, being clubbed or hacked to death is rough as well, but there’s something even more hopeless and unsettling about being immobilized (legs broken, poisoned, etc) and being violently taken advantage of. That’s also a type of pain/punishment that doesn’t end in a couple of minutes like being beat to death. Thinking back to the Viking Age of history or some time comparable, if your settlement was sacked/raided/overtaken, being killed in the fight might honestly be less torturous than the raping/pillaging that happens afterward.

        By animalistic, I mean more so being physical and instinctive, like in the way a male dog tries hump every female pooch at the park unless the owner has it neutered.

        “This isn’t savage enough…. Would you really consider this a valid criticism?”

        No. Somebody might, but they’d likely be in the extreme minority. I feel like the only time content is legitimately criticized for not being brutal enough, is when portraying and “sugar-coating” events that we know for a fact were historically cruel. For example, depicting American slavery without acknowledgement of the abuse that slaves endured.

        I’m wondering if your theory is the same one I’ve seen pop up a couple times now. If it is, then it might actually be worse because it would be providing “reasonable” justification for the rape.

        We’d go from, “these goblins are monsters” to sympathizing with them–saying something like “Welllll I can see why they’d rape people. They’re just trying to keep their species alive; maybe they’re not so bad.”

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        1. Yep, that’s the theory, and Karandi already confirmed it in her comment.

          Thanks for the explanations on the other point; not quite sure what to think yet/have to let this sink in.

          And once again: sorry for misreading you and putting thoughts (if not words) in your mouth.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. S’all good. We’re here to read and discuss things; engaging in discussion is half the fun of it!

            So long as it’s civil, that is.

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  4. Good points, all. I appreciate your taking the time to comment on my own review of this show, and I continue to believe that what many see as the failings of this series are actually its primary strengths: an unflinching admission that combat is not just violent, but often ruthlessly brutal. People whose only exposure to combat has been its sanitized and sterile portrayal on screen should have a whispered warning of its true horror, if only to curb their enthusiasm for watching. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really enjoyed your review of the episode and its one I plan to include in my In Case You Missed it round up on Monday (of course Goblin Slayer kind of took over the link list this week because pretty much everyone is talking about it).

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  5. I agree a lot with this post. It is 100% ok to find that scene disturbing, and it’s also 100% ok to be totally fine with that scene. Expecting the entertainment we consume to line up 100% with our personal politics is frankly a fools errand. Even more so when we decide to attack that entertainment because it doesn’t line up with our personal beliefs.

    Debate it, argue it, disagree with it, but don’t condemn or shame something because it didn’t turn out the way you expected. I went through this moment during my experience with Shinmai Maou no Testament, and I am thankful I was able to check myself before I got too angry. I didn’t like that show for my own reasons, but I’ll never dismiss other people liking that show. Different strokes for different folks, and I think people need to relearn that.

    Either way, good post Karandi, keep em coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It is 100% ok to find that scene disturbing, and it’s also 100% ok to be totally fine with that scene. Expecting the entertainment we consume to line up 100% with our personal politics is frankly a fools errand.” – That kind of sums up the whole thing beautifully.

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  6. It’s been a while, Karandi. I’m glad to see some things don’t change and that this is still somewhere I can turn to for quality posts 🙂

    I managed to miss out on a lot of this Goblin Slayer controversy by virtue of being MIA for months. It sounds like the actual debate got a little ridiculous, but the spirit of what you’re saying here really resounded with me. I agree wholeheartedly that some healthy perspective is needed before you go attacking anime, authors, or fans because of your own feelings.

    I wrote about something very similar tonight in response to a different article that caught my eye. Didn’t expect it would be such a relevant topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I will be glad when this is not the only topic of discussion. No offense to you here, I think you wrote something valuable , I just mean in general. As for what people found fanservice-y for Goblin Slayer, it was the particular way the clothing censored nipples and such. It was a bit /too/ convenient and, as we know, sometimes that can make a scene a bit more racy. I didn’t think it was sexy, I agree with what you were saying about a monstrous act done by monsters, but that incidental clothing made the scene a lot less serious for me. It’s part of why I say the way the material was cut and presented made, what should definitely have been horrible and in no way funny (and to be clear, rape is NOT funny), a humorous disaster for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I know I am looking forward to writing an actual review with Arthifis later on this episode. I had a lot of fun watching. But given everything I have read this week about this one aspect of the show I really felt the need to write something about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure. I can understand that. I’m just burning out on all the discussion on it. It’s literally everywhere all the time. So I guess feel good that you are the last Goblin Slayer anything I’m engaging with I guess XD

        Seriously though, you wrote a good article here 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had a week to think about this one and watch the reactions unfold. It hasn’t always been pretty. I didn’t want to insult anyone with this post but I just felt that I wanted to address the issue of calls for censorship on the show because I really think that is inappropriate.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think it is about comparing it. Saying it isn’t as violent as something else or not as graphic as something doesn’t make the person who has been triggered feel any better after the fact. A warning on this seems warranted and may proactively avoid the issue of people going in without realising and in turn that could lead to less knee jerk reactions where people bash the show because they got a nasty surprise. Or worse, the situation where people start insulting those who do enjoy the show just as it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get what you’re saying. But at the same time I feel like these knee jerk reactions aren’t getting us anywhere as a culture. Instead it just gives the other side more ammunition to go after companies like Crunchyroll who are only looking out for everyone’s interest. The point I was saying is violence in Goblin Slayer is alot less excessive than what you would normally see in shows like Berserk and Corpse Party. I was speaking in general. The warning should say “This show contains slaying of fictional beings. Please send your support to the Goblin Rescue Reservoir. We need to stop violence on fantasy monsters. They have feelings too.” That was joke obviously cause I have to make fun of the situation somewhat. But I get your point.

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        1. And I agree that the violence isn’t as bad as some shows, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand that it could trigger some viewers. And I also agree knee jerk reactions get us nowhere as a community. Some mutual respect of different points of view would go a long way and this week has been a good reminder of that.

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