Hell or High Water, Trigger Warnings, and #sane-splaining


Before I properly grade Hell or High Water I want to address its inflammatory use of language. The movie attempts to grapple with issues of institutional racism and socioeconomic disparity, but in doing so director David Mackenzie has his actors use hurtful language like “half-breed” at the expense of people of color. I asked the theater for my money back.

After the movie, I went up to the theater owner and suggested he provide trigger warnings for his customers. He just told me I was disturbing the other patrons.

People who say the push for trigger warnings is a bad outcropping of political correctness are more often than not what I like to call sane-splaining. These are people who don’t understand what it’s like to live with afflictions of anxiety, paranoia, PTSD, etc. They are privileged with a sanity that many others are not. People like Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt—trauma-less members of the smug intellectual elite—are attempting to hijack dialogue around sensitive issues of trauma triggering that they themselves have no first hand experience with. Those of us who are suffering from unforeseen triggers should speak their minds about the issue and take back control of public dialogue surrounding it. I have begun to use #sane-splaining to earmark these discussions in social media and you should, too.

To give quick testament to my own struggle with triggers: I almost had to read Mrs. Dalloway in my English 101 class at Santa Barbara City College this past summer. Luckily my professor graciously provided several trigger warnings concerning suicide in the book, and I was offered the opportunity to read The Great Gatsby instead. Lucky for me I read the Wikipedia article on Gastby; I otherwise would have blindly run into scenes describing excessive social drinking in the book, another trigger of mine. The professor in the end let me do a report on Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile, which I argued in said report had similar metaphoric perspectives on inter-war social structures.

But I digress. I only went to see Hell or High Water for Jeff Bridges, who seriously lost his Lebowski-era charm. He mumbled his way through the whole movie like a greying Courtney Love. I can’t tell how much of my anxiety during the movie was due to that or the edible I ate. The anxiety got so bad I had to leave the movie for a bathroom toke. That made me miss the scene in which the older brother dies. Oh, SPOILER ALERT. The younger brother gets away, though, which seemed to reinforce ideas of wealth redistribution. As a Bernie supporter, that made me happy.

On the flip side, Westerns come from a legacy of white conservatism.


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