TV is an enormous part of my mental healthcare. My friends often remark how I'm always the first to have watched something, and there's rarely a show someone can recommend to me that I haven't already binged. It is a healthy escapism for me that helps me re-balance myself. I find it much more managable for me personally than reading, I find with reading my imagination has too much leeway and can take me places where I don't want to go. I also find that for me personally, when I am triggered when I am reading it bothers me so much more than when I am triggered by TV. So I wish I could tell you that I'm reading books all the time, like the East Coast liberal elitist intellectual that lives in my soul, but it simply isn't my truth.
TV has been such a good friend to me, but sometimes it does betray me. There are too many times to count where I've wished I could just google content warnings for shows for sexual violence, childhood sexual abuse and sexual trauma, and so this living list is my attempt to offer my warnings from what I've learned over time. If you have content warnings for shows not listed here that you'd like added to the list please let me know through my contact page! If you'd like more content like this, I review TV shows every week in my Friday newsletter, which you can sign up for on my homepage!
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil on YouTube
Content warning: So many content warnings, including rape, childhood sexual abuse, substance abuse, eating disorder, suicide
I watched the first two episodes of the shockingly honest Demi Lovato docu-series that was just launched on YouTube. I had heard she really "goes there" and wow, that phrase does not do the first two episodes justice. It feels unbelievably candid, as Demi describes in detail the events leading up to her overdose that nearly killed her in 2018 and sits besides her friends and family members as they discuss Demi's heroin use and struggle with addiction. It left me with so many thoughts, including how revelatory it felt to see a woman like her find power in her transparency, and how unusual it is for a celebrity like her to want to share with people when her story cannot be wrapped in a little bow; her struggle seems very much still ongoing. There are tons of trigger warnings and I found watching it equally riveting and emotionally taxing.
SPOILERS: There is drug use, an overdose that nearly killed her and a lot of discussion of addiction, and to this day Demi is still not sober. Demi discloses that on the night she OD'd her drug dealer sexually assaulted her. There is discussion of suicidal ideation and a lot of discussion of her ongoing struggle with disordered eating, over-exercising, and body dysmorphia. While it wasn't in these first two episodes, I know in the last two episodes Demi discloses that she was sexually assaulted at age 15 and went on to have consensual sex with that person in another incident. Similarly, she had a consensual sexual encounter with her drug dealer after the experience of him sexually assaulting her and leaving her for dead after she OD'd. It is heavy and complex.
Ginny & Georgia on Netflix
Content warning: Childhood sexual abuse, body dysmorphia, financial abuse
I wanted to like this show because it is being promo'd as a Gilmore Girls style show. I've watched six episodes and found it entertaining although waaaaaaaaaaay darker than Gilmore Girls, as you'll see by the content warning below. It becomes clear over the arch of several episodes that the mother's storyline is that she was sexually abused by her stepfather and that trauma is informing all aspects of her life and parenting. If it was a minor storyline, or contained to one or two episodes I think I would feel more comfortable continuing to watch it. But it's clear that it is a part of each episode, and instead of the show making her survivorship seem empowering, to me it comes off more like simply her whole life is kind of tragic now and she is incapable of making good decisions.
SPOILERS: In addition to the mother's storyline of sexual abuse, we see in an early episode that her daughter, Ginny, was being groped by her stepfather, and the mother in response poisons her husband to protect her daughter. We also see a friend of the daughter's dealing with body dysmorphia, including a scene where we see the aftermath of her having a purging bout (we don't see the act, but we have the clues that it happened) and we also see her duct-taping her thighs under her pants. We also see the mother financially abuse her young son by taking out credit cards under his name that she cannot pay off.
Firefly Lane on Netflix
Content warning: Rape
I have very little to say about this new Netflix show because it took me 3 different times to get through the first episode, then, once I finally thought I was into it, in the beginning of the second episode there is a rape scene. So I can't tell you if the show is good, since now I'm officially out since I really couldn't handle seeing the sexual violence last night. If I had watched it at another time, when my mental health was in a different space, maybe I would've kept watching. But alas, that was not the situation.
SPOILER: In the beginning of the second episode you see one of the characters flash back to being a teenager and out with a boy who rapes her in the woods. You actually see it happening, and the scene lasts 60-90 seconds. I can't tell you more about how it's handled because I turned it off then.
Flack on Amazon Prime
Content warning: An older man who watches child pornography, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, substance abuse, relapsing in recovery from addiction
I watched this six-episode Amazon Prime original series because I like Anna Paquin and it was being promoted as sort of a Scandal -style female anti-hero drama about a PR company that tries to spin the horrible things their clients do. In this show we just see terrible people being terrible and paying people to effectively make it better for them. It's not a pleasant thing to watch, and it isn't entertaining to be reminded that wealthy powerful people who are sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and abusive can just pay other people to fix their problems for them. And since this show doesn't have anything insightful or meaningful to say about it (really not good acting and writing, oof), we are left with them just providing us entertainment, and again, this isn't entertaining to me.
Plus, there are loads of triggers! One episode centers the rehabilitation of a transphobic comedian, and a whole episode is dedicated to guest star Bradley Whitford who, we learn, over the course of the episode is a famous person who watches child pornography and the PR company has to decide what to do with him when the police find out. I skipped the last half of that episode because like, I don't fucking need that in my life. What else? Lots of drug abuse, suicide, people relapsing with addiction recovery.
The Magicians on Netflix
Content warning: Rape at the end of Season 5
This is the first time I'm writing about a show I haven't watched. Well, I watched a couple episodes a year or two ago, but don't remember anything. But, I've gotten like 4 emails this week from you all saying the 5th season has some really crazy really triggering sexual violence content to it. Here's what one reader had to say about it, "It’s a fantasy show and it has gore and sex scenes. For a whole season it’s just magic and young attractive people having pretty vanilla sex scenes. Then the effing season finally. Totally random out of nowhere violent bloody rape scene. Horrible. No scene build up to something like that. Just an abrupt memory flash back. At the END of the episode is a sexual abuse survivor hotline number. If that had been at the START of the episode, I would have at least been prepared."
Tiny Pretty Things on Netflix
Content warning: Rape, eating disorders, lots of statutory rape
This show is like Center Stage meets Black Swan meets sexual violence. Content warning (spoilers!): disordered eating and bulimia, so many instances of statutory rape that I genuinely cannot mention them all, but includes several teachers with students. A student is raped by a man at her place of work. We learn the headmaster is giving men access to the students in exchange for donations to the school. We see another student groped by a man. Just like, a lot of sexual violence.
Dare Me on Netflix
Content warning: Rape, grooming, depictions of PTSD
This show is more of a psychological mindfuck than Pretty Tiny Things and I would say is an even darker show. It clearly takes itself very seriously and the writing and acting I would say are equally awful in both shows. Content warning (spoilers!): We watch a lot of grooming by the head coach to one of the cheerleaders, not overtly for sexual reasons, but to have an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship with her. We see that one of the other cheerleaders is raped by a marine who recruits in her school and we watch her in great traumatic pain in the days following. We see other instances of the marines praying on the high school girls.
Virgin River on Netflix
Content warning: Domestic violence, very corny portayal of PTSD with a war vet
Calling anyone who needs a soap opera in their life! Because this show is ALL soap. I was resistant to Virgin River because it's the exact same premise as Hart of Dixie, minus the humor, including the small town reluctant doctor being played by the same actor!But then I eased into the soap opera where the show fails to persuade us that there are actually any stakes, and where it's all very boring but in a way that feels calming in the middle of the pandemic. Boring, in a good way. Also the show is long on beautiful vistas of Northern California and I do actually feel like I'm there when watching it.
Important content warnings but they are also all spoilers: There is a secondary character, Paige, who we learn survived domestic violence and her husband is on the hunt for her. He does find her and she ends up killing him in self defense. You don't see him assault her, but you see bruises and that she's traumatized. It is not a very prominent storyline but it does go on throughout the episodes. Jack is a war vet and has PTSD and so we get to see the extremely cliche portrayal of PTSD and there's nothing interesting about it, I promise, you've seen this exact storyline and portrayal like a million times before.
Bridgerton on Netflix
Content warning: A woman sexually assaults her husband
This show has everything I tell you I love: period drama, romance, a bit of wit and, most importantly, very low stakes. It is Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey meets Grey's Anatomy. There is, however, a very "controversial" plot point, which is actually sexual assault, it does contain spoilers so read more below:
SPOILER: A central tenant of the plot is that Daphne doesn't know how sex works and her love interest has sworn not to have children. He practices the withdraw method, and she thinks that is the only way to have sex, and that he biologically cannot have kids, rather than he is choosing to not have kids. When she discovers the truth, Daphne makes them have sex to "completion", forcing Simon to engage in a sexual act he absolutely is not consenting to.
To make it worse, we know that Simon's desire to not have children stems from the terrible psychological abuse he endured as a kid. So, Simon is traumatized, and Daphne is forcing him into a sex act he isn't consenting to. Yet, the show doesn't really treat it as sexual assault, it treats it more as a grey area. It is easy to see if the gender identities were reversed that, collectively, we would all think this is sexual assault. Apparently in the book it is even more egregious, and if you're curious about learning more I recommend this excellent article that summarizes the controversy.
The Flight Attendant on HBO Max
Content warning: Alcoholism, children of alcoholics, questions around memory and trauma
The show follows a flight attendant who somehow ends up next to a murdered man who she had a fling with one night in Bangkok. What follows is a little bit cat and mouse chase, as she desperately tries to find out who kills him. It's funny, it's campy and, most of all, it has Rosie Perez in a fantastic role (calling it now: def going to be Emmy nominated) that gives so much. The show is very much interested in questions of reality and how it can be perceived differently, especially as it relates to trauma, which I'll get into below in the content warnings.
SPOILER: I imagine if someone were the child of someone with alcoholism that this show would be filled with triggers for them. The main character has alcoholism, and her father was an abusive alcoholic (we see lots of flashbacks) where he taught her how to drink as a child and bullied her gay brother. What's particularly interesting is they tackle trauma and memory (a favorite subject of ours!) and we see that Cassie, the main character, remembers her father fondly and completely repressed how terrible their childhood was, whereas her brother remembers how awful and painful it was, and the source of tension between these adult siblings is that they have completely different understandings of the reality of their childhood. There is no sexual violence depicted or mentioned in the show.
The Queen's Gambit on Netlfix
Content warning: Suicide, addiction, child abuse within an orphanage via getting children addicted to drugs.
SPOILER: The first episode of the series is rough stuff, way heavier, and to me, harder to watch than I found the other episodes. The main character's mother dies, and we learn over the course of a few episodes that it was from suicide and that it was in an intentional car crash of which her daughter was in the car too (we see it happen). The orphanage she goes to gets her hooked on tranquilizers, and I found that part to be the most upsetting thing in the entire series. Watching an institution get children hooked on addictive drugs because they don't want to deal with their real emotions over their trauma is hard to watch.The series deals with addiction a lot as well. It also is constantly trying to have us ask about the relationship between mental illness and genius and I'm not sure it ultimately has a point of view on it, but it comes up in every episode.
There is no sexual violence in the show.
90 Day Fiance
Content warning: Fetishizing and harmful tropes of orientalism of young Asian women by creepy older white men. Fetishizing of Black men by white women. A lot of creepy people. Emotionally abusive relationships all over the place.
Each season of 90 Day Fiance follows 5 couples who are going through the K-1 aka Fiance Visa process where a fiance is on a US visa to marry an American, and they must get married within 90 days or they have to leave the country. It is endlessly fascinating because we get to reflect on how fucked up our immigration system is but also how fucked up some of the power dynamics in these couples can be. We also get the occasional couple with a situation so wild that it is really entertaining, like a woman who was being catfished, found out, and wanted to marry him anyway.
But, oh my god, there is so much darkness in this show. You see a lot of really terrible Americans who are so entitled and also extremely ignorant about other people's cultures, including the culture of the person they're marrying. You see a lot of older white men fetishizing young Asian women and the whole thing is extremely cringy and makes me feel complicit in watching. You see a lot of Christian people waiting until marriage to have sex where it's pretty clear they'd be making different life decisions if they were banging. In addition to the couples who are genuinely in love, you see people specifically seek out marrying an immigrant because they will have more power and control in the relationship. Yikes yikes yikes.
What started as fascination and entertainment pretty quickly became a part of a depression hole for me. I had to do an intervention on myself and ask Charlie to help me as an accountability buddy that I stop watching. If I had been watching one or two episodes a day I probably would've been okay. But I was spending the whole night in this darkness and that was unhealthy for my mental health.
Deaf U on Netflix
Content warning: Mention of surviving childhood molestation. Mention of growing up with domestic violence and developing PTSD. Someone tries to get another person pregnant without their permission (stealthing).
I loved Netflix's latest reality series Deaf U following students at Gallaudet and I watched all 8 episodes in one sitting, and if there were 10 more I'd just keep going. The show gives me Laguna Beach vibes in terms of being a high-production show about young people hooking up and gossiping about each other, put into the context of college students in a small Deaf community in DC where everyone knows everyone's business. I do wish that they would've included women of color in the cast. It is notable in a city that is half Black that there are no Black women included in the show.
There are a few important content warnings that are also spoilers. At the very end of episode 6 and into episode 7 Cheyenna discloses to a friend that, as a child, she was molested by a friend of the family when she was a child and her family tried to push it under the rug. The friend did all the right things and was very supportive and loving. It then is followed by a scene of them cathartically smashing things to release the anger. The friend who supports her also discloses in an earlier episode (I think episode 4) that she grew up in a house where her father was abusive to her mother and that she has ptsd. It was really touching to see these two friends supporting each other like that. The scene only lasted a handful of minutes and the trauma isn't brought up again. There is also an incident that happens before filming began that they refer to throughout the show where a guy tried to get a woman pregnant without her consent (stealthing) and she had an abortion.
Emily in Paris
Content warning: No content warnings. This show is alllllll fluff.
What to say about this new show from the creater of Sex and the City and Younger?! Is it good? No. Is it clever? No. Does it make any sense at all? Absolutely not. Did I watch it in one sitting? Yes. Would I watch 30 more episodes today if it was available? Yes. Are you tired of reading rhetorical questions? God, I have to imagine so.This show is the equivalent of eating mediocre vanilla ice cream and thinking about how there's no reason this ice cream shouldn't be more delicious, and yet, somehow you've eaten the whole container of it.
The 10-episode Netflix original follows a young woman who works in social media and is sent to work in Paris although she doesn't speak French or seem to have any particularly helpful skills. We get to see her in bold outfits and watch every many in Paris try to get in her pants. Is it fine? Sure, it's fine. It makes you feel like you're traveling to Paris, and isn't that reason alone to watch a show these days? There are zero content warnings because this show isn't about anything. It's all fluff.
Teenage Bounty Hunters on Neflix
Content warning: No sexual violence, but there are other forms of violence. All the violence is light in tone in that the show is a comedy.
The two things that struck me about Netflix's Teenage Bounty Hunters were that 1. It is amazingly sex-positive and 2. it's funny as hell. The show follows twin sisters who attend a small super conservative Christian school in South Carolina and become bounty hunters. The jokes and pacing are great and the whole thing is extremely clever and offers commentary on a southern conservative Christian lifestyle in a refreshing way. Despite being about bounty hunting, there's not a ton of violence in the show. There is however, bounty hunting, and we are watching people profit off of the prison industrial complex without a lot of reflection or commentary on that.
There is no mention or depiction of sexual violence. SPOILER: There is a scene in one of the last episodes that shows one of the girls being kidnapped and there being a very creepy man involved and you see her get locked in a bathroom. The whole thing doesn't last very long, nor does it take itself very seriously, and she is fine.
Love Life on HBO Max
Content warning: No depiction of sexual violence. You see a relationship with someone who is emotionally manipulative. You see a character struggle with addiction. There is a narcissistic parent.
This is the rom-comiest rom-commy TV show that ever dared to rom-com. It isn't groundbreaking, new, or inventive, and it's super heteronormative, it's just a TV show that gives me all the rom-com energy that I want to live in all of the time. Anna Kendrick stars in this show that follows her character's love life over the course of 10 years and the romance in her life, including in her friendships. This show isn't going to win any critical acclaim, but it serves a very specific purpose to give me a rom-com to live in for 10 episodes which really is a balm for me.
There is no mention or depiction of sexual violence. SPOILER alert: You do see Anna's character get in a relationship with a man who is very emotionally manipulative and gaslights her, she does, in time, get out of it. We also see her friend struggle with addiction, who, in time, gets in recovery. We also see Anna's character deal with her narcissistic mother (I know this is a big one for a lot of us) and there is some healing and resolution from it in time.
The Duchess on Netflix
Content warning: Parent/child role reversal dynamics between mother and child daughter
I watched The Duchess, a Netflix original show about a single mother navigating sex, dating and parenting in one sitting. It is created by and stars comedian Katherine Ryan and when it's funny, it's very very funny. There were definite moments I laughed aloud to Franklin. The best part of this show is that she has these fantastical outfits and her clothing is reason enough to watch. The story definitely has some anti-hero vibes, Katherine is deeply flawed and very self-involved. There are absolutely cringe moments, so this show is for you if you're into cringey humor.This show is hella raunchy so if that's not your vibe this isn't the show for you.
It can be difficult to watch Katherine have an inappropriate relationship with her young daughter (6- years-old) without proper boundaries. They still sleep in the same bed together and there's a lot of parent/child role reversals happening. No sexual violence, but I think there was a joke or two about it.
Umbrella Academy on Netflix
Content warning: No sexual violence, but yes to other violence and a lot of parents being terrible and manipulative
Based on graphic novels, the show has fantasy, a lot of Avengers energy, and a very healthy dose of camp. It's not typically the kind of show I'd go for but I was happy to mix it up. The first season is slower and darker, and in the second season they really lean into the campiness of the whole thing and I found it a lot more enjoyable to watch. If you like the Avengers I feel like this one is a no-brainer for you. Also it has several main characters who are queer, including the iconic Elliot Page, which is what is so often lacking in these types of shows.
There is no sexual violence in the show. There is a lot of other kinds of violence, most of which is pretty over-the-top and not intimate. Throughout all of season 1 we are watching siblings struggle with their manipulative and mentally abusive parent and so you definitely are like watching them as adults deal with the psychological toll of their really fucked up childhoods. In season 1, we see Elliot Page's character both as a child and adult be trapped in a cell by their family and watching them scream to try to get out was really intense and upsetting, especially when seeing it happen to them as a child. In the second season, we see police brutality and anti-Blackness, someone trapped in a 1960's mental institution, and we see a character struggle to get sober and then relapse.
Cursed on Netflix
Content warning: lots of gory violence but no sexual violence
Cursed on Netflix is a re-interpretation of the King Arthur and sword in the stone sha-bang, but this version of the story centers a woman and has more racial diversity than we usually see on these types of shows (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones). What is noteworthy about this show is all the ways it isn't like Game of Thrones, namely that it at no point relies on sexual violence as a plot device. We do not have to watch a woman be sexually violated as a part of her story arc to give her a "reason" for why she is powerful, she just is powerful. If you're into watching some magic while not being totally sure what's going on, this show is for you!
While there's no sexual violence in this show, there is a ton of violence though, very gory and over-the-top and mostly not harming people we are emotionally invested in. There is a lot of women being accused of being witches and being burned at the stake, but we don't actually watch them burn at the stake, thankfully. There is one scene where we see a woman being choked but she ends up okay. Not only is there no sexual violence, there aren't even undertones where you feel like sexual violence is possible all the time. It's refreshing.
Desperados movie on Netlfix
Content warning: Endless jokes about pedophila
This new Netflix rom-com looked right up my alley as it reunited Nasim Pedrad with Lamorne Morris aka Ally and Winston Bishop from New Girl. This is not a great movie. It was predictable, which I don't mind for my rom-coms but the pacing was all off and there wasn't really an emotional center. The best part of the movie was how sexy Winston Bishop was in it, like wow. But there is a running joke about the lead character being a pedophile and it goes through like half of the movie, it just never stops. It is an ongoing joke that a mother of a young boy thinks Nasim's character is a pedophile and being inappropriate with him, and I think they think they can pull this off because of the gendered roles and they wouldn't try if if the adult were a man and the child a girl. It isn't funnny and it is exhausting. I for one, don't find pedophila very funny, especially when we are supposed to find the hysterics of the mother protecting her child as funny and over-the-top. Ugh, I don't need this from my most beloved of movie genres, the rom-com.
Normal People on Hulu
Content warning: Domestic violence (brother harming his sister), suicide (not depicted), trauma around consent expressed through BDSM
I cruised through the mini-series Normal People on Hulu in like a day and a half while laying on the floor of my bedroom to try to help regulate my nervous system. It didn't not help. The show is based on a novel by the same name and follows Marianne and Connell through a multi-year love story (there are many time jumps). I thought this show was so good and compelling because the chemistry between the two of them is bananas and the acting is wild, considering there's often not very much dialogue being exchanged. Also, the sex scenes are HOT and clearly written and directed by women. They've been outspoken about using an intimacy coordinator on set to make sure that every sexy moment has been discussed and planned to make the actors feel as safe as possible, which is very cool consent-in-action. It does have some serious content warnings! Spoilers: We see Marianne's brother verbally abuse her and physically assault her, including him breaking her nose. Marianne is wading through a lot of trauma and when she is living abroad she experiments with BDSM in a way that seems to be coming from a really harmful place for her instead of from pleasure and it's difficult to watch. Lastly, Connell's high school friend commits suicide, we don't see it happen but we watch Connell grieve and fall into a deep depression.
I May Destroy You on HBO Max
Content warning: sexual violence, sexual trauma
I haven't yet watched this new show from Michaela Coel (the genius behind Chewing Gum), but have heard others, including survivors discussing it and so I wanted to just highlight for anyone considering watching that the show deals a lot with questions of sexual violence, consent and healing from trauma. I found this Slate article I May Destroy You Is About More Than Consent a helpful read. What I've heard from survivors and read from critics is the show is super fucking good and doesn't try to sensationalize sexual violence. I think when I'm in a healthier headspace that I will watch it knowing how much I've loved her previous work, and especially because there is such a lack of black survivors stories being centered in mainstream media.
Never Have I Ever on Netflix Season 1 and 2
Content warning Season 1: There is no mention of sexual violence or abuse. It does depict and discuss trauma, specifically the trauma of Devi's father dying.
Content warning Season 2: No mention of sexual violence. A minor portrayal of an emotionally abusive relationship that ends swiftly and is not too heavy in tone.
Season 1: Holy smokes am I grateful for Netflix releasing this latest Mindy Kaling show during quarantine. In the 10 episodes we follow highschooler Devi as she deals with the trauma of her father dying the year before while dealing with the usual highschool shit of overachieving, sex and messy friendships. This show is funny and witty and also has immense heart. I was delighted watching every moment of it and only wish there were 3 more seasons of it I could watch right now. A great quarantine show. The show depicts and discuss trauma, specifically the trauma of Devi's father dying. As someone who was first diagnosed with PTSD after her chosen father died, it did hit hard for me and I was in my feelings, but for me it was in a deep recognition way versus a traumatic response.
Season 2: There is no sexual violence, nor mention of sexual violence in the show. A secondary character does get into a new relationship with a former Disney star and w begin to see the relationship becoming emotionally abusive, with the boyfriend trying to isolate her from her friends and victimize himself to emotionally manipulate her. We do not see it escalate, and she gets out of the short relationship seemingly unscathed.
Unorthodox on Netflix
Content warning: There isn't any sexual violence, but there are a couple very uncomfortable scenes where you see our main characters have very painful sex because they are so ill-informed about sex education. It is consensual. If you're worried about the scenes you can just skip through them and you won't miss out on anything!
This is a 4-part show based on the real life story of a hasidic woman who leaves her community in Williamsburg to go to Berlin and find herself. I thought it was going to be a stone-cold-bummer, but luckily I was wrong and I adored it. I watched it all on Sunday and thought the storytelling was beautiful and interesting and deeply compelling. The acting is so great, every character is treated with care and it was just so damn good.
Too Hot Too Handle on Netflix
Content warning: No mention of sexual violence, all sexual behavior was consensual. You definitely hear people of all genders objectifying others and having some complicated relationships with sex, but nothing traumatic.
The premise of the show is simple: all these very horny sex-obsessed humans arrive at a retreat in Mexico where they think they're filming a paradise island situation only to learn that the show is actually about them not having sex or kissing, and if they do have any physical intimacy with someone then money is deducted from pooled reward. Can you feel your brain melting into liquid and slowly pouring out of your ears yet?
Was this show good? Was it bad? God, I don't know. It wasn't as fun as Love is Blind, namely because I don't think there's anyone to really like or root for on the show. I did find the show pretty harmless and definitely entertaining enough for these very particular times we are in. I tried not to think too much as I was watching it, and do recommend not considering the completely fucked up sexual politics the show is uplifting, namely that in order to be a "real" and meaningful person you need to abstain from sex, or there's a right amount of sex you should be having. You definitely hear people of all genders objectifying others and having some complicated relationships with sex, but nothing traumatic. This show does not grapple with anything remotely heavy or meaningful, which for me, is a win.
Content warning: Everything. Intimate partner violence, violent misogyny, murder, stalking, suicide, emotional abuse, animal cruelty and on and on
This is the most popular show on Netflix, and it's a crime ridden docu-series on the domestic tiger and private zoo nightmare in the United States. It is a series full of the worst humans being awful. I watched it, I'm not sure I'm glad I did. It is shocking and gripping which helps to distract, but it also is so depressing because these people are so awful. I'm not saying don't watch it, all I'm saying is I definitely want you to know what you're getting into, especially during this triggering time in the world.
But I have to offer every content warning under the sun, including: intimate partner violence, murder, violent misogyny, manipulative and psychologically abusive relationships of an older man praying on vulnerable young men and women in a sexualized way. We more or less watch someone commit suicide, there's stalking, there is so much hatred of women generally, WHAT ELSE, oh TONS of cruelty towards animals. There's more, but that's all that's coming to me right now.
Love is Blind on Netflix
Content warning: Gaslighting and emotional manipulation
We did it! Charlie and I watched Love is Blind in a two-day reality tv fever dream. For those of you unfamilar, it's a reality TV show where a bunch of people meet one another in pods where they can't actually see each other, and after being sensory deprived in these voluntarily prisons they decide whether they want to get married never having seen one another. What's funny is that apparently Netflix had expected maybe one couple to result from the "experiment" but in fact, 6 couples left the pods engaged. I was hooked, I couldn't look away. Some of these people seem like good people. Most of them do not. This show is bananas. It is both dumb and brilliant. I feel conflicted. Certainly if you were unsure about the marriage industrial complex, this show really seals the deal of how fucked up we heterosexual people are about the institution of marriage. Charlie noted that he was delightfully surprised by how many hetero cis men were openly crying, and I agree that that was refreshing. And for anyone who has watched the show, I stan Cameron, and am into him and Lauren as a couple, and I think Jessica and Barnett both definitely voted for Trump.
There is no mention of sexual violence or depiction of sexual violence. Every conversation around sex is very mindful of consent. What this show does have is people gaslighting one another and a fair amount of emotional manipulation happening in some of the relationships. Amber does describe a previous experience with a former boyfriend who coerced her into an abortion which is hella abusive.
CHEER on Netflix
Content warning: Disclosure of childhood sexual abuse, we later learn one of the stars has been accused of sexually abusing children.
God this show is so good, and it doesn't matter if you care at all about cheerleading, the way that Friday Night Lights didn't require you to care about football. We get the backstories of these white girls and gay black boys and the hardships they've endured that drive them to this insane sport and these students are so special and the storytelling is excellent. You will not believe the number of injuries we watch happen, and I thought football was bad when it comes to concussions, it looks like it has nothing on elite cheerleading. One girl casually noted that she just had her fifth concussion. One of the students endures a someone releasing nudes of her from when she was 16 onto the internet. In episode 5 La'Darius discloses that he experienced childhood sexual abuse and was harmed by an older boy. We also learned in the months after the show about allegations made against one of the stars, Jerry, that he has sexually abused young boys.
Spinning Out on Netflix
Content warning: Every content warning under the sun!
Spinning Out is a melodrama about two sisters and their fight to be world champion iceskaters. This show has every content warning I can think of, including that there is a constant threat of childhood sexual abuse that is ultimately confirmed by the end of the season, there is a very abusive parent, there are many graphic depicts of self-harm, and we watch a mother and daughter both intensely struggle with having bipolar. This show is drama 100% of the time without giving me any of the heart. I don't actually feel emotionally invested and connected to any of these characters, so it just feels intense without any real pay offs. It feels like the writers room was just throwing every single thing they could think of at these characters.
Everything's Going to Be Okay on Hulu
Content warning: Nuanced conversations around sexual consent, neurodivergence and ableism
For anyone who loved the show Please Like Me, we now have another show created by Josh Thomas, the adorable, clever Australian. The show is about Josh's character moving from Australia to LA to take care of his two half sisters after the death of their father. It has Josh's signature wit, met with dark humor and a well of heart and compassion. There is something about this show that feels way less realistic than Please Like Me, but I find myself laughing and my heart full with each episode. In the first episode we do deal with a parent dying from cancer, and as someone who has had a parent die from cancer I didn't feel like it was exploitive or overly dramatic.
In the 6th episode one of the daughters who has autism is drunk and has sex and her friends and family are questioning whether she was able to consent both because of the alcohol has well as because she has autism. The questions around ableism and sexual consent continue for the next couple episodes, and it actually feels like it is done in a way that is thoughtful and complex (if anyone who has autism has watched it and wants to share what they think I'd love to hear!). What is revealed is really how ill-equipped neurotypical people are to talking about sex and consent. I appreciated that it permits space to show the complexity of the issues.
The Politician on Netflix
Content warning: A lot of suicide
Netflix's new original series The Politician stars Ben Platt who is a national treasure. The show is a cross between a Wes Anderson film and the uber campy Election starring Reese Witherspoon. Let's cut to the chase: Find the clips of Ben Platt singing in the show, and you're great. You can listen to him singing here and here. This show has a couple mentions of sexual violence but HOLY HELL IS THERE AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF SUICIDE AND SUICIDE-RELATED CONTENT. So much. If, for any reason you aren't down for watching a show where suicide is a part of nearly every episode.
Soundtrack on Netflix
Content warning: Depicts state-sponsored violence, grief and just the whole show is depressing
THIS SHOW IS A STONE-COLD BUMMER. Poor Charlie would hear me for hours whine from our bedroom "God I fucking hate this show", knowing that it didn't matter how many times he suggested I simply stop watching it that I wouldn't stop watching until the season was complete. He gets me.
This show is the worst kind of melodrama, the one that tries to say something profound out about the world we live in, trying to touch upon the foster system, the criminal justice system, and racial justice. When really, the show is a soap operas, and good soap operas know not to attempt such complex and meaningful themes. It was a disaster. This show depressed me. It made me wish I didn't have the thing inside me that made me feel a need to complete a show that I hated watching.There was no mention of sexual violence, but there is a lot of other kinds of violence including state-sponsored. There's also a lot of story lines about grief. If you have to watch it, like I get it, that happens, and I am sorry.
Modern Love on Amazon
Content warning: Episdoe 6 has creepy depictions of a young woman with an old man with implications of a father figure, Episode 3 has a depiction of bipolar depression
I am a goober. I love rom-coms. I love cheesy soundtracks. I have seen every single episode of all 16 seasons of Grey's Anatomy and all I want is more.But this fucking show. As the youth say: I can't. Episode 6 is literally called, "So, he looked like Dad." Three minutes in I stopped it and (moment of growth!) I didn't actually watch the rest of the episode. Separately, My mom and sister watched it and assured me it was fucking creepy and I made the right decision. The episode is the personification of one of my least favorite tropes about CSA survivors, "She has 'daddy issues'".
The other content warning I'd offer is for Anne Hathaway's episode 3 "Take me as I am, whoever I am" about having bipolar disorder. You see the character at the highest of the highs and lowest of lows, but as someone who doesn't have bipolar disorder but does have C-PTSD I really appreciated the episode (If you have bipolar disorder and want to share with me what you thought I'd love to hear!) This show is emotionally manipulative at best. At the last episode, I knew they wanted me to cry and they were trying to make me cry and damnit they made me cry and I was mad about it because it was so transparent and yet I couldn't resist the swelling music and the montages. I hate this show, and if there were 5 more episodes I'd watch them right now.
Outlander on Netflix
Content warning: So much sexual violence. Like, the most.
Early this week, I polled you all on my instagram stories. I asked whether you thought Outlander was a show with too much sexual violence for me. It's a show that I know so many women have loved and is famous for having a badass woman lead and super hot sex scenes. Here's what you had to say:
Unanimous. Everyone in complete agreement that watching this show would be a terrible idea for me. And I watched it anyway. Why? I don't know, i thought I could just fast forward through all the sexual violence and enjoy everything else. I love a period drama with a leading lady and I needed escapism TV badly.
What happened? THIS SHOW HAS MORE SEXUAL VIOLENCE THAN GAME OF THRONES MY GOD. I'd just press the skip ahead button over and over and over again and the scene would STILL be going on. There's sexual violence against women, there's sexual violence against men, there's the threat of sexual violence constantly and good lord do they take their damn time with these scenes. Even in pressing fast forward I saw things I didn't want to see. Beyond the violence, I watched the characters deal with the lasting effects of the sexual trauma, which is in many ways worse.
Big Little Lies on HBO
Content warning: Sexual violence, domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from sexual violence
I'm going to be real upfront about this: Big Little Lies has more content around sexual violence than any other show I've watched. So, if you don't want to go down that road, I very much appreciate that. I've watched, and continued to love, Big Little Lies because its portrayal of sexual violence and trauma ring so real and true to me. The way Shailene Woodley's character showed what it was like to live with her PTSD last season and now in this season with Nicole Kidman's character, felt very true, complex and understated in a way I so appreciate. Unlike Game of Thornes, this show never feels like it tries to exploit or sensationalize sexual violence, instead it centers the emotions of the people enduring it.
In particular, I've appreciated how they keep showing Nicole Kidman's husband this season in flashback and nightmares and visions, because that is what trauma lives. Trauma lives in our minds and our bodies so far beyond the initial violence. We feel complicated things about our trauma, internalized shame and blame, questioning ourselves whether it was really "that bad", and understanding that love complicates our pain so much. I also appreciate how, in another show, we might think that the women would have been bonded by the end of last season and now they'd be a tight group. Instead, we see five women experience trauma completely differently from one another, and that at its core, trauma can be deeply isolating. It shows that one person's coping with trauma can be in direct conflict with another person's coping, and that is what family-based trauma looks like to me. So this isn't like, an endorsement. Don't watch it if your gut tells you it isn't for you right now. I just wanted to share how surprised I've been by the careful consideration the show has taken, and that's what keeps me watching.
Poldark on Amazon
Content warning: Season 3: Marital rape storyline throughout the season
Here's the theme of Poldark: Life is hard. The show a soapy period drama in Cornwall, England and shit just seems hard all the time. There are mines, life in the mines is HARD, life without modern medicine is HARD, love triangles are HARD. Life is hard, man. WHAT ELSE? There is a bombass female lead Demelza and I could watch her forever. There's great sexual chemistry between so many characters on the show. It takes place on some cliffs in the UK and you're like how do you guys not fall off the cliffs to your death like all the time?
As for sexual violence, in the first two seasons, the only thing to note is that in season 2 episode 8 Poldark pushes a woman on a bed after she says no his sexual advances. The show didn't intend for it to read as sexual assault, they meant it to be passionate and complicated, but if you watch it you'll be like umm that's not right. The storyline of sexual violence really comes in Season 3 with the character of Morwenna, where we watch for an entire season her being sexually assaulted by her husband, and then Season 4 she is traumatized and struggling to heal. The whole thing plays exclusively as a plot device and to show her love interest as a noble and wonderful man kind of "saving" her from her abusive husband. HARD PASS on the entire storyline.
This Way Up on Hulu
Content warning: Suicide survivor, alcoholism relapsing
I don't really know how I stumbled upon this show but I am so glad I did. It is short, sweet, funny and very smart. Written and staring Aisling Bea you really get the sense that this is the exact show she wanted to make and how awesome women-run narratives can be. Also, Sharon Horgan of Catastrophe also stars in the show and helped create it, so anyone into that show will love this.
The premise is that Aisling's character has a nervous breakdown and has been treated in an in-patient facility and when we meet her she's just leaving the treatment center and trying to re-integrate back into her life. I know it sounds like it'd be a bummer but it really isn't. It is thoughtful and complicated and I personally love to see a depiction of mental illness that includes a woman who is vibrant and funny and loving and also has to deal with mental illness. I laughed aloud repeatedly, and I will say this show is ultimately one that is simultaneously optimistic and honest. If you liked Please Like Me or Fleabag this show is a no-brainer for you! There is a great deal of conversation about mental illness, including that the main character before we meet her survived a suicidal episode. We never see it or hear a lot about it, just mention that it happened and that it was really traumatic for her family. The show also deals with alcoholism and depicts a character relapsing.
Veronica Mars on Hulu
Content Warning: Sexual trauma
I have been so late to the Veronica Mars party. How late? Well, it started in 2004. The show had a cult following and is very the OC meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any supernatural stuff. But now all the seasons are on Hulu, so this is what I'm doing with my life. Kristen Bell is badass, sarcastic, self-realized high school student who is a private investigator and takes no shit from anyone. Also, FROSTED TIPS! PUCA SHELLS! All that moody OC MUSIC!
I wanted to write about this because I think the show is totally bitchin, but it does have a lot of sexual violence content. In the first episode we learn Veronica had been roofied at a party and sexually assaulted (we don't see it happen). The entire season is centered around her trying to find out who raped her. We also have her casework sometimes deal with sexual violence survivors. In an episode I recently watched there was a teacher committing statutory rape. I never personally felt triggered, I think in part because the show centers Veronica's emotions and internal life, but definitely think everyone deserves a heads up on it.
Killing Eve on Hulu
Content warning: A ton of murder. Violence that has a sexual undertone.
This show is is really violent for me! I don't do thrillers, psychological dramas, or murder mystery things so whoa this is out of my wheelhouse. How did I come to watch the 8 episode season of a show about a bananas murderous woman and the woman obsessed with her? It's because of Sandra Oh and her glorious hair and incredible acting. Was this show hella creepy? Yes. Did it bother me? Surprisingly no. As Charlie pointed out, all the women are smarter than all the men all the time, so I clearly like that part. And it's created by Pheobe Waller Bridge (Fleabag) so everything toes the line of super dark, but then surprising moments of humor and irony and lightness.
Let's talk violence. There is a ton of violence in this show, mostly murder. A lot of murder. There sexual violence depicted in the show is that the killer more than once cuts off the genitals of a man, which you do not see. There is no sexual violence, but there is a sexual component to the cat and mouse game between Sandra Oh and her, and it's clear that there's a great deal of sexual tension and lust between them. I personally did not find anything triggering, but I could see how if you had been harmed by a sociopath this would be super triggering.
The Witcher on Netflix
Content warning: Mention of sexual violence, WAY less sexual violence than Game of Thrones
I am surprised I watched The Witcher. First of all, the trailer made it look scary and I don't fuck with scary, second of all, it is hella fantasy which, aside from Game of Thrones, I'm not super into. But Charlie and I gave this show a chance and it really surprised me. I had heard it being called the next Game of Thrones, but to me, it shows what Game of Thrones actually could've been if any women had been decision-makers on that show.
The Witcher's head writers and showrunners are women, and as a result, we do not see rape relied upon as a plot device or source of drama. We have many women characters who are self-possessed and complex. There is one story line in the first or second episode that does reference a woman surviving rape, and, separately, some gratuitous female nudity, but it feels like nearly nothing in comparison to GOT. It isn't that the show is feminist, it's more that it just doesn't make me feel like I have to leave my feminism outside while I watch it, and I personally did not identify any sexual violence triggers. What would've been super cool is if rape or misogyny of the subjugation of women didn't exist at all in these fantasy shows. It will never cease to amaze me that fantasy world creators can imagine dragons and demons but not a world beyond medieval gender relations. You know, because we have to stay true to history?
You on Netflix
Content warning: Stalking, gender-based violence, abuse
I only watched season 1 so this is only about season 1. This is a show about a guy who is a creepy murderous violent stalker, full of violence, abusive behavior, and terrible people doing terrible things. And I watched 10 episodes. Why? It's everything I hate in a show: it's a thriller, so violent, and has men being so creepy and awful to women. I kept shouting at Charlie, who, to his credit, did not watch the show with me and encouraged me to turn it off at every opportunity, "WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF?". Well, now I know what I'll be talking about in therapy this week. I chose not to watch the second season of the show, which was definitely the right decision for me.
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