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Author Topic: Ratings and Genre Debates Re: PC107: The Behold of the Eye  (Read 6844 times)
Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2010, 01:38:29 PM »

Torture is just a by-product of the human spirit.  To assign it solely to the bad guys is ignoring the harsh reality of the world.

I'm not sure I follow you.  Can you expand on that, please?
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #21 on: June 11, 2010, 01:42:15 PM »

In fact, I'd argue that Mr. Duncan's story does an excellent job at describing just how awful torture is, especially when we're the ones torturing ourselves.

Exactly!  Thank you for expressing what I couldn't find the words for!

I won't record a warning for every episode with something dark in it (because that would make the warning less useful, IMO. But I'll probably be overthinking episode ratings for a long time now.

I felt that this story rated an audio warning to a greater degree than "The Mermaid's Tea Party" did (although I admit I don't remember that story all that well, so I might disagree with myself if I listened to it again).

From the confluence of strong language, depictions of sex and drug use and the (can we all agree on this?) disturbing scenes in the behold, I think - as someone else pointed out as well - that this story was one that a parent would want a warning on before unwittingly sharing it with his or her young child, as I believe many listeners do.

I think the "What would a parent be disturbed by their child hearing?" metric may make it easier to decide when a warning is desirable.  Forgive me if I've caused you to second-guess yourself.

Also, I think your rating on this piece was pretty spot-on (though I might have included something about 'simulated sex acts' in the rating description, but whatever).  I just think the story merited an audio warning to go with the text one.


Cripes, will all you people please stop posting things while I'm taking too long to draft my own posts, please?  Wink
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« Reply #22 on: June 11, 2010, 01:51:04 PM »

I felt that this story rated an audio warning to a greater degree than "The Mermaid's Tea Party" did (although I admit I don't remember that story all that well, so I might disagree with myself if I listened to it again).

Well, it shouldn't be an either or situation, in my mind. For my part, I didn't want parents to think a story with mermaids and pirates in it = fun for the kids, because that story had some very dark things in it.

From the confluence of strong language, depictions of sex and drug use and the (can we all agree on this?) disturbing scenes in the behold, I think - as someone else pointed out as well - that this story was one that a parent would want a warning on before unwittingly sharing it with his or her young child, as I believe many listeners do.

I think the "What would a parent be disturbed by their child hearing?" metric may make it easier to decide when a warning is desirable.  Forgive me if I've caused you to second-guess yourself.

Also, I think your rating on this piece was pretty spot-on (though I might have included something about 'simulated sex acts' in the rating description, but whatever).  I just think the story merited an audio warning to go with the text one.


Fair enough, Wilson, and I appreciate your response.
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alllie
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« Reply #23 on: June 11, 2010, 02:19:48 PM »

Alllie, if you think that as a result of running this story, we the editors condone torture, I don't know what to tell you except that it simply isn't accurate.

I actually have a very good opinion of everyone at escape artists. I think you are all good guys. And if that isn't true I'd rather you didn't tell me. But I think you, along with everyone else in the country, is being desensitized to torture, literally taught it's okay. No surprise that torture shows up in more and more movies, and TV and literature.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2010, 03:33:57 PM »

I felt that this story rated an audio warning to a greater degree than "The Mermaid's Tea Party" did (although I admit I don't remember that story all that well, so I might disagree with myself if I listened to it again).

The Mermaid's Tea Party had a man sexually violating a corpse in front of a child in it, and within the story this was actual, not metaphorical, not something happening at a remove, in someone's mind (or Behold, if you prefer).  You really think Behold of the Eye was worse? 

I'm not trying to call you out, Wilson.  You say you don't remember Mermaid's Tea Party all that well.  It seems pretty obvious that my cultural laterality and outsider status is making the audiences' mores hard to understand and navigate.  It will be helpful to me, if we decide to give further ratings or warnings or whatever, to try to understand what are the things people find so objectionable.  Alllie has actually been pretty vague.  I still don't know for sure what scene was the one that wigged her out, and has her condemning me as inured to, and even in favor of, torture.

So far I've got: we don't warn often enough (wilson) nor specifically enough (eytanz) about what will bother people.  I've also gotten a lot of "but what about the kids?!" which I think is a BS complaint (and I think I've explained why), especially given in the theoretical abstract way it's been given here, as a what if.   This isn't a podcast for children.   

Like DKT, I think more frequent warnings lose their efficacy, and part of the reason we're non-specific is to avoid spoilers.  Shocking or violent aspects of the story are also usually climactic ones and plot turning ones.  We've been tagged often enough about spoilers in the intros.  OTOH, if we can help people better filter their content, that seems like a great  idea, and I'm for it.  On the other, other hand I'd really prefer if people just listened, less fearful of things they didn't want to hear, and made their choices by turning the podcast off instead of pre-emptively deciding they didn't like stuff based on necessarily superficial assessments of violence, language, and sex it might contain.  Still, I realize the dream of personal responsibility is a lot of ideological fluff, and I understand that people want to know they'll love it in advance and want the easy guide to stuff they wish to avoid.  I'm just not sure how we do that in a way that is meaningful to everyone, consistent, and doesn't create a crapload more work for us and the people who volunteer for us (i.e. the hosts).
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alllie
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« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2010, 03:48:19 PM »

Alllie has actually been pretty vague. 

This:

 
Quote
Most weekdays it rained corpses, faceless, gurgling blood from slit throats.  Flashjack would sit in the library, listening to the pounding on the roof, or stand to look out the floor-length windows and watch the bodies battering the jetty, falling out of the sky like ragdolls of flesh, slamming the wood and bouncing, slumping, rolling.  He'd watch them splash into the water, sink and bob back up to float there, face-down, blood spreading out like dark ink until the sea itself was red.  The troll under the jetty, who never showed himself these days, would be a dark shape in the water after the showers of death, grabbing the bodies and dragging them down into the depths; Flashjack had no idea what he was doing with them, wasn't sure he wanted to know.

The lake on the island was on fire.  The island on the lake was choked with poisonous thorns.  The castle on the island was in ruins.  At the top of the beanstalk which was now a tower of jagged deadwood, bleached to the colour of bone, the giant sat in his castle, eyes and lips sewn shut, and bound into his throne by chickenwire and fish-hooks that cut and pierced his flesh.  Flashjack had tried to free him, but every time he tried the wire grew back as fast as he could cut it.  Flashjack wept at the giant's moans which he knew, even though they were wordless, were begging Flashjack to kill him; he just couldn't do it.

The worst were those that Flashjack could kill, the torture victims who were crucified, nailed to stripped and splintered branches, bodies dangling in the air, all the way up and down the thorny tower of the dead beanstalk.  He recognised the faces he had seen through the window of Toby's eye, laughing in crowds, he knew that these were imagos of tormentors tormented, imagos of vengeance, and when he'd tried cutting them down they simply grabbed for him with madness and murder in their eyes; but he couldn't suffer their suffering, not in the Behold of the Eye, which was meant to be a place of beauty, and so he put them out of their misery with his knife as they appeared, most weekdays, one or two of them at a time, just after the rain of corpses.

...

Flashjack huddled in his prison of glass, watching the boy outside batter his fists against it.  He buried his face in his crossed forearms, but it didn't really help; he couldn't hear the screams, which comforted him a little when he curled up in a ball at night and tried to sleep, but even when he closed his eyes he could see this new generation of tormentors tormented, each arriving naked and afraid, to be broken, mutilated, maimed for days, weeks, months, and then their skin stripped off, sewn to moon-bone structures speared into their shoulders until, eventually, they rose from the carnage of themselves, spread wide their ragged leather wings and joined the ranks of the tormentors to set upon the next new arrival.

To me, that is horror.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 04:02:07 PM by alllie » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2010, 04:02:26 PM »

I felt that this story rated an audio warning to a greater degree than "The Mermaid's Tea Party" did (although I admit I don't remember that story all that well, so I might disagree with myself if I listened to it again).

The Mermaid's Tea Party had a man sexually violating a corpse in front of a child in it, and within the story this was actual, not metaphorical, not something happening at a remove, in someone's mind (or Behold, if you prefer).  You really think Behold of the Eye was worse? 

I still haven't listened to Behold of the Eye, so I can't comment about whether it is worth. But I would consider a scene of explicitly described  violence, real or imagined, to be worse than the rather obliquely described scene of a man sexually violating a corpse in front of child in "Mermaid's Tea Party".

Not, mind you, that I'm saying that that story didn't deserve a warning.

Quote
So far I've got: we don't warn often enough (wilson) nor specifically enough (eytanz) about what will bother people.

It's exactly that lack of specificity I've been complaining about, but the fact you are specific about some things but not others. If you say that a story has "swearing fairies" in it, and make no other specific mentions, I'm going to assume there isn't going to be any potentially disturbing content other than swearing. I would actually prefer a vague warning "this story is rated R for adult themes" over a specific, yet partial, warning. A vague warnings makes me expect the worse, and then I can be pleasantly surprised.

Quote
  I've also gotten a lot of "but what about the kids?!" which I think is a BS complaint (and I think I've explained why), especially given in the theoretical abstract way it's been given here, as a what if.   This isn't a podcast for children.   

There have been several posters over the years commenting that they listen to stories with their kids. But it's true that Escape Pod was the only one of the three podcasts that explicitly encouraged that. On the flip side, pseudopod is the only one of the three podcasts that explicitly discouraged that. I never got the impression that podcastle was not a podcast for kids, even though clearly not every story was for kids.

That said, I don't have kids, and while I do occasionally hang out with my friends and their kids, we do not listen to podcasts together. I'm not really concerned about "what about the kids?" - I'm concerned about the "what about Eytan?". I have a pretty wide tolerance for a lot of stuff that is disturbing to myself and others, but I do like to know what I'm getting into, especially when violence is concerned.

Quote
OTOH, if we can help people better filter their content, that seems like a great  idea, and I'm for it.  On the other, other hand I'd really prefer if people just listened, less fearful of things they didn't want to hear, and made their choices by turning the podcast off instead of pre-emptively deciding they didn't like stuff based on necessarily superficial assessments of violence, language, and sex it might contain. 

As I said above, for me it's not a question about what I want to avoid, it's a question about what mindset to listen to a story to. But, also as stated above, I would rather have no warning at all, or vague warnings, than misleading ones.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2010, 04:31:31 PM »

I still haven't listened to Behold of the Eye, so I can't comment about whether it is worth. But I would consider a scene of explicitly described  violence, real or imagined, to be worse than the rather obliquely described scene of a man sexually violating a corpse in front of child in "Mermaid's Tea Party".

Not, mind you, that I'm saying that that story didn't deserve a warning.


Even if the oblique scene is quite concrete and the explicitly violent scene is wildly hyperbolic?
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eytanz
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« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2010, 04:38:34 PM »

I still haven't listened to Behold of the Eye, so I can't comment about whether it is worth. But I would consider a scene of explicitly described  violence, real or imagined, to be worse than the rather obliquely described scene of a man sexually violating a corpse in front of child in "Mermaid's Tea Party".

Not, mind you, that I'm saying that that story didn't deserve a warning.


Even if the oblique scene is quite concrete and the explicitly violent scene is wildly hyperbolic?

I can't speak for anyone but me here, but yes - for me it's not the nature of the scene, it's the way it's described. It's all fiction, after all, it's not like any real child was exposed to their sailor friend raping a mermaid corpse. Stories that deal with real current events are different for me in this regard, but that's not relevant to any story recently posted by podcastle.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2010, 04:50:49 PM »

I still haven't listened to Behold of the Eye, so I can't comment about whether it is worth. But I would consider a scene of explicitly described  violence, real or imagined, to be worse than the rather obliquely described scene of a man sexually violating a corpse in front of child in "Mermaid's Tea Party".

Not, mind you, that I'm saying that that story didn't deserve a warning.


Even if the oblique scene is quite concrete and the explicitly violent scene is wildly hyperbolic?

I can't speak for anyone but me here, but yes - for me it's not the nature of the scene, it's the way it's described. It's all fiction, after all, it's not like any real child was exposed to their sailor friend raping a mermaid corpse. Stories that deal with real current events are different for me in this regard, but that's not relevant to any story recently posted by podcastle.

I think the general standard for ratings goes counter to that.  Frex, I think a television depiction of a child being slapped by a parent is considered worse than any number of decapitations in something like Tom & Jerry.  Clearly the former is less violent, but the implications of the violence go deeper than the latter, which is usually targeted at children and not considered all that serious.
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« Reply #30 on: June 11, 2010, 04:55:06 PM »


I think the general standard for ratings goes counter to that.  Frex, I think a television depiction of a child being slapped by a parent is considered worse than any number of decapitations in something like Tom & Jerry.  Clearly the former is less violent, but the implications of the violence go deeper than the latter, which is usually targeted at children and not considered all that serious.

True, but you were asking for my preferences, not for my conception of the general public. As you noted, ratings are extremely difficult, and the main reason for that is that everyone has their own issues with different types of content. Let me say that I am very appreciative of the fact that you are clearly putting a lot of thought and effort into the matter, and I know it's a tough aspect of the editing job.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #31 on: June 11, 2010, 06:33:13 PM »

Here are the new warnings standards for PodCastle:

  • Stories that are rated R will not have fanciful wording on the story postings, but will simply say whether the R is given for one (or more) of these categories: violence, sex, language, adult themes.  The levels of violence or sex or language or adult themes will not be quantified in any way.  This will begin with the next posted story of R rating.
  • Stories rated PG and G will continue to have fanciful tags because making those up is kind of fun, and the content warnings on those should never be dire, anyway, unless we've rated it wrong (and so far we don't think we have).  We stand by our policy recommendation that parents preview stories before they have their children listen to them, regardless of rating.
  • The audio file will now contain the rating level and, if the rating is R, the category or categories for the rating (sex, violence, etc.).  Inclusion of audio ratings will begin with PC 111.
  • In some cases, stories will receive additional audio warnings, as The Mermaid's Tea Party did.  This will be at the discretion of the editors, relatively rare, and should not be taken to imply that other stories are devoid of things that might disturb any given individual listener.

We hope this helps listeners avoid stories they'd prefer not to hear. 
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« Reply #32 on: June 11, 2010, 08:29:01 PM »

That sounds perfect. Thanks for this!
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #33 on: June 12, 2010, 12:30:48 AM »

The Mermaid's Tea Party had a man sexually violating a corpse in front of a child in it, and within the story this was actual, not metaphorical, not something happening at a remove, in someone's mind (or Behold, if you prefer).  You really think Behold of the Eye was worse?

I really had forgotten that story, though when you gave that description, it came back to me somewhat.  (I had, actually, been confusing it with a previous mermaid story from a few - or more? - weeks earlier, which also, as I recall, had some adult themes.)

So, I thought I'd refresh my memory.  I found the text online and looked for the passage you mentioned.  And in all honesty, I'm not entirely certain that, when I first listened to it, I figured out what the author was talking about.  Maybe I did, but I'm pretty sure that I took the "milky-white streaks across her scales ... not unlike the white sap of the poisonous flower" to be that sap, not what it turned out to be.  (Duh, clever me.  Not.)

I may even have wondered, at the end of the story, what the warning was all about.  Which just goes to show.  Smiley

So, yeah, I'd say that in terms of explicitness of description, "Behold" is more extreme.  (I'm avoiding a value judgement of worse or better, just more or less meriting a rating or warning.)  Having refreshed my memory, I think that, while the difference isn't nearly as great as I thought (mostly because I was remembering the wrong story), I think I still believe that I'd put a warning on "Behold of the Eye" sooner than "Mermaid's Tea Party".  But only a touch sooner.

So far I've got: we don't warn often enough (wilson)

I didn't intend to imply that, and if I did so imply (or state), I apologize.  I meant to refer only to "Behold of the Eye" itself and that I felt that it, specifically, merited a warning for descriptions of violence.

In general, I've been quite fine with the warnings that Anna and Dave (and Rachel before you) have had; this is the first story (that I recall at the moment, anyway) where I had a reaction of "Wow, this is pretty harsh!" without having some idea that I was going to have that reaction.  (And as I said, not being warned didn't bother me, but I believe I thought something along the lines of Some people are getting more than they bargained for.)

I've also gotten a lot of "but what about the kids?!" which I think is a BS complaint (and I think I've explained why), especially given in the theoretical abstract way it's been given here, as a what if.

Fair enough.  When I used that example, I was deliberately theoretical and abstract, because I meant it as a possibility of something to use as a guide to determine if you might want to have a warning.  In other words, if you consider a story from a parent-and-child point of view, (rather than that of, say, a seasoned Podcastle listener), what might a reasonable rating level be and is an audio warning merited?  I truly didn't intend it as a reason to have ratings or warnings and I apologize for not making that clear.  (Also, note the word 'possibility' above - it wasn't (and isn't) a request, so much as an idea of something a hypothetical editor of a hypothetical fantasy podcast might use. Smiley )
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« Reply #34 on: June 12, 2010, 12:31:22 AM »

I like the part where Bush and Cheney invented torture and I'm responsible for it because I listened to a story about a gay man coming to terms with himself via metaphor.  I think that's a really cogent, well-reasoned argument.  Just a couple of bullet points here:

- Chimps torture each other.  Torture is neither new nor unusually widespread.

- Putting torture into a story is not the same as approving of it.

- Listening to a story about torture in which it is used to BE torturous and appalling is not desensitizing.  Desensitizing is when the subject is treated casually and thus the actual ding an sich becomes less significant to the person exposed to the desensitizing stimulus.  It's the difference between watching porn for three hours a day until you lose all sense of eroticism in nudity versus watching an artful erotic scene with your spouse and becoming very turned on.  The torture in this story was patently not used casually; it was intended to seem devastating and to contrast with the wholesome childlike wonder of the earliest scenes.  This is a long bullet point because the distinction here is pretty crucial.  "Schindler's List," to borrow a cultural touchstone, did not desensitize people to violence, and decrying the violence in it would seem a bit silly and rather prudish.  "Inglorious Basterds" treated violence rather like the songs in a Broadway show, and decrying the violence in it would seem reasonable and probably still a bit prudish if I'm being honest with myself.  (I loathe that movie for a variety of reasons which I shan't get into here.)

---

On topic, I actually do like the new ratings standards; I ignore ratings as a matter of course, but I think these new ones are more accurate and help actually better serve the whole point and purpose of a ratings system in the first place than the old system, which was often wildly inaccurate and tended to bizarrely not mention things that logically ought to get a mention in a ratings system.  Whimsy is lovely, but if you have a ratings system, then it should probably be used to rate things so people can decide whether to consume a given story.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #35 on: June 12, 2010, 12:36:44 AM »

I would consider a scene of explicitly described  violence, real or imagined, to be worse than the rather obliquely described scene of a man sexually violating a corpse in front of child in "Mermaid's Tea Party".

Even if the oblique scene is quite concrete and the explicitly violent scene is wildly hyperbolic?

I agree with Eytanz here.

If I somehow couldn't avoid seeing (for instance) a prolonged, graphic rape scene in a movie, one that disturbed me down to the core, I wouldn't find it a less disturbing scene if it turned out to be (or even if I knew going in that it was) a daydream of the rapist, or a nightmare of the victim and never really happened.  I would still consider it something I would have wanted to be warned about.

Whereas a victim (or perpetrator) describing an actual (in the story) rape would cause me to have a reaction more to the person describing it (pity, rage, whatever) than to the act itself.  It might still be hard to take, but it would be, well, less graphic and explicit, and so merit a lesser warning.

I'm not saying everyone would (or should) react that way, just that I would, though I think, going by what he said, so would Eytanz.
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« Reply #36 on: June 12, 2010, 12:38:24 AM »

It seems pretty obvious that my cultural laterality and outsider status is making the audiences' mores hard to understand and navigate.

I'm not entirely certain what you're referring to here, and I'd be genuinely interested know more about this.  Are you an outsider to Podcastle?  To the U.S.?  To something I'm not thinking of?  If this is something that you've talked about elsewhere in the forum and don't want to rehash (which I would totally understand), I would be happy with a link to the discussion.  I sometimes go long periods without making my way here, and likely I miss a lot of good discussion.
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« Reply #37 on: June 12, 2010, 12:50:50 AM »

Last thing for today. (Thank God! I hear you cry. Smiley )

I agree with alllie in classifying that quoted passage as horror.  I suspect that if just that excerpt (perhaps with a touch of editing to make it stand alone) had been posted as a entry in the Pseudopod Flash Fiction contest, it would be doing quite well.

But I disagree that those four paragraphs make the whole piece a horror story.  There's too much else going on for that to be true.
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« Reply #38 on: June 12, 2010, 12:53:25 AM »

The Mermaid's Tea Party had a man sexually violating a corpse in front of a child in it, and within the story this was actual, not metaphorical, not something happening at a remove, in someone's mind (or Behold, if you prefer).  You really think Behold of the Eye was worse?

I really had forgotten that story, though when you gave that description, it came back to me somewhat.  (I had, actually, been confusing it with a previous mermaid story from a few - or more? - weeks earlier, which also, as I recall, had some adult themes.)

So, I thought I'd refresh my memory.  I found the text online and looked for the passage you mentioned.  And in all honesty, I'm not entirely certain that, when I first listened to it, I figured out what the author was talking about.  Maybe I did, but I'm pretty sure that I took the "milky-white streaks across her scales ... not unlike the white sap of the poisonous flower" to be that sap, not what it turned out to be.  (Duh, clever me.  Not.)

I may even have wondered, at the end of the story, what the warning was all about.  Which just goes to show.  Smiley

So, yeah, I'd say that in terms of explicitness of description, "Behold" is more extreme.  (I'm avoiding a value judgement of worse or better, just more or less meriting a rating or warning.)  Having refreshed my memory, I think that, while the difference isn't nearly as great as I thought (mostly because I was remembering the wrong story), I think I still believe that I'd put a warning on "Behold of the Eye" sooner than "Mermaid's Tea Party".  But only a touch sooner.

I guess it's a taste thing? I found that scene in "Mermaid's Tea Party" incredibly disturbing. I still find it incredibly disturbing. And, as subtle as it was, it was pretty explicit, which is why we slapped the warning there.

When I read Behold, the scene in question felt horrible, yes. But for me, in a cartoonish, Tim Burton, Nightmare Before Christmas kind of way. Like Anna said earlier, different triggers. Obviously, people reacted to it on a more visceral level than I did, and we're taking steps to correct that in the future.

In general, I'm glad to hear people seem to like the new rating system. I hope it's useful and allows people to a) have a better idea of what the week's story is going to be in tone, and b) help decide whether or not you want to listen.  


(Is the other Mermaid story you're thinking about "Foam on the Water"?)
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« Reply #39 on: June 12, 2010, 07:14:12 AM »

I'm not entirely certain what you're referring to here, and I'd be genuinely interested know more about this.  Are you an outsider to Podcastle?  To the U.S.?  To something I'm not thinking of?  If this is something that you've talked about elsewhere in the forum and don't want to rehash (which I would totally understand), I would be happy with a link to the discussion.  I sometimes go long periods without making my way here, and likely I miss a lot of good discussion.

I'm not culturally American, though my passport says that's my nationality.  I'm not even culturally a First Worlder.  Though I've now lived in the U.S. for more years than I've lived outside of it, I still fail to understand things on a fairly regular basis.
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