"Real Time" host Bill Maher closed his show on Friday night by railing against trigger warnings, which he argued have plagued modern society.
Maher began by citing a study that show not only trigger warnings "don't work" but they "make it worse" for the traumatized who the warnings are meant for, the comedian comparing it to a "seat belt made of broken glass."
"A trigger warning is a kind of ‘Close your eyes, here comes an ouchy’ that like so many bad ideas in recent years got started on college campuses," Maher said. "Students started demanding them so they could get ready in case something a book, or a piece of art, or a history lesson reminded them that life included bad things and not just good and sometimes people were mean. You can't have that just sprung on ya!"
He then mocked universities for compiling lists of words and phrases that should be banned or retired including "you guys," "white paper," "peanut gallery," "insane" and "virgin."
"Virgin? We can't say virgin? As opposed to what, person experiencing not getting laid?" Maher quipped. "You would think that one would take the cake for their oversensitivity, but the students at Brandeis said ‘Hold my baby bottle.’ They made a list of expressions they don't want to hear it because they remind them of violence., terms like ‘killing it,’ ‘beating a dead horse’ and yes, even ‘trigger warning.’ I guess they don't teach irony in college anymore."
The HBO star complained how trigger warnings are "everywhere" between social media and in entertainment, mocking how they were added to films like "Dumbo" and "Gone With the Wind." He pointed to one staged performance in Minneapolis where theater patrons were warned for "haze," telling his audience "in case you've been groped by a thick fog." A theater in Brooklyn warned patrons to expect "moments of darkness and violence" for a production of the classic musical "Oklahoma."
"My senior class in high school put on ‘Oklahoma’ and I thought it was corny and provincial then. I cannot imagine the fragility of someone who needs to be warned about it. How did these people get to the airport, let alone through childhood?" Maher wondered.
"London's Globe Theatre felt the need to tell the audience that its production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ include suicide. Okay, but ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has been in your Netflix queue since 1596. You've had 400 years to prepare. And also, it just kind of gave away the ending. I don't understand how a society that so in love with spoiler alerts can also be into trigger warnings. 'Tell me what's going to happen, but don't tell me!'"
Maher continued, "And again, all the research shows that these trigger warnings don't even work! What they do is reinforce the idea that trauma is central to your identity, and that you should let it define you instead of dealing with, it dispatching it and moving beyond it. People wonder why the younger generations have so much anxiety, it's this stuff! Lots of stuff makes us uncomfortable. You know what makes me uncomfortable? This bulls---. People who start every conversation with ‘as a person who,’ ‘as a survivor of,’ I'm triggered every time I see a trigger warning because I'm reminded of how weak my country has become. It's like wearing a mask on your mind."
The liberal host insisted "we're already passed the point of parody," citing a student group in Australia who had a trigger warning for eye contact, something he exclaimed "Even the Taliban are okay with eyes!"