Dead Dove: Do Not Eat

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Synonyms: Don't Like Don't Read
See also: Hydra Trash Party, idfic
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Dead Dove: Do Not Eat is a warning or tag used to indicate that a fanwork contains tropes or elements that may be deemed morally reprehensible without explicitly condemning the sensitive aspects.

The phrase comes from an Arrested Development meme, in which Michael Bluth opens a paper bag labelled "DEAD DOVE DO NOT EAT" and says, deadpan, "I don't know what I expected."[1] Evidently, he indeed found a dead dove in the bag.

mostlyvalid proposed the tag on April 14, 2015 and described its intended purpose:

The “Dead Dove: Do Not Eat” tag would essentially be a “what it says on the tin” metatag, indicating “you see the tropes and concepts tagged here? they are going to appear in this fic. exactly as said. there will not necessarily be any subversion, authorial commentary condemning problematic aspects, or meditation on potential harm. this fic contains dead dove. if you proceed, you should expect to encounter it.”[2]

Referencing "Dead Dove: Do Not Eat" in this manner was already happening in some form or another — although not necessarily in fandom circles — before mostlyvalid suggested it. A 2012 UrbanDictionary definition:

[by 374sqft June 21, 2012]

Dead Dove Moment
A reference to Arrested Development

When the title or description of a situation, video, location, or anything tells you exactly what to expect but still, you're surprised even though you definitely should have seen it coming.
Michael opens the refrigerator and sees a paper bag with "DEAD DOVE Do Not Eat" written on it. He opens the bag anyway and, there is, in fact, a dead dove inside and he says to himself, "I don't know what I expected."

Michael just had a Dead Dove Moment

#dead dove #arrested development #michael bluth #gob bluth #shoulda seen that coming[3]

Usage on the AO3

On the Archive of Our Own, the number of works tagged "Dead Dove: Do Not Eat" has grown substantially:

  • 274 works in September 2016
  • 878 works in March 2018
  • 1895 works in February 2019
  • 3017 works in August 2019
  • 8016 works in August 2020
  • 13411 works in March 2021
  • 21701 works in November 2021

The tag is used on works in a wide variety of fandoms, the most common including:

In terms of warnings, as of February 2019 Rape/Non-Con is at the top, while "Major Character Death" (229) and "No Archive Warnings Apply" (225) are about even. 1407 fics are marked as Explicit; 16 are rated General Audiences.

See Also


  1. ^ I Don't Know What I Expected at Know Your Meme. Gifset of the scene at thebluths on Tumblr.
  2. ^ A proposal, post by mostlyvalid on Tumblr, 14 April 2015. (Accessed 24 September 2016.)
  3. ^ Dead Dove Moment on UrbanDictionary.