I know what it means, it's used to tag morally reprehensible/sensitive topics but... why that specifically? Why a dove? Why eating? If we shouldn't eat a dead dove, should we eat a live one? Should we steer clear of doves completely? Was there someone who saw a dead dove and thought, Ah, that's a nice meal? Am I missing some story here? Where did this tag come from?


It's a scene from Arrested Development. Michael Bluth is opening the fridge and he finds a bag with those words written on it : "Dead dove do not eat". He opens it, is disgusted and says out loud: "I don't know what I expected.".

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Here's the scene:


Had a moment just the other day where I wish that tag was used. Within a couple seconds of reading the fic I was so disgusted I noped out. I still feel gross having read the little I did. shivers

A little bit more that hasn't been said.

There are some tropes that will sometimes come with hidden expectations. If you tag a fic with kidnapping and Stockholm syndrome, and there's a pairing listed, and an archive warning for rape, there is a decent chance someone will look at this and assume that there will be some sort of rape=love happily ever after subversion. They might expect a slow burn, where the victim crosses the line from Stockholm syndrome to true love, and switch sides for their captor.

Dead dove tells the readers to take everything at face value. There will be no subversions or sudden twists. This is a fic about dark and dirty things, and should not be gone into expecting a happily ever after.

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In addition to what others have said, there’s actually an article about its origins on Fanlore. It looks like it was proposed as a tag (as others have said, based on the Arrested Development meme to convey a sense of “I don’t know what I was expecting”/exactly what it says on the tin) by a tumblr user in 2015. The user, mostlyvalid, described its purpose as follows:

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.”

A good example would be someone buying canned carrots (fully labeled), fully expecting them to be canned green beans (with nothing indicating that they're beans), and then getting upset that they opened a can of carrots instead of green beans. That's why people use it/it's origin as a tag

That's dead dove. People clearly labeling a fic and then someone throwing a fit about it. It's a meta tag, so you need other tags like 'rape, extreme underage, triple fisting' there, because dead dove on it's own doesn't mean anything.

yes, its usually used to tag morally reprehensible/sensitive topics but what it technically really means is "you knew what you were getting into when you started reading."