Spoil Spoil Toil and Trouble


“Rosebud” is Charles Foster Kane’s sled.

Oh, you haven’t seen Citizen Kane?  Did I just spoil that for you?  Well, sorry, but the movie’s only been around for 72 years.  I think we’ve passed the statute of limitations when it comes to making sure you go into it unscathed.

Maybe I’m just in total “get off my lawn” mode, but some of the lengths we’re being asked to go to in order to make sure every single person’s viewing experience is completely unsullied by even the slightest hint at what might happen are getting a little out of hand.  One message board I’m on is asking people to add extra characters to the beginning of any post regarding Game of Thrones so that spoilers don’t appear in the post preview.  That same board had a member flip out on me because I mentioned how a certain plot development that had already appeared in the show was handled differently in the book by characters who are now dead and couldn’t possibly do what I talked about.  Another board took it a step further:  even mentioning the books exist in a non-spoiler thread is now a ban-worthy offense, presumably because acknowledging you’ve read the books automatically adds a knowing wink to any speculation you might make about the TV show.

Really?  This is the lengths we’re going to now?  I tell you, some of these people would have never survived in the pre-VCR days, when you had to wait for summer reruns if you missed an episode of a TV show, and any movie you wanted to watch wasn’t a trip to the video store away.  And nobody felt the need to tiptoe around like they were holding state secrets if they knew Colonel Blake died on M*A*S*H or if Charlton Heston was actually on Earth the entire time.  Sure, you didn’t want to be a jerk and just blab it out, but nobody freaked out about spoilers — if the term even existed back then — showing up in TV Guide or the newspaper.

Now though, we’ve become accustomed to consuming entertainment on our own schedules.  People who don’t want to wait a week between episodes can now gorge themselves on the entire season thanks to their DVRs and Netflix.  They can wait to watch movies at home — legally or illegally — instead of trekking out to the theater.  And that’s all fine and good.  The problem comes when they expect everybody else to tailor the conversation to their viewing habits.  Again, if you know your friend is watching The Wire for the first time, you don’t want to call them up out of the blue and tell them who dies.  But that doesn’t mean some crime has been committed if they should stumble across that information on the web somewhere.  Twitter is under no obligation to respect your schedule.

The main problem I have with this spoiler-mania is that it places all the emphasis on the immediacy of the moment and not necessarily its craft or effectiveness.  We’re all about the “Oh my god!” reaction, having that instant of shared shock and revelation.  But that’s not a requirement.  I knew how last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones was going to end thirteen years ago when I read the book.  And yet I was a nervous wreck the entire episode waiting to see how they did it, and was just as wrapped up in the scene despite my prior knowledge.  Forewarning does not equate to lack of enjoyment.

But as our collective attention spans have dwindled, so to has our demand for entertainment become just as narrowed.  We’ve barely finished being wowed when we want the next big thing to give us the same feeling.  That’s the price we pay for 144-character social media and YouTube clips.  And those of us who manage to be in on something when it happens are somehow the bad guys if we talk about that something.  I don’t disagree that people should take some measure of care when dealing with spoilers, but it feels like the entire onus has shifted onto those in the know.  If you want to stay unspoiled, do your part and don’t go to places that might spoil you.  Don’t dictate the terms of conversation because you might possibly stumble your eyes over something you don’t want to read.  If you’ve got the discipline to wait a day, a week, a month to watch something, surely you can muster the fortitude to avoid reading about it until then.

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One thought on “Spoil Spoil Toil and Trouble

  1. Pingback: We Just Can’t Have Nice Things |

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