Just kidding, but really, this post is about spoilers and in it I might spoil a years old movie or book or two (particularly Harry Potter, so, don’t come crying to me if you don’t know how the series ends already). (Though I promise I’m not spoiling LOST in this post.)
You may have seen that phrase on the internet, or even have heard it in conversation. You may have yelled it after someone ruined the ending to something for you. I admit, I’ve been one to use it. I’ve had a few things spoiled for me. Like “The Sixth Sense.” Before I ever got a chance to see it, some friend blurted, “Ohmygod, can you beLIEVE that Bruce Willis was freaking DEAD the WHOLE TIME?” Me, somewhat crestfallen, “Um, what? I haven’t seen ‘The Sixth Sense Yet.'” And then there was the time I was reading one of the Harry Potter books while working as a camp counselor and one of my campers was all, “Can you beLIEVE Dumbledore DIES??” Me, “WHAT!!! You’re lucky I can’t strangle a camper because otherwise you’d be dead right now!!”
And to some extent, it makes sense not to spoil books, as they’re something one reads on one’s own, or movies, as long as they’re still in the theatre. But what about television?
Used to be that television was something the nation watched as one (to the extent that time zones make this possible). The day after the finales of “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” everyone was talking about them, and everyone had already seen them. There was no “Spoiler Alert!” for things that had aired on television, because everyone was expected to have watched it as it aired, and no one really had much sympathy for the poor schmuck who had a meeting and had to tape it using his VCR.
These days, things have changed. We all have Tivos and DVR’s, and we’d rather not watch the commercials, so we watch later, when we can fast forward, and pause, and rewind. Some of us, myself included, are annoying luddites who proudly go without cable and have to catch things online or via iTunes, or wait until things come out on DVD so we can get them from Netflix. Television is no longer something the nation experiences at once, and it’s changed the way we have conversations about television.
I got to thinking about this last night, after watching LOST while live-tweeting it with various friends. Without cable, I tune into LOST using some good old fashioned rabbit ears, because I’m too excited to wait 24 hours to watch it via abc.com. Usually Jon and I watch together, and I’m not on the laptop live-tweeting, but he was out playing basketball, so I figured the next best thing would be to watch it with my internet friends. TV is just that much more enjoyable when there’s someone to riff with, someone to agree with you when you talk about how creepy crazy Claire’s ratty wig is, or observe that people on desert islands should perhaps write more than one word on pieces of paper if they don’t want to run out without replacements.
Later, another friend on Twitter asked if maybe I couldn’t refrain from tweeting about LOST, because he’s a few seasons behind. And I sympathize! I really do! I’ve been annoyed when people spoiled the ending to Project Runway when I had to wait 24 hours to be able to watch it online, since you can’t get Bravo/Lifetime via rabbit ears. I’ve hidden people on Facebook because I’d rather not see Mad Men spoilers while I wait for the next season to come out on DVD. Though Mad Men star January Jones would tell me that’s ridiculous–she actually laughed at the idea of being “spoiled” after a show has already aired.
And you know? I think I’ve come around to Jones’ point of view. The freaking out (and I include myself as a freaker-outer) over television spoilers is robbing us of a cultural conversation and shared experience. Part of the power of television is bringing people together to experience the same thing at the same time. And, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite because I’m a Facebooking, Tweeting, Blogging, Commenting, Internet Addict, we need to resist the ever compartmentalizing of life into solo experiences in front of screens.
Many websites have grappled with how to handle spoilers in their content, but the general consensus seems to be, don’t read a story about a show if you’ll be upset about spoilers. TV writers shouldn’t have to spell out at the beginning of each piece what may and may not be spoiled within. But what about social media like Facebook and Twitter? I’m of the mind that spoilers shouldn’t be on Facebook, because you just log in and WHAM! you could be assaulted with a spoiler in someone’s status message right on the home page. That said, it’s easy enough to “hide” friends with a proclivity for spoiling things, so there’s always that option. But Twitter? The appeal of Twitter is its immediacy. Watching the Oscars while on Twitter was hilarious– like getting play by play commentary and dress snarking with my funniest internet pals. Another friend and I used to live-tweet while watching So You Think You Can Dance, and it was almost as if we were on couches next to each other. Personally, when I know I can’t watch LOST, I avoid Twitter for a few hours on Tuesday night to avoid spoilers, much the same way my husband used to avoid the internet when he was DVR-ing sporting events to watch the next day.
What say you? What should be the rules for “spoilers” on the internet?