Dear Facebook Friends, Twittersphere, and Everyone With a Blog:
In light of the much-hyped, most recent seasons of hit TV shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men, I think it’s time we all agree on a code of conduct. I’m talking, of course, about #SPOILERALERTS – those cheeky addendums to a post or Tweet that reveal something crucial about the plot of a recent episode. Spoilers have the capacity (and sometimes, the intention) to destroy a show’s mystery for someone else. People without consistent access to a cable TV or WiFi are the #SPOILERALERTS‘ usual victims. These poor souls, who had planned to binge watch the new season of such and such a show as soon as it reached Netflix or Sidereel, often can’t avoid the slew of folks on their feed who are determined to Tweet an episodes’ events in real-time. To give you an idea: when a series has been spoiled for someone, that someone might already know that a) a beloved character dies a nasty death in the finale b) the secret affair comes to a chilling conclusion c) the baby really belongs to [INSERT SHOCKING CHARACTER HERE]. It’s really very cruel if you’re that someone who hasn’t finished watching the series.
So let’s agree on some parameters for a spoiler, since we all like to talk about the TV shows we like and no one wants to live in a police state. Let’s say that a spoiler must first admit something crucial. It’s not a spoiler to tell Facebook that Tyrion Lannister has a new hair-cut in season three of GOT. It is, however, a spoiler to post a status update like “RIP Tyrion Lannister :-(”
I’m talking to you, dear real-life friend on my Twitter feed.
Let’s also say that a spoiler must be time-sensitive. The other day my boyfriend accidentally “spoiled” the end of the movie Psycho for me with a misguided joke. When I bristled at this, he mentioned that I didn’t really have a right to be mad as Psycho came out in 1960, so I’d had plenty of time to see it by now. Fair. This brings up another important point: one can’t necessarily spoil films or shows that are well-documented parts of the American film and TV canon. Even if you haven’t seen the ends of Gilligan’s Island or Friends, my guess is you wouldn’t feel cheated about someone ruining these endings for you. That’s because there wasn’t ever much mystery behind those shows. That’s how integrated they are into our collective pop subconscious.
But shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones – here in our bonny, new Golden Age of Television – are contingent upon their mystery factor. We watch each week (or all at once, later) because we never know if Don will cheat, just as we don’t know which prospective king will die next. Is it really fair, people of the Internet, to assume that our own personal status updates should take priority over the dozens and dozens of our Facebook friends who HAVEN’T SEEN THE NEW EPISODE YET?! That impulse to tell a story that isn’t ours to tell strikes me as spiritually similar to how toddlers interact: “Oh, you have a cookie? I’m gonna take it. I’m gonna eat it in front of you. Now I’m gonna talk about how great it was.”