Why We Just Can’t Help Spoiling TV Shows
Last year, Netflix enlisted the services of cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken to get to the bottom of our obsession with spoilers. On a new landing page titled, “Living with Spoilers: Some Secrets are Too Good to Keep,” readers can learn about the five classes of spoilers and take a test to figure out which category describes them best.
There’s the “Clueless Spoiler,” who “[lives] in their own innocent world where once they’ve seen it, everyone else must have, too,” and “despite their best intentions, small talk with this spoiler might come at the expense of your favorite show.” There’s the “Coded Spoiler,” or the “master of saying it without saying it.” There’s the “Shameless Spoiler,” who simply doesn’t feel an obligation to abide by the unspoken rules of spoilage. The “Power Spoiler” makes use of their knowledge of plot points as a means to feed their own ego and get inside your head. Finally, there’s the “Impulsive Spoiler,” described as a “superfan” who is an “innocent victim of their own passion,” just simply unable to keep secrets to themselves.
But the real reason we spoil shows? Probably, it’s because we spend SO MUCH TIME watching them—they’re increasingly becoming an important part of our lives. McCracken looked at the rise of the type of binge-watching Netflix so famously facilitates. He found that 61 percent of Netflix subscribers binge-watch—which Netflix defined as watching anywhere between two to six episodes of a show in a single sitting (or more, if we’re being honest with ourselves), and that 76 percent view this new method of episodic consumption as a “welcome refuge from their busy lives.”
The site also takes on the age-old question, at what point is it OK to reveal a spoiler? When is it OK to speak freely about a movie or TV show?
While there’s no clear guide for when it’s fair to openly divulge plot points, Netflix has a poll on their site which allows users to vote whether they consider the plots of various movies in “the public domain of spoilers.” Based on the study, 89 percent of respondents consider the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters to be a-OK to discuss sans spoiler alert, making it clear that for more than 10 percent of individuals, not even a 30-year buffer is enough time for potential viewers to get caught up. At the same time, more than a quarter of respondents already consider Netflix’s own Orange is the New Black—released just this past June—to be fair game. So really, the rules of spoilers is that there are no rules.
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