Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On spoilers

I'm going to be right up front and say that I don't care about spoilers, so this post is probably going to be slanted, but I'm going to try to make it rational and actually argue my point.

A few days ago, I almost started a fight on Tumblr inadvertently. I was liveblogging, and I saw a post in the tag in all caps being all like "don't give me any spoilers, guys!" and I answered something along the lines of "why are you on Tumblr, this place is a minefield", and the answer back was "because I can be". And I almost went bonkers. Instead, I texted a friend and got that stab of net-crazy out safely and in private, but the feeling of unease about the whole situation lingered.

Here's the thing: Spoilers are all over the internet, but they cluster in places like Twitter and Tumblr, places where people liveblog as stuff is actually happening for the direct purpose of talking about it with other fans while it's going on, as if we're all in the same room, watching together. And this is a known fact: Tumblr and Twitter are dangerous places to go if you haven't yet seen the show that is currently airing, especially if you're trying not to know what happens before you see it.

So why would anyone even sign on if they legitimately didn't want to be spoiled? And then if they do, isn't it kind of immature and hey-look-at-me to then try to get the whole of your feed to NOT talk about something they are specifically there to talk about?

I mean, it's like if I woremy  nice clothes and walked through Jackson Pollock's studio, right in front of his canvas, and was all "I know this is your space and all, but could you not splatter paint all over me, even though that's what you do?" Or, slightly less specific, does anyone really walk under the catwalks where they're painting walls if they're totally sure they don't want to get paint on them accidentally while the painters are just doing what they came there to do? If you do, you run the risk of ruining your clothes; if you don't want that, you walk around it until the danger has passed.

You can sign on, there's no law or anything keeping you from doing so, but if you're avoiding something, why not hang out somewhere else until the threat has passed? The internet is a big place, and there are books and actual TV and work and stuff outside of it. A few hours while the babble dies down won't hurt anyone. And if you do sign on, and the majority of people are talking about that thing you're avoiding, you did that to yourself. It's unfair to expect a pre-existing conversation to grind to a halt because you're standing in the middle of it.

And, of course, this brings up the whole issue of spoilers as a whole. PBS Idea Channel has a whole episode about it, where they try to come to a consensus on how to handle spoilers and don't really do it. Because the idea of spoilers is wildly personal. I commented there, somewhere in the feed, that my brother is constantly complaining that too many secrets are given away by trailers these days, while I'm constantly feeling the exact opposite--that trailers tell less and less about what is actually going on*; they're just showing the jokes or the scares.

And, personally, being a little spoiled makes me want to see / read / experience something that I previously didn't know about, haven't seen or read, or haven't been through myself. Knowing that there's this neat narrative thing, or that these two characters are totally in love and haven't noticed yet, or that the plot deals with this neat idea--those aren't spoiling anything; they're making me want to see them actually happen, they're the opposite of spoiling. And as for actual events in the plot? Knowing that someone died or that someone else is a turncoat or whatever beforehand doesn't change anything, really, because actually seeing it happen is different than being told what happened, filtered through someone else's perceptions and with often total lack of context.

I know that there are people who hate to know anything at all ahead of time.

I also know that that's damn near impossible, it's frustrating and geek-rage inducing, and that it's the responsibility of the person who doesn't want to know to make sure they don't spoil themselves, not the internet or culture as a whole to shelter them. I mean, Seth Meyers waiting a year to talk about Game of Thrones on his show is a nice gesture, and it shows how sweet he is, but it's also excessive--a year is about a decade in fan-time. And things that have been around for ages, but that someone just hasn't seen yet? You can't spoil Jaws or Alien or Frankenstein or anything Austin, dudes. They're spoofed and commented on so often, there's nothing left but the actual experience of watching it all in order, for yourself, and that's on you; no one can change that or take that away from you, or do it for you.

I state clearly that I'm not spoiler-free, because to me, it's more important to talk about things and to process them that way, than it is to avoid giving something away to someone who hasn't seen it yet. Media is made to be talked about, and this is a blog, where I talk about things. I won't go out of my way to give away the ending to a movie I'm walking out of, while people are still standing in line to see it. I won't talk about something in a closed group if the people in the group haven't seen what I'm talking about. I make a point of asking whether people want to know or not when I'm in small conversations, and then respecting that.

But the internet is public. And these sites are specifically where people go to discuss things; the majority of people will be seeing something as it happens if it's something they want to see, and they're there to talk about it.

If someone doesn't want to know the details yet, there are thousands of other tags to be on, or sites to be on, or life-events to take care of. When they're ready, the discussion will still be there--unless they walk into the middle of it and shut it down, and why the heck would they do that?

Use common sense:

  • if you're avoiding spoilers, don't go where the spoilers live
  • if you're in a closed group, make sure everyone's on the same page before getting spoilery
  • if you're saying you don't want spoilers, and then you're always courting them, maybe you actually don't hate spoilers, maybe you love getting into conflicts
  • if you're going to go where the discussions are, be respectful and understand that other people almost definitely aren't going to shelter you when you can shelter yourself, and don't derail
And that's the last I'm going to say about spoilers as a topic.

*I mean, who knew that Brave was about a mother and daughter relationship, or that Frozen was about sisters subverting the Disney trope of true love? If I'd known that, I wouldn't have taken so long to see it!
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