Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Discussion Post: The Appeal of Spoilers

Spoilers divide opinions, there's no doubt about that. Some absolutely hate them and are ready to give the silent treatment and stink eye to anyone who spoils something for them. A couple of years ago I told a Smallville spoiler to my roommate of three years and I think that caused the only fight between us that we've ever had. It wasn't a big blowout or anything, but it was the only time I knew that she was really mad at me. It didn't last for long, since we had to make dinner together and she was hungry, but nevertheless, she made it clear to me that my spoiler wasn't appreciated.

On the opposite site are the people who do not avoid spoilers, but actually consciously go look for them. Maybe these are the people who read the last page of a book first? Or the people who read through episode descriptions from wikipedia to find out what happens in the upcoming episode of a television show.

And then there is the middle ground - the people who generally avoid spoilers, but once in a while engage in some research that might spoil something for them. I think I fall to this middle ground, especially when it comes to television shows. I admit that sometimes, while watching TV shows, I go to wikipedia and read episode descriptions - sometimes this is because I know something is going to happen and I want to find out when it happens (usually the case with romantic pairings finally getting together) and sometimes it is to keep myself interested, especially after a long binge watching session.

When Breaking Bad finished, an app was created for those who wanted to avoid spoilers. I myself watched the final episode when it aired (I stayed up til like 3 am to watch the live stream online) just to avoid spoilers. I remember the next day at university, two groups formed to the hallway before my film lecture - those who had stayed up to watch the finale, and those who hadn't seen it yet. At home, my roommate was a couple of episodes behind me and I felt like for a couple of days, we didn't talk much because she was afraid I would spoil the finale for her, while I was desperate to talk about it with someone, but knew, after that Smallville incident, that spoiling the end of the show for her would be a very bad idea.

When it comes to books, I don't really go looking for spoilers. I think book spoilers don't even circulate as much as TV spoilers, expect maybe if that book is something of the caliber of Harry Potter. I am happy to say that I was never spoiled for Harry Potter, probably because I read those books right after they came out, but I have often though about the protocol of how to talk about Harry Potter with someone who is just now reading the books for the first time. I feel like Harry Potter is such a huge popular culture phenomenon that even people who have not read the books have probably seen the movies, or at least know most of the main events that once were considered huge spoilers (the deaths of certain characters, for example). The question is: when does something turn from possible spoilers to general knowledge? 

My inspiration for writing this discussion piece was my current process of watching Veronica Mars for the very first time. Ever since I started by film studies course in 2011, I have come across academic essays that use Veronica Mars as an example in their pieces about genre studies, narrative complexity, or representation of women (and much more). Before ever seeing the first episode, I pretty much knew what is going to happen in the pilot due to an essay by Jason Mittell that analysis it in detail. And because of my active use of Tumbrl and Twitter, I knew that Veronica and Logan will become a couple. After seeing the first few episodes, I had a very hard time believing that an awesome girl like Veronica could love a douche like Logan. But I knew it was happening, and I was DYING to know when. I was so tempted to go to wikipedia and just see when they become a couple, but I didn't do it! I am now in the beginning of season 2, and once again, I am so tempted to go online and see when they get back together. As I am writing this, I am constantly thinking about it in the back of my mind. But I am trying to resist the temptation. I know they are going to get together, I am sure of that, so maybe I should just enjoy the ride and let myself be surprised.

For me, the appeal of occasionally spoiling something is most closely related to the fact, that sometimes I just need a certain push to keep going. That happened with Buffy, which normally isn't my kind of show at all. I knew that Buffy would end up together with Spike at some point, and that fact was something that kept me going. But when I started to feel like it was never going to happen, I read spoilers and after becoming aware of how long I would have to still wait, I got excited about the show again - I knew it was coming, and I was able to enjoy the process of waiting for it. The same happened with The Office - I started watching the show about a week before the finale aired in US and ended up watching over 20 episodes office per day. I knew Jim and Pam would happen and I became desperate to know when. The fact that I was able to check out when exactly I would reach that moment gave me something to look forward to, something that kept me going when after several episodes of The Office I started thinking that maybe there's something else I should watch for a while.

I've never really been angry about spoilers... that's maybe because no one hasn't spoiled Grey's Anatomy for me yet, the only show I don't want to know anything about before I can watch the new episodes myself. Although, now that I think about it, I kind of wish someone would have warned me about the death of McSteamy, because I feel like I am still mourning that.... Sweet Mark Sloan, I miss you so.

What's your stand on spoilers? Do you love them or hate them? Has something been spoiled for you because of spoilers? 


  1. I am on Team Spoiler. I like knowing how the plot is going to progress because it relieves the narrative tension and lets me appreciate the way the story is told better

    1. That is a very good explanation for being on team spoiler - there are a few shows I've directly spoiled for myself because I have already had an idea of what is going to happen and I have just wanted to know how long I would have to wait for those things to happen.

  2. I am giggling - I don't mind book spoilers if I know I am not reading it anytime soon, sometimes they help with the reading experience.

    I am not a tv addict but like you I don't want to know about Grey's Anatomy, not at all, I don't want you to talk to me while its on either :-)

    Have you read Year of Yes, it was very good and I think Grey's Anatomy fans would appreciate it more. Christina Yang is Shonda's ride to die best friend, (in her mind) :-)

    1. I haven't read Year of Yes yet, but I am dying to pick it up at some point this year! :)

  3. I haven’t watched Veronica Mars, so I guess you’ve just spoiled it for me, Milka. Lol.

    I’m personally against spoilers. I never open spoilers when I read reviews on book I haven’t read yet. I don’t hate spoilers per se, I know many people prefer to read last page before start a book, but I think reviewers should respect those who don’t want to know about certain things and always tag their spoilers. Great discussion!

    1. Sorry Ksenia!! I kind of thought everyone would know about that pairing because book people seem to be obsessed with Veronica Mars (for a good reason!)

      There are things I never want to have spoiled, so I totally get what you mean. I try to write my reviews without spoilers, especially when it comes to books.


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