Since yesterday was a monumental episode for HBO's Game of Thrones I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss spoilers. In case you don't know what spoilers are they're facts about any medium that has a story or plot revealed to you before you can find out for yourself.
It seems to me lately that spoilers, the term not spoilers themselves, has entered mainstream pop culture over the last couple of years. I think this is akin to the pop culture phenomenon of both Harry Potter and Lost. That's just what is on the forefront of my mind as far as spoilers in mainstream media. I distinctly remember when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out the controversy of an important plot point, which I will not post here, being scanned onto the internet and displayed. The series was a big enough hit that the controversy had made it into the news. Then there was ABC's Lost which had a strong structure around the mystery of the island. Thinking about it now, I wonder if that coincided with the rise of DVR and Tivo because if you spoiled Lost for anyone before they were able to see it, you were in trouble.
But why are spoilers such a big deal? The big deal is that you are robbing people of an emotional connection to a story they may only get to experience once. Not everyone has time to rewatch, reread and replay. Not everyone wants to figure out what’s going to happen before it happens. People with intense careers, families and limited money only get to experience a story once and then have to move on. There’s only so much time in a day. So when a plot element is revealed to them before they’re given the chance to experience it for themselves the journey may seem like a waste of time. No one wants their time wasted. Sometimes it’s better to not know. In my life I have never peaked at a Christmas or Birthday present because I wanted to be surprised. I only get to unwrap that specific present on that specific day once. Once you know how a story ends, who dies, who lives, who sleeps together and who gets married you never not know. So to that extent I understand why people would want to shield themselves from spoilers.
There are some spoilers that are just ingrained into pop culture now and there's no way around them. If you're complaining about someone spoiling something that came out anymore before the turn of the century you are asking for too much. As a kid the only Star Wars film I had ever seen was the first one but I knew that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. It had been beaten over my head for years but when I finally borrowed a set of the three movies from a friend on VHS when I was twelve and watched Empire Strikes Back I was still blown away by the movie even though I knew what happened.
That's just me though. I'm a rereader, rewatcher, replayed. The replay value of stories is important to me. I am not a fan of throwaway entertainment and if a spoiler is enough to ruin the story for me I am probably not going to waste my time with it.
I see both sides of it though. For example, last night t-shirt brand RIPT apparel immediately on their twitter account spoiled last night's episode of Game of Thrones. This is a company that probably sells Game of Thrones t-shirts and should know their market doesn't take too kindly to spoilers like that. If you haven't seen last night's episode do not search out their twitter account. An editor of a website I frequent who called them out on the spoiler proceeded to get into an argument with another twitter user on whether or not it was a big deal because the book has been out for so many number of years and the information is out there no matter what. This is an example of someone being insensitive to another person's experience of a story.
On the flipside recently Matt Smith announced he'd be leaving Doctor Who during the Christmas special this year. This was literally a press release and people were complaining of spoilers. Similarly a couple months ago when comedian and host of The Talking Dead Chris Hardwick hosted a panel for The Walking Dead an audience member who voluntarily attended the show complained about spoilers in heckling manner when they began talking about episodes from the current season. This is when Spoiler Paranoia crosses the line into ridiculous.
For me though, spoilers aren't a grey area. When I first read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Sword of Storms I was glad none of it was spoiled for me because they had an emotional impact on me. On the other hand, remember that spoiler about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? I know what it is, and wasn't a reader of those books at the time. I only began reading them last summer and have just gotten up to the sixth book. I know what happens because I've seen the movies with friends and because of that spoiler but it won't ruin those books for me because they're fun.
I guess my point is that spoilers are on a case by case basis for me but do everyone a favor and don't spoil anything for anyone. I've been guilty of this because I get excited about stories, and I want to talk about them to the point that sometimes I don't think before I speak but don't ruin the experience for other people. At least try not to.