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SPOILER ALERT: This post is about spoilers.
I think this a problem for anyone who reviews things, or just likes to share what they’ve watched/read/played with friends and family. You experience an awesome moment in a plot, and are just left there, with your mind blown and your jaw open. You want to tell someone about it. You want them to know why it’s so awesome, and have it blow them away too! It’s bad enough normally, but it gets so much worse when you experience it alone. Consequently, it itches the most with books, since most people I know read alone.
It’s a very, very big deal to a lot of people to not have their entertainment spoiled for them. So when a huge plot point happens, and it’s leaked as a major new point, people get upset. But it’s nothing new. Heck, it’s been a part of pop culture for a long time. Planet of the Apes was on Earth all along. Soylent green was made of people. Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Bruce Willis was dead all along in The Sixth Sense. Snape kills Dumbledore. And of course, most recently to fans of the HBO show (not so much for the readers – we knew about this for a long time), The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.
When people hear these before they see the movie, or read the book, they tend to get so mad. Like there’s no point to even seeing it anymore. Like it’s been ruined for them. And to be fair, sometimes it does. Sometimes it just sort of removes the point of even experiencing it yourself. But to me, when that happens, chances are pretty good that the story wasn’t all that good to begin with. And there’s way too many good stories out there to be wasting your time with bad ones.
I guess this topic sort of came to mind because of recent events in my own life. My girlfriend and I have been blazing through episodes of Parks and Recreation on Netflix. It’s an outstandingly funny show. Since she is also a devout addict of reddit, she also visits the subreddit for the show, and thus dove into a sea of spoilers. The past few days, as we headed into Season 5, she’s opened a few conversations with “Do you care if I spoil this for you?” To which I always say “No, I don’t care.” As long as Ron Swanson keeps on being Ron Swanson, I’ll keep watching it.
To me personally, in my entertainment experiences, I am much more of a “It’s the journey, and not the destination” kind of guy. When I write, I view plot twists as a gimmick to not be relied upon. You can have them, sure, and they can be fun, but they better not be the only thing there, because that makes it a crutch. So when I’m seeking to be entertained, I use the same standard before choosing something else to intake.
For example, I was and am a fan of the Mass Effect series. Thought the first two games were excellent, from start to finish. They were fun to play, and also had compelling plots that wrapped up nicely with endings that left me hyped to play the sequel. And then, of course, Mass Effect 3 came along.
Um, just as a warning, this part is going to be a spoiler. Call it spoiler-ception. Mass Effect 3 came out, and it was fantastic. From a gameplay perspective, it was the best in the series. From a story perspective, it raised the stakes appropriately, and set the stage for what everyone hoped to be an epic ending. Instead, what players got was a mostly-nonsensical ending that answered almost none of the questions that the series had asked up until that point, and brought up a MAJOR plot point at the last second that left a sour note in everyone’s mouth. You could choose your ending, yes, but it was incredibly simplified. It was even color coded, for your convenience.
The outcry was nothing short of epic in itself. Message boards exploded. Bioware, the developer, got hate mail by the ton. They even got color coded cupcakes, in a more creative display of fans’ ire. The backlash was so great that Bioware took a mulligan on it, and revised the ending in a free update. And through it all, there seemed to be one overarching sentiment.
“I wasted my time with this series. I wish I’d never touched it now.”
As for me, I had a fair number of issues with the game. But I never felt this way. I’ll probably play through them all again someday. And that is simply because I feel that you can’t discount the greatness of the rest of the games, just because the ending sucked. I would have played through them all anyway, even if I’d had the ending spoiled for me from the start.
All that being said, we should be mindful and ask ourselves a question: How long should we wait after something comes out to talk about major points without feeling like a jerk for spoiling it for those that haven’t seen it yet?
Here’s my standard, for every medium of entertainment I can think of:
Movies: Don’t spoil it while it’s still in theaters, obviously. Heck, I go the extra mile and don’t even spoil it when it’s rentable. Only when it’s on free television, for everyone to see, do I think it’s free and open for discussion, and if you still get spoiled, well, you had plenty of time to fix that.
TV Shows: I think this is the murkiest one to handle. Generally, it’s free from the start, so I can’t use my movie logic here. Moreso, with the rise of Netflix, more and more people can jump in and binge on a show, and catch up with several years of a show that they like in the span of weeks (or days, if it’s really good). I can attest to this, since I’ve done it recently with Parks and Recreation, and Breaking Bad. So I think this: once a TV show is over, as in series finale over, then it’s open season for spoilers. Before then, keep it on the down low if your friends are prickly about spoilers.
Video Games: In my experience, gamers are a vicious lot about this (see above). ONLY share spoilers if you know they aren’t planning on playing the game at all. Period.
Books: As for us who are bibliophiles? Well. We’re a different beast. As you read books more and more, you tend to get this skill to be able to discuss the plot, without actually spoiling anything. Don’t believe me? You need only look at the Game of Thrones spoiler debacle. With a few rare exceptions, everyone who read about the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords kept quiet about it until it happened on the show. It was people who only watched the show that made the spoiler explode. That being said, if someone says they don’t plan on ever reading a book, but you want to share a plot point, spoil away!
That being said, if you are one of those people who are prickly about spoilers, use common sense. Not everyone puts as much unnecessary amounts of thought into this stuff as I do on how to protect you from spoilers. If you want to stay in the dark, don’t look it up on the internet, don’t go to IMDB, don’t go to review sites, don’t go to news sites…
Honestly, don’t do anything except actually go enjoy it. That’s what I do.
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