Let me preface this by saying it is not directed at all readers of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. This also isn’t a rant based on hurt feelings; I’ve managed to avoid spoilers when it comes to the HBO TV series “Game of Thrones,” based on Martin’s books. But avoiding spoilers isn’t easy, and that’s the problem.
“Game of Thrones” is not only the most-pirated TV series these days, it is the show that can be the most easily spoiled — by those who have read the source material. Spoilers can be hard to avoid these days; look how quickly the Season Three finale of “Downton Abbey,” for example, was ruined thanks to fans’ reactions on social media. And “Thrones” is a world that is ripe for spoiling — main characters die and someone is always double-crossing someone else and, you know, dragons! Compressed into 10-episode seasons, a lot happens. Some fans may want to know ahead of time, but most don’t. However, in the cases of shows such as “Downton” or any other series not based on previously published material, the fans having plots spoiled for them are the ones who did not watch a show live (or who didn’t avoid Twitter or Facebook before catching up). Not that that’s OK, but the “Game of Thrones” problem is different. For this show, which I quite like, it is some of the fans of the books that are spoiling the fun, giving away outcomes to events not yet depicted on screen based on their knowledge of Martin’s world. There is no accident in their a**holery.
Comment threads are notorious for spoilers, and people like TK in his weekly episode recaps here and our Joanna Robinson along with /Film’s Dave Chen for the “A Cast of Kings” weekly podcast police them, but it can’t be easy. (FYI, Joanna runs a spoiler-friendly post every week for those who know/want to know what happens.) I still avoid the comments on TK’s recaps and those left on /Film, trusting only a few friends to answer my “Game of Thrones” questions. Listening to the latest podcast episode this week made me glad for my spoiler-wary ways: I learned that spoiler-whores are doing their best to be sneaky. Apparently, comments are popping up that accurately state exactly what will take place in future episodes, all under the guise of some random commenter’s “guess.”
Really? You, you certain “A Song of Ice and Fire” fan, have so little going for you in life that you get your kicks spoiling the plot of a fantasy story to fans of its TV series? You can’t not ruin a storyline — you have to exert your imagined power somehow, so it may as well be anonymously and online? That’s pathetic.
To the spoiler-happy book-readers: Shut up. Shut. Up. Now.
One of the more absurd lines of reasoning in defense of spoilers is not that fans of the books should be allowed to spoil their contents, but that those who haven’t read the books deserve to be spoiled because they haven’t read the books. I’d never heard of the book series until I began to see teaser trailers on HBO for the upcoming series back in 2010. When the show premiered in spring 2011, tons of viewers rushed out to buy copies of the books. Others, like me, maybe considered reading them but haven’t gotten around to them yet. Or perhaps we just don’t want to read them. Is that a problem for you, you spoiler jags? Are you to be congratulated for having read books that even fans admit have a tendency to drag and disappoint thanks to Martin’s meandering style? Or should we be impressed you read something at all?
The main and very poor argument seems to be that because the books have been out for years — the first volume, “A Game of Thrones,” was released in 1991 — its plot is fair game. Is there a cut-off date for spoilers I somehow missed? Just how copyright expires, so too does the notion that someone who is “in the know” regarding a piece of art should keep it to themselves lest they ruin another’s enjoyment of said art? The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment in Peter Jackson’s trilogy adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel, was released in 2001, 46 years after the novel was first published. Naturally, I can only assume those who had read it first ran through lobbies of countless movie theaters during the years Jackson’s films were out, telling all who couldn’t avoid listening just what happens with that damn ring. Or for Harry Potter fans: The final film in the adaptation series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, was released only four years after J.K. Rowling’s novel “Deathly Hallows” hit bookshelves. You, you puppy-kickers, posted Facebook status revealing the ending and which characters died, didn’t you? When Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is released May 10, will you leave comments in various reviews or posts on the film revealing Gatsby’s fate? No, not everyone has read even classics such as “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925.
It’s true, some stories are so widely told that they can become common knowledge to those who haven’t read or seen them. I’d wager Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” is a plot most people can describe, at least in terms of star-crossed lovers and a tragic ending. But the goings on in “A Song of Ice and Fire” does not qualify as common pop culture knowledge, nerds. I don’t recall any book readers of Tolkien or Rowling’s works being so mean-spirited when the film adaptations were released. What is it about you, rabid Martin-lovers, that causes you to be so petty? You know you shouldn’t actually act like a Lannister, right?
At work just yesterday morning, as co-workers discussed summer movies, a friend said she is excited to see the new Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. “Have you read the book?,” I asked her. “I read half of it and stopped,” she said. “Well I recommend giving it another try; it’s one of my favorites,” I replied. And then I stopped talking. Because I don’t represent what is wrong with humanity, only like you, you turd-eating neckbeards. I hope critics reviewing the film or others writing features on it don’t spoil the ending, either. If my friend only really comes to know Luhrmann’s adaptation of the story, that’s OK. I’m glad she’s experiencing it in some way, and isn’t that what matters? Besides, we’re talking about two different forms of media. They don’t go hand in hand. If one wants to feel superior for having read the book before they saw its movie, or TV show, then fine. Feel superior. Just feel so inwardly, and leave the rest of us the hell alone.
Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter. She appreciates Joanna, who always answers her “GoT” questions and made the lovely header pic for this post, and TK, who believes those who spoil the show should “be subjected to 1,000 papercuts, have acid sprayed in the cuts [and be] buried neck deep in lampreys.”