A Pox On Both Your Houses: A Conversation About Spoilers
I’m going to warn you right up front. This article is about a critical issue within the entertainment community, an ongoing war for supremacy that has no winners, only casualties. And this article does not seek to bring victory to one side but to lay both low like an atomic weapon aimed with spite and detonated with glee. It will likely anger you, unless you share with the author that particular schadenfreude of grinning delight when confronted with anger of everyone on both sides of an issue. Given the readership of this site, you sons and daughters of Loki are probably in higher proportion than the general population, but enough dancing around and into (unto?) the breach.
Have you complained about them? Hands up now, don’t be shy. You in the back, yes.
Now, keep the hands up while we ask the second question.
Have you complained about people complaining about spoilers? Excellent. Is that everyone, no stragglers?
Good. Now everyone with your hands up, please listen, and please take my words to heart.
Shut the fuck up.
Ooh, and ladies and gentlemen, we have lost the crowd.
The issue of spoilers has been around for a very long time, always that sacred little word whispered to ward off the fact that you hadn’t watched a certain show the night before, or hadn’t read a particular book. But it was deployed on a limited basis, a tactical conversation stopper if anything. But time has conspired to turn spoilers into an entire strategic wargame, with continent-cracking ICBMs deployed by a hundred rogue nations. I blame technology.
Remember the days before DVDs? You watched a television show or didn’t. There was none of this, oh I’m waiting for the DVDs next summer. Let alone an entirely different set of people planning on watching a show streaming on Netflix at a certain time. Or the different set of people waiting for Amazon Prime to get it. And then bring book adaptations into it, and you’ve got people who have read the first two books of a six book series and are also watching the television show, but it’s only released the DVDs for the first season so far. So please don’t talk about anything on the television show after that point, but we can talk about book two, but you know, only if we’re not going to talk about the differences between season 2 of the show and book 2.
And then there’s the Internet. Before it, the list of people who might spoil you was extremely short. There were the people you lived with, your friends, and your co-workers. And how many of them did you talk about television or movies with anyway? Probably the same ones that you were sitting and watching those shows with, so you were inherently on the same page. But then we invent the greatest communications medium ever imagined, so that there is always someone to talk to about the show or book or movie of the moment. But so many people using that medium are quite rudely at entirely different page numbers than you. Sloppy synchronization, if you ask me.
When I was a kid, I was the one who opened Christmas presents as soon as I could find them. I was the goddamned Yuletide NSA. Whenever I got a new book, I’d flip to the end and read the last chapter first. Because it was the better wondering how they got to that point than just reading blindly. I read episode summaries of television shows I don’t watch but intend to down the road. I know every plot point for the entire run of “Breaking Bad” thus far, even though I’m only on season 3 on Netflix. And it doesn’t ruin one bit of my enjoyment of these stories. How pedantic can you be to think that knowing the ending ruins a story? Haven’t you ever read a story for a second time? The beauty of stories is in the process, in the intricate detail and movement of the pieces, of feeling the emotional drama assemble itself. Oh sure, you’re missing out on the surprise the first time around if you’re spoiled, but I don’t listen to stories in order to jump when the teller yells “boo!” unexpectedly. Knowing the ending actually makes a story more enjoyable, because it allows you to more fully see the pieces, to appreciate the movement that is happening as it happens.
Spoilers? You can only be spoiled if you allow surprises, the cheapest and lowliest of plot devices to dominate all other parts of your enjoyment of a story.
The bottom line is that unless you are going to cut off the Internet, you are going to be spoiled, because there are too many shows, too many people, and all of them are in your news feed. Get over it and quit erecting elaborate edifices of safe zones where you can talk to people who have only gotten precisely as far as you have in a particular work of art.
And on a more particular note: if a show or movie is based on a book, read the damned book. My entire life, the number one rule of entertainment has been that the book is better than the adaptation. Somehow this got lost in the age of HBO and really good television. It should be rediscovered. So quit bitching about book readers shitting on your parade. If it’s that important to you, just lock yourself in a room over the weekend and read the book in question. Then they can’t ruin it for you. Any problem that can be solved by reading a book is not a problem.
Oh yes, over on the other side of the room, the group who has gleefully complained about people complaining about spoilers, the ones with the smug self-satisfied looks on your faces. Yeah, you.
You’re even worse. Shut up about what happens next when asked to do so. You are free to quietly roll your eyes at the other group, I certainly have done more than my fair share of that in the rest of this piece, but do not willfully and knowingly break something that someone else is playing with. It’s basic courtesy that we learned in preschool.
It’s one thing to say as I am “dude, you’re enjoying it wrong, you’ll be happier this way”. It’s quite another thing to say “you should enjoy it this way, so I won’t let you enjoy it that way.” Don’t be a douche canoe. There should be a bumper sticker.
A pox on both your houses.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.