Digital Polyphony

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Spoiler Alert

Posted on May 21, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Spoiler Alert

Ah, Spoilers. You know, those taboo things of reveals that would ruin your life if you heard the words spoken to your innocent ears. Whether it be a book, a movie or a television program, the "Spoiler" is the bane of all. Nobody likes to know the twist, the reveal, the out-of-left-field swerve or "big moment" in a story before they actually experience it. There's something to be said to the first-exposure of something. To be "wowd" and felt you were taken for a ride. The more important it is to a story or character, the bigger the relevancy to the integral foundation of entertainment, "bigger" the spoiler is to us.

Yet, it seems people have been taking it one step too far. No, not the spoilers (as in the people spoiling the ending or reveals of a movie) but those that feel they were spoiled, even if unintentional. If you don't say "Spoiler Warning" beforehand when discussing something in person or online before proceeding, the Gods of narrative fiction (or nonfiction in some cases...some people were generally shocked the Titanic sank at the end of Titanic) will smite you with their wrath and you will be burned in eternal sin of hellfire.

At least, that's about the equivalent reaction of the person who was spoiled by something. Though instead of smiting, they'll probably just throw a drink in your face or say something mean about your mother on a message board.

But honestly, aren't those reactions of rambling, frustrated and anger due to being "spoiled" the misguided issue in the first place? I'd say we're more concerned about not spoiling something becaues we want to avoid someone going nuts over it more than actually caring if something is spoiled for them. As a result, we're afraid to actually talk and discuss things and second guess ourselves daily.

"You bastard!" - The Internet


Here's the thing: we can't take into account for every single person on the face of the earth. Especially on the internet. Let's face it, "Spoilers" didn't really become that big of an issue until the internet began streaming into our minds. In person (aka real life) when you're talking about a movie and it involves a big reveal and twist that is the crux of the main plot, if a person hasn't seen it they can pipe up. If you put something up on the internet, though, a person can't say "Hey, sorry, I haven't seen that movie yet." They may not realize until half-way through the paragraph that you're even spoiling something, or you might just be a complete asshole and splice in three seconds in a video blog and ruin the entire thing.

But, this is where I draw some major lines. While we can't account for every single person on the face of the earth and we can acknowledge that, we  can't do so when it comes to the actual films or television shows themselves. In other words: films and books and all those things have been around for a lot longer than someone who is 25 and hasn't seen the ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey yet. Eventually, we WANT to talk about those films and shows. We NEED to. There needs to be a certain accountability from those that haven't seen those films as well. We can't keep things on the down-low all the time, but especially if the film is older than dirt. Then, I'm sorry, that's on you.

If you're 35 and are legitimately shocked that Vader is Luke's father, that Norman had no mother, Rosebud was a sled, that Soylent Green is made of people and that one girl has a penis (or girls, there's a few movies with that twist) then sorry, that's all on you. If you're a film fan, you already know those twists. If you're not, you probably aren't going to see most of those movies anyway.

Hell, even the fact that Bruce Willis is a ghost can't be considered a "spoiler" at this point, can it? That movie is over ten years old now. Or what about who Kaiser Souze really is? It's Verbal. That movie is nearly 17 years old. If you haven't seen it by now, chances are you are never going to. If you're a film fan and watch old movies to begin with, then why haven't you seen it yet?


How dare you not account for everything I'm not aware of!


Truth is, often times, I feel someone says "Hey, thanks for spoiling that" or vent their frustration as a knee-jerk reaction. In reality, they probably had no plans at all to even see the film. Hell, it may not have been that big of a "spoiler" in the first place. Sorry, the bigger the film is, in that you are the odd man out and that everybody and their grandmothers have seen the thing, and the longer it's been since it initially came out, the less excuses you have.

If a film is, say, only five years old, then it's in your right to be upset if something is spoiled. You're busy. Your DVR broke. Your Netflix subscription cancelled and now you're backlogged with all these films in theaters and recommended by friends that you simply haven't caught up to it. Whatever the excuse, I think five (though I would go a little shorter and say three) years of a grace period before getting upset is more than amenable.

You must understand that, usually, nobody is intending to ruin something for you. It simply happens. Human fallacy if you will. Nobody is trying to be a dick and if you get upset that something was "spoiled" then take in to account how old the film is, how popular it is and why you haven't even seen it yet. More often than not, if you take a breath and step back for a moment, you'll probably realize you're overreacting in the first place.

Below is a brief list of what to legitimately get upset over when Spoilers are involved:


1) Spoiling something that just came out. Like I said, five years grace period seems to be a good number. But especially if it's only been  a week or so.

2) Having knowledge that someone in your vicinity hasn't seen the film but doing it anyway. In that case, I kind of don't care how old something is. If the person who hasn't seen it says something, usually indication that they would like to see it at some point, just shut up after that. It's only fair.

3) If a podcast/video/article review clearly states "no spoilers" then does so anyway. Even by accident. That's the person that put it up - do some editing, chachi.


Excuse me while I take off my Dennis Miller hat for a moment. I have no idea where that "chachi" came from.

Spoilers are, at their core, an evil bane on film and television audience, the readers of books and comics or the players of video games. They take away from the experience of simply not knowing what will happen next - a thrill that is hard to capture time and time again. Yet, we can't simply lay quiet about every single story in the world. There's no universal criteria, what might be a new story to one person is ancient history to another, that fits every person and whether or not they would even consider it a spoiler in the first place, we can only have a few general "kind rules."


 "Oh, Jesus raises from the dead? Thanks a lot, asshole!"

 The Rise of Spoilers Coincides with The Rise of The Internet...

As touched on earlier, the notion of a "spoiler" really came into being when the internet began to become a destination for peoples' activities. Though the idea of runing something for someone has always been around, it was always more of a person-to-person activity. The internet throws out the idea of that limited exposure in exchange for the world of social media. Sure, you could close yourself off from going on facebook and twitter or various websites that may or may not involve lolcats, it's a good way to avoid being spoiled by anything accidentally, but that's not the way our world is today.

The internet is how we interact as human beings as technology becomes our way of evolution. You can't just ignore that, but it comes at the cost of going from in-person interaction to multiple-persons-at-once and constantly interaction. Usually it's indirect as well, being someone could just leave something out there for others and you could just stumble upon it. Hell, there's even a browser app called "stumble upon" where you might click it and it takes you the an image about the ending of Inception, a film you haven't seen yet. Well shit.

Then you have the maturity factor. This, more than not, relates to the internet because, let's face it, the maturity of the internet is about the equivalent of a kindergarten arts-and-crafts afternoon and little Jimmy is so copying your crayon drawing of a horse. It might offer intelligence and enlightenment on occasion, but more often than not the internet is a steaming cesspool of cynicism and megalomania where everyone feels their views should be adhered to and their zealous notions of self-importance are the only ones in existence. Combine those attributes, if you want to call them that, to the fact the web is a free-flowing, constant stream of unregulated information, and you have a boiling point where everybody feels they should have their views and feelings put on a pedestal yet fail to realize that, by the internet's very nature, that it's completely impossible. If you're spoiled on something, often times its a reflection of the risk of simply being bombarded with constant information in the first place, it's only that your sense of entitlement fails keeps you from that realization.

The internet is a great way to express frustrations as well. Hell, I'd argue that was probably one of the reasons it came into being: people needed an outlet to express their frustration and publishing a weekly flyer titled "This sucks" wasn't financially feasible. More voices. More opportunities. More expressing...this all leads to more accidents of ruining something for someone. Then that someone details their own frustrations and it ends up sounding far worse than it actually is.

It's kind of like restaurant reviews on the internet. Most of those people are not food critics, but they feel they have to express their opinions in some way. The thing is, nobody really goes on the internet to say anything positive, they only go online and take the time to rant about something if they're truly angry about it. Instead of giving something a four or five-star review, they give a two and go into extreme detail about just how awful something is and how it completely ruined their life experience when they discovered the single worst turkey sandwich in the city.

It's not. It's just a sandwich. And a spoiler is, more often than not, not the end of the world. True, you can get upset if it's something recent or something that might take some time to invest, but if it's a book that's been around since the 1800s or a movie that's been around since the 70s, chances are you were never going to get around to it in the first place. Maybe you were too busy complaining about sandwiches.

I understand both sides. I, too, like to go into something without foreknowledge. It's an important aspect of the storytelling experience: sharing a story with an audience goes back  to ancient times when Thog in his cave once created this one thing and it got really hot and now they can cook their wooly mammoths. But I'm also one to concede that if I become aware of something that's years old and I haven't gotten around to it, I was probably never going to in the first place. I also understand that, by reading about movies and  writing blogs like this about them as well, I'm probably going to even accidentally come across something that just came out in theaters. But that comes with the risk/reward factor of the internet: in that the more time you spend on it, the riskier of being exposed to things becomes, and the less time you spend on it, the more rewarding real life probably is.


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