Spoiler alert

I am not a fan of spoilers. Part of the joy of consuming a text, to me, is not knowing what will come next. I have just as much fun trying to figure out the plot twists in Doctor Who as I do actually watching the show. It’s tough, though, because there are lots and lots of shows and movies and books that I haven’t seen or read yet, and it’s hard to avoid finding out the truth about Buffy when the show ended more than a decade ago, you know?

I was pretty convinced that I was right about spoilers, until I started talking to Erica (her debut YA novel Torn comes out next Tuesday, by the way. Just saying.) about them. She loooooves spoilers. Part of her love for spoilers, I think, is that she is free to concentrate on the structure of a story, since she knows what is coming next. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, E.)

So I’ve come around to the realization that neither of us are wrong. There’s no one right way to interact with a text.

Which is why I was so irritated to read this, from Steven Moffat, regarding the new season of Doctor Who:

It’s heart-breaking in a way, because you try and tell a story, and stories depend on surprise, stories depend on shocking people, stories are the moments you didn’t see coming – those are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism.

To have some twit who came to a press launch write up a story in the worst, most ham-fisted English you can imagine and put it on the Internet … I just hope that guy never watches my show again, because that’s a horrific thing to do. It is exactly like that boring man in the pub, who waits until you’re nearly finished your joke and jumps in with the punchline, and gets it slightly wrong. You hate that guy, you just hate those guys too – can you imagine how much I hate them?

… It’s only fans who do this – or they call themselves fans – I wish they could go and be fans of something else!

It’s not that I disagree with him! But I firmly believe that creators of art have to send their creations out in the world and then let them go. You don’t get to pick how people consume your art! You just don’t. Scolding someone and saying that you wish they weren’t your fans? That’s pretty crappy, if you ask me. You have to let go, and relinquish control.

Take Game of Thrones. There have been a few plot twists over the last couple of weeks that left a lot of fans howling in the aisles. One of the brilliant things about those plot twists, though, is that they came directly from the books, and fans who had already read the books kept their mouths shut. I’m sure if someone wanted a spoiler, they could have found it, but there wasn’t a widespread goal to spoil things, like there was when the last few Harry Potter books were released.

What are your thoughts on spoilers? Do you hate them, seek them out, or are you indifferent?

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I am kind of with you and kind of with Erica. It depends on how obsessed I am with the story. In the few times I have sought out spoilers (Dexter Season 4, for instance) I didn’t believe anything I actually found. And I always feel guilty when I go look for them and find something because I feel like I’ve robbed myself of some of the fun, like the way you feel when you sneak a peek at your Christmas present and then realize you’ve ruined the fun and for what? Just to satisfy that curiosity that keeps you interested in the first place. I have inadvertantly been exposed to spoilers that I’ve stumbled on by accident and stopped watching things because I knew how it was going to end and I had no reason to keep watching.

For me, spoilers are just one of those slightly annoying things, but they never fully ruin anything for me. For example, when I was eleven or twelve and the fifth Harry Potter came out I remember some little punk at summer camp decided to tell me who died before I’d finished reading. I was upset at the time, but then I realized it didn’t make me enjoy the book any less. The element of surprise is not the most important thing for me in books or TV, it’s the execution.

I come from an era long before actual TV plot lines and books were our only source of thought provoking entertainment. I believe I can definitely say I vote on the side of spoilers because I am ready to admit that I have yet to read a book from start to finish without first reading the last chapter. I think I do this so as not to be left with the taste of a bad ending. For example, I have been known to abandon a book before actually reading it because the last chapter ended in a way that I didn’t think I would enjoy. I’m sure someone, somewhere has studied this psychological need to control the end and, if they have, I hope they made a million dollars – LOL

I’m a spoiler avoider. By now I know what communities, forums and blogs to avoid until I’ve seen the episodes in question. In the case of Doctor Who, I’m always late to the party all those UK fans are having right after the episode has aired, but I get to enjoy DW on my terms, unspoiled. As long as I’m careful.

Since I’m almost always a latecomer to fandoms (I too started Buffy long after its run–and haven’t yet finished it), I’ve made it my responsibility to keep myself unspoiled. It’s not always easy and sometimes it gets kind of lonely not having anyone to chat to while watching series with many seasons, but I’ve managed pretty well!

Should it have to be my responsibility to keep myself unspoiled? In current fandoms, I’d say that I’d like my fellow fans to be mindful and kind. A lot of communities are good enough to hide spoilers behind jumps, links and cuts until the show has aired everywhere it will. The Who fandom is pretty good about this in my experience. Spoilers are there if you want to read them, but behind a jump. It’s still a risk reading these communities (since not everyone plays by the rules!), but an acceptable one.

For older fandoms (and here I’ll use Buffy as an example), do I expect fans to still be careful about spoilers? Not at all. Amazingly, I only have a few vague ideas about what happens at the end of Buffy. I’m not sure how I’ve gone this long without being spoiled. I do tend to avoid discussions on the series, but honestly, I think it’s dumb luck at this point.

As far as seeking out spoilers so I can focus on the plot versus the craft, well, I’ll stay unspoiled, please! There are good reasons why I rewatch good television. 🙂

Lindsay, it’s funny that you didn’t believe the spoilers! I always believe them. Maybe people should start posting fake ones, so no one knows the truth.

Fran, that’s a good point. I remember being spoiled for that particular moment, too. Also, you make me feel old, haha.

Mom, I didn’t know you always read the end!

Sara, I think you’re totally right about keeping ourselves unspoiled. And yes, the Who fandom is great. I was surprised that the tumblr groups even kept a lid on things until those last few episodes showed in the US. Also, at this point I’ve been spoiled for so many of the older things I kind of have forgotten them.

It depends on what you consider a spoiler. I have friends who think that anything is a spoiler if they haven’t seen it yet, even if it has been released into the wild for years. In particular, I have a few friends who will not watch/read anything in a series until the series is complete. They cry and pitch fits and carry on if you discuss anything about said series with anyone else in their presence. I do not respect this level of spoiler protection. If something has been released into the wild, you have a reasonable amount of time to catch up if you want to watch or read it. After a week for tv shows and maybe a few months for books, you’ve slacked off and learning what happens is the price you might pay.

Game of Thrones is tricky for me. I read the books years ago, and am doing my best to NOT spoil things that have not yet happened in the show for those who haven’t read the books…but it would be a lot easier for me, and probably other fans of the books, if viewers would stop speculating aloud as to what will happen. Because, guys, you’re wrong at least half the time, and SO wrong, and it kills some of us [me] to know that you are wrong and not be allowed to set the record straight.

TL;DR – I am annoyed by people who want to be surprised, but don’t want to keep on top of things.

Gillian, but theories are the best part! I only watched the first two episodes of GoT. P has read the books but I haven’t and I made him promise not to tell me anything. Still, I was able to figure a few things out — no spoilers, heh — which pleases me immensely. So there’s a joy in that, too.

Eliza – I totally agree that figuring stuff out is half the fun. It’s just that it’s very, very hard for me to keep secrets. Sometimes I just can’t help myself! Especially when it’s stuff that I am Very! Very! Excited! About! I will never deliberately try to spoil something, but I need people around me to set me up for success by not baiting me all the time. 🙂

Ha, Gillian, you’re right. When we started watching GoT, I started guessing stuff all the time. It might have driven P crazy. I’ll have to ask.

First of all…I LOVE YOUR MOM.

Second of all, you are partly right: I do spoil myself so that I can concentrate on the story better, but it’s not just structure — it’s everything. Prose, characters, the whole shebang. Without it, I get so worried about how it’s going to end that I can’t appreciate the writing in front of me. But I will cheerfully admit that I’m a bit of a nutjob, and I fully respect people who don’t want to be spoiled.

I am also firmly on your side re: Moffat. You can’t force people to interact with your work as you dictate. You do the best work you can, and then you send it out into the world, and distract yourself with something else that is shiny. Like getting a move on the next season of Sherlock.

First, your mom is AWESOME.

Next, I’m a fence straddler in terms of the spoilers. Erica’s right–if I know, then it lessens the anxiety for me and leaves me free to concentrate on other things in the work.

But I’m with both of you re: Moffat. I hope he just had a bad day and posted before he thought about what he’d said.

And P.S. I totes agree that he should spend his time wisely by concentrating on Sherlock. Also, did you know that the Cumberbatch is voicing Smaug for the Hobbit movie? Awesome, I tell you.

I’m still irritated with Charles Schulz for blowing Citizen Kane for me. 😉

For me, it depends. Like, GoT, my hubby had read it and kept his mouth shut. I wouldn’t have wanted to know what was going to happen.

But, say, an X-Men movie. I can get spoiled for that one and I’m okay with it.

Abigail, that’s a good point — is there a spectrum of spoiler okayness?

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