Spoilers are a tough subject. It’s next to impossible to even discuss the concept without accidentally ruining something for someone else and people get insanely pissy about having things “spoiled” for them. Every time someone gets into a debate about this it goes the same way. We start of on the internet, and someone is talking about something, let’s say Game of Thrones. So, a bunch of nerds are chatting online about the latest episode of Game of Thrones and about what might happen next in the story and someone arrives in the discussion and is all “Why don’t you guys read the books?”. So far, nobody is mental. You’ve got people who have made the decision, for whatever reason, to watch a TV show instead of reading the books it’s based upon and you’ve got a guy asking them why they’ve made that choice.
Unfortunately, this is where everyone turns into a total dick. Quite often, this type of question will be greeted by outright hostility, with the people who were just talking about the TV show exploding at the new guy, accusing him of getting ready to follow up on his question by ruining the next three books for them. At this point, you’ll also get people accusing him of being a sad, neckbearded freak who reads fantasy novels because he’s such a hopeless loser (because watching a fantasy TV show based on fantasy books and then talking about it online is cool, but reading those books is sad). This leaves the new guy in a tough place, and here we discover how much of a dick he is.
If he’s a nice guy then there’s an apology, followed by no more discussion ever of the forbidden material. However, if he’s the type of guy to go on a Game of Thrones messageboard he’s already at a certain degree of nerdiness. Nerdiness is actually the number one source of tribalistic hatred, historically dividing the nerds against themselves, so that instead of one big group of Star Trek fans they start a small war between TNG and TOS fans and they’re all too busy arguing to actually build that utopian future which Roddenberry envisaged. So being a nerd, the new guy doesn’t apologise, he enters one of two stances. Either he decides to try to explain to the other nerd that what he did wasn’t meant to be upsetting and gently suggests to them that he didn’t spoil anything and that maybe they’re being a bit sensitive, or he goes nuclear and ruins the entire thing for them all just to fucking spite them.
Oddly, both of those two responses make this whole thing worse. The only way to get out without pissing anyone off or ruining anything for anyone is to apologise and stop. Although you’ll obviously ruin things if you decide to be a cunt and ruin things for people, you’ll do the exact same thing if you try to engage in a discussion about spoilers, because it’s impossible to be completely sensitive to the stuff other people might not know. It’s easy to forget that not everybody got the same type of education you did, especially online. If you’re American you read The Great Gatsby at school, and it’s so important in your culture that the idea of “ruining” it by talking about the plot is insane to you. The thing is, as an English guy, the only reason I’ve read Gatsby is because I wanted to. We don’t read it at school and even my most intelligent friends probably haven’t read it because it’s just not a big deal in the UK. If my mum hadn’t studies American Literature I might never have heard of it.
A similar example is Romeo and Juliet. Every English kid knows what happens in that story because we all read it at school and our culture is massively reverent of Shakespeare. From my perspective it’s impossible to imagine not knowing about it, and yet there are sure to be tonnes of kids in this country who missed that bit of school and whose parent didn’t read and who don’t follow the types of media which revere Shakespeare. That’s in my country, and doesn’t even begin to account for the legions of people around the world who come from countries that don’t fucking love his plays so much that they try to force all their kids to read them. It’s very easy to forget that the life you’ve lived isn’t even remotely representative of other people. You live a life and you assume that life is like that, because most of the people you meet are like that. Even if you travel, you see a fleeting glimpse of another place before you end up back where you started. Maybe you move wholesale to another country? Congratulations, you’ve now properly experienced two of the endless number of completely different cultures which make up our world.
That’s the main problem. You might not be going “you guys think that’s bad, later on Sam gets brutally raped to death by a dragon!” but if you talk about spoilers you’re always going to do it from your personal perspective and eventually you’ll make what you think is a valid point, using an example so obvious that you can’t believe anyone would not know it. That’s when it gets messy. You prove your point by saying “the book is 15 years old, that’s like not knowing that Jesus dies in the Bible!” and the guy concedes, then in what should be your moment of glory you realise that you’ve managed to upset the only person in the world who didn’t know that Jesus died but was looking forward to giving that Bible which everyone keeps talking about a good read. And god, he’s even more pissed off at you because the last place he expected to have that spoiled for him was when he was reading about Game of Thrones.
I once got into a conversation with a guy about twist endings. I made reference to the end of Planet of the Apes, and when he seemed like he wasn’t 100% sure I described the final scene. He then informed me that he’d never seen the movie and that I’d ruined it for him, which I thought was mental because who doesn’t know how Planet of the Apes ends? Even if you’ve not seen it, surely you’ve seen the ending referenced on TV or in documentaries or you’ve seen that episode of the Simpsons. As it turned out though, whilst he’d seen that scene referenced, he didn’t have any idea that it was the end of that movie. As far as he was concerned there was a movie about a monkey planet and a famous movie that ended with a guy screaming at the statue of liberty on a beach, but he had no idea that these were the same movie, and I’d ruined that for him.
Anyway, I’ve been on both sides of this (though I’ve not felt like anything was “spoiled” for me for years), and I’ve learned through experience that the best thing to say is absolutely fuck all. The second you find yourself writing about something you watched on TV take a second to think if anyone at all who hasn’t seen it might possibly read this. If the answer is yes, step away from the keyboard and go do something vaguely worthwhile with that time. If people start talking about spoilers and you feel like getting involved at all, step away from the keyboard and do something real. If you accidentally spoil something for someone and they call you a cunt and ask you if you’re inbred and you’re frothing at the mouth as you violently hammer out your reply; stop there. Walk the fuck away from that machine and go outside. Once your eyes have adapted to the glare then go somewhere. Go anywhere and I guarantee you along the way or while you’re there you’ll meet someone who’s a total dick, much worse than the person you were arguing with online. They might shove in front of you or cut you off in your car or pick up a copy of the Daily Mail, but whatever they do you need to remember just how much you wanted to shout back at that person online. Think about the type of language you were planning to use. Now imagine yourself yelling with that much anger at the dick who just annoyed you. You’d feel stupid right? And you’d be right to be feel that way, because yelling that much at someone for anything less than a very serious offense against you is stupid.
Also, remember that no matter how angry and rude you might be, the internet is a black hole which sucks up all the negativity, bile and hatred in the world and spits it back, as hard as it can, right in your face. However annoyed you may be by people online, there are a lot of people online who are a shitload angrier than you about what they perceive as having things spoiled for them. Much like any online discussion, you’re not breaking new ground. Every argument on both sides of this has been gone over endlessly until you’re just puppets spouting the same bullshit some other guy was writing five years ago. Someone ruined Game of Thrones for someone and five years ago someone ruined Lost for someone. We’ve done all of this already, however insightful you might think your opinion is. Again, go outside.
I read spoilers. Click right on the fuckers and ruin shit for myself. I read manga spoilers on a Tuesday because I can’t wait a day to see the actual chapter. I read the spoilers for the finale of Lost which were basically a synopsis of the whole episode. I went into Avengers knowing that Thanos was the post credit Easter Egg. For me, and to my mind, that made no difference, the Lost finale still sucked and Avengers was still amazing. I’m interested in the journey, not the destination and if knowing ruined things that badly I’d never have watched or read anything twice. People generally tell me that I’m ruining things for myself by doing this (as an aside, fuck you! I’ll ruin whatever I want for myself and I’ll not give a fuck what you think about it while I’m doing it), because if I read spoilers I’m not experiencing the art as the creator intended. That moment of beautiful comprehension when the twist is revealed or whatever is something I’m apparently robbing myself of. But as far as I’m concerned, I had that moment. I had it when I got to that line in the spoiler I was reading, and it blew my mind. I saw the description and it generally made me ten times more hyped to see the real thing, and never once did I read a spoiler and not watch or read the actual thing. Never, and I say that with confidence knowing that the only spoilers I ever read were for things I fucking loved and couldn’t wait to watch. That creator made me seek out the spoilers by making something so good I literally couldn’t wait for it.
I never normally write that I spoiler things for myself online because the response is usually so violent and acerbic that I can’t handle it. Those fuckers should’ve gone outside instead of spending that time writing me a long post about why I shouldn’t read spoilers, because I sure as fuck didn’t read what they wrote.