On spoilers

Everyone’s going on about spoilers at the moment, and I feel a little strongly about them (relatively, I mean I don’t consider it an issue of social justice or anything). So I’d just like to reiterate my position: you only get one chance to experience a story without knowing what’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if it was transmitted in another country last night, published two decades ago, filmed in technicolor in ’39 or chiselled into a tablet by Mesopotamians – not knowing is a one-time thing, and if you’d like to experience it that way then you should get the chance.

Back in the days when television piracy travelled at the speed of international airmail we communicated via mailing lists and newsgroups, and spoiler space was a staple and everyone used it. The onus was on the watchers to avoid spoiling the people yet to watch. Perhaps this was because the only people in danger of being spoiled were fans talking to other fans in other countries. You could easily opt out of such discussions by leaving a forum for a while, but those other fans wanted to keep you around, so they were courteous and took precautions.

I’m not sure when that responsibility shifted to the person who is “lagging behind”. Now social media is ubiquitous, and the things being spoiled are part of wider popular culture, not just fannish obsession. But even in this age of torrents being available hours after initial broadcast and wide access social media, it’s not hard to ask if someone has read or watched something before discussing it, or use hashtags to enable filtering, or to put discussions in private Facebook groups, or if that’s too much, in comments with a warning in the status update where they can be easily skipped.

Because if you’ve seen it, it’s not about you. It’s about the people who still have that one chance to see, hear or read it without knowing what’s going to happen. Let’s let people have that wherever possible, yeah?