Ok, this may seem like an odd subject to discuss on a blog about things I’ve learnt from acting. Please bear with me, hopefully it will make sense.
An ongoing, debated topic is that of talking about shows, books, movies, etc to the degree where events are revealed in a public environment, potentially exposing crucial plot elements to fans that have, for whatever reason, not yet had the chance to read or view the said item themselves. In short, SPOILERS! It is a sore spot for many, and the growing network of online Social Media is making this a rather more uncertain and potential sore point between many interactions. Friends are lost over it.
Here’s the key issue as I see it. Some people feel that they have the right to post what they wish, regardless of what others say, and technically that is true. Taking the view point of freedom-of-speech means that people are entitled to say what they like without vilification. Freedom-of-speech also means that others have the freedom to express their disapproval without fear of reproach. Freedom-of-speech is rather self-contradictory in this way. If you allow it for the spokesperson, then technically you have to allow it for the recipient also. This isn’t what happens however. Generally what one sees actually happening is the one making an initial statement claiming barleys under the umbrella of freedom-of-speech, claiming that requests to reconsider or opposing comments were not welcome, and if you don’t like it, unfollow me. This is actually a right of declaration without further peer review, unless you agree with the declaration, which is an extremely one-sided, dictatorial standpoint, and therefore not freedom-of-speech.
Back on to the specific topic of Spoilers however, I am not saying that people should not post spoilers, as this raises some rather interesting, and unanswerable questions. Such as how long does one wait? The books were released years ago so they can’t be spoilers? And so forth. I think at this point it is important to understand the importance of what a Spoiler actually is, and it is not about freedom-of-speech. It is a much simpler, yet difficult subject; courtesy.
As an actor, I am very familiar with spoilers. I know the story, the plot, and key moments, in any production I am in, or at least, I have the potential to know these things. Where I can, I try to only focus on the story as it relates to my character because, and here is the key point, I like to be surprised. In addition to this, an actor needs to find ways to make those key moments special for the viewers, and not give away anything themselves. We work bloody hard to bring these scenes to life, and it does actually hurt a little when someone gives everything away.
It is about the emotion of the moment, not the overall storyline. Shock, horror, joy, surprise and other such emotions live in an instant, and their effects are exhilarating. A lot has gone in to the special moments, and the cast and crew anticipate the reactions so much so, that most will not give anything away! I’m sure you’ve all seen interviews with actors saying, “I can’t say too much because it would give it all away.” Oh what trouble would there be if an actor gave away a key plot item before the TV show or film was released. There are examples where it has become a legal affair rather than a simple matter of courtesy, so be flippant with spoilers at your own risk.
Here is what a spoiler does. The person who will post our spoiler in this little example I will call the Spoilee, and those that read the spoiler, I will label the Spoiled. So the Spoilee watches a show and reaches the pivotal moment in the story where something really big, shocking, and altogether unexpected happens. The Spoilee is quite obviously surprised, horrified or amazed at this turn of events, and then proceeds to explain to the world through very public forums, what happened. It only needs to be one sentence of a few words, like “I can’t believe such-and-such did this,” or “So-and-so bites the big one,” and so forth. This short declaration is now appearing in people’s feeds around the world. Some may have seen the show already and thus are unspoiled. Others may have no interest in the series or happen not to be online at that point in time, thus missing the post, and are as such unspoiled. Then there are those that are about to watch said show, or are unable to due to release timings, or the inability to be able to afford cable TV. These are the spoiled. They are now aware of a key plot event in the storyline that they were looking forward to.There are two types of spoiled; those who are somewhat more accepting of spoilers, because there is so much more about the story anyway, and those that appreciate being able to experience these things for themselves. Regardless of which group you are part of, and sometimes this will vary from show to show, the emotional value of the scene now spoiled is diminished. The Spoilee has taken that pleasure for themselves and left the Spoiled with near nothing. They have diminished the work of the show (cast and crew) by reducing the anticipation of the audience. The big key scene, with all the build up, all the preparation, has now been reduced to just another plot movement. The shock value is gone, selfishly claimed by the Spoilee.
Does this mean that people should not post about their favourite shows? No. I don’t think that the solution is to stop talking about your shows, it is just to have a little consideration for those who may potentially read your posts, and have the same enjoyment you had for a show, lost. I would suggest one of the following, as alternatives.
- Warn people that you are about to talk about a show with something like “Show-such-and-such SPOILER ahead”, or
- make a non-specific declaration about the show like “Can’t believe what I just saw in show-such-and-such” and start a private conversation with those that reply.
Think of it from the point of view that you don’t want to diminish the enjoyment factor for other people. Think of it from the point of view that you want others to enjoy the show as much as you did. Just show a little courtesy.
Oh, and if you use the argument that the books were written years ago, shame on you. There are far more books than movies and TV shows. It is impossible to read all books before a show, and often it is the Movie or TV show which is bringing attention to the books, not the other way around. If it was written in a book years ago, great. It makes no difference. I am sure the author is excited that new audiences will be enjoying his story through the visual medium, and hopes that they have the same reactions as those who read the books first.