What confounds me about spoilers is that I do not know when they start. Really, when does the plot of a book stop being a teaser summary and start veering into spoiler territory? 20 pages in? 50 percent in? On the penultimate page? I never know where to draw the line. This is why plot summaries for books are so impossible for me to write; I'm so terrified that someone will accuse me of having "spoiled" the book for them that I instead cripple myself from writing any sort of useful plot summary at all. I feel like everyone has a different set of criteria for defining a spoiler and so it is impossible to please everyone.
I clearly don't know where the line is for any spoiler situation, based on the below scenario:
A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of Once Upon a Time. Soon after that, I made one of my rare appearances on Twitter and said something like, "That episode of Once Upon a Time just broke my heart." Someone responded, we started chatting and I got excited because I don't know anyone else in my daily life that actually watches Once Upon a Time. So much of what I miss about my previous experience on Twitter is the ability to have these really in-depth conversations with a bunch of people at once about subjects that interest and matter to you, and so it was really great to get back on randomly and have an almost instantaneous connection with someone on a topic like that. Also, Once Upon a Time is by the makers of Lost, so there is a LOT to talk about with regard to plots, secrets, possibly developments, etc. I was ready to dig deep into the conversation.
And then, very quickly, I was chastised for talking about the show by another Twitter user because I was giving away spoilers. She is also an avid watcher of the show, and it hadn't aired yet in her region. And she was DVRing it, anyway, so didn't know when she'd get around to watching it. She would prefer me not to give away any more information about the show. Apparently, talking about TV show plots is an "obnoxious" thing to do on Twitter, and I and other plot spoilers should be ore careful.
Really? Obnoxious? That's a pretty strong word. I was talking about a show that has its own Twitter hashtag (#onceuponatime), after it had already aired in at least in half the country, on a completely public forum. What is obnoxious about that? People write all sorts of stupid things on Twitter, many without even expecting responses. Why can't I use the site for a real conversation on a timely topic?
After going back and forth about this for a while with the person who said that divulging plot secrets is "obnoxious," I got pretty angry and have since retreated back into my "I use Twitter for about five minutes a week" habit. She is still on very regularly and talks about all sorts of non-TV-show-plot-related things.
There are many aspects of the above that really bother me, as you can probably guess:
1. Why can't I use a public forum to engage in discussions that are relevant to me and other people using that forum?
2. Why does someone else have the right to spend hours on Twitter talking about whatever topics she wants, but I am not allowed to do the same?
3. Why is it considered rude for people to talk about plot points in a public place, but it's not considered rude for other people to specifically request that everyone refrain from discussing a trending topic?You might say, "Well, if you really want to discuss the book/movie/show, you can do it off-line or in a private place so as not to ruin it for everyone else." Yes, I realize that. And I do that. But why can't I discuss it with a wider range of people, many of whom I don't really know that well or interact with that often, but who share a passion for the same subject matter? Why does your desire to have nothing "spoiled" trump my desire to share in a collective conversation? Is it so crazy for me to suggest that maybe you should just get off Twitter for the three hours after which Once Upon a Time has aired in the East Coast and before it's aired in the west? Or are you so completely addicted to the site that you can't leave, and then must cry foul at people who are discussing it in real-time?
Maybe this was feasible when you only talked to people about books and TV shows and movies in person or over the phone when you could abruptly cut the person off or change the TV station. But now, it's really encroached into the digital space, too. Instead of just glossing over tweets or ignoring Facebook status updates or avoiding forums in which plots are discussed, the spoiler police seems to believe it has the right to tell everyone to stop talking about the subject. Because it makes more sense for everyone online to stop talking about it than for the spoiler-phobic to just leave the website.
This is why I dislike the spoiler police so much. The whole concept of scolding people and requesting them not to talk about certain topics until X amount of time has passed or Y milestones have been met implies that one population's anticipation and enjoyment of an event is more important than another population's understanding and discussion of that same event. Why is there no attention paid to the fact that the spoiler police are making my life more difficult and unhappy by being so obsessive about not hearing spoilers or speculation or guesses or discussion? My experience of a book or movie or TV show is significantly decreased when I can't gush and debate its meaning with other people while it's fresh in my mind.
And while I can (sort of- I admit I am a spoiler fanatic myself) understand not wanting a key plot point revealed, or wanting to discover for yourself exactly how the drama will unfold, I do not understand why this is desire is viewed as sacrosanct.
As Mary Elizabeth Williams says in her article, Death to the Spoiler Police, "Once a work enters the pop culture vernacular, it is not society’s responsibility to provide you with earmuffs until you finally get around to experiencing it." Jay Black said, "What's happened is that people have come to expect the same level of courtesy extended to every episode of TV that we give to the surprise ending of Fight Club. This is ridiculous. I'm sorry, Spoiler Nerds, but there is a fundamental difference between a midseason episode of Private Practice and the ending to the original Planet of the Apes."
I couldn't agree with them more.
What are your views on spoilers? Do you think people who chat about plots before you've had a chance to watch a show are obnoxious?