Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spoiler Alert: I Hate Spoiler Alerts

I don’t watch Homeland. So I don’t know the character’s names. I don’t know what season it is. I really don’t care about the show.

So I usually gloss over anything Homeland related until I saw this tweet from a sportswriter I follow.


Hmm, that’s odd. I thought Homeland aired on Sunday nights? It does. And it did. The Variety tweet is now long gone and they apologized for it, but not before people complained and did what annoying people usually do via social media. 

To review, a publication dedicated to the entertainment industry wrote about a show that aired in its entirety the night before – some 12+ hours prior to the tweet in question – and it was considered by many as a spoiler. It’s absurd. See this headline from the Daily News – not a spoiler if it has already aired.

And thus, we’ve reached critical mass.

I know a lot of people are into binge-watching and DVRs and on-demand and the like. I’m not a fan of binge-watching, but I do watch many shows on-demand after they are. Many times, this is due to sports. I could have watched Kenny Powers on Sunday night, but I chose to watch Sunday Night Football 99% of the time. And, it provided me the added bonus of having a new Kenny Powers episode to come home to after my Monday at work.

homeland spoiler
The same thing applied to Mad Men – I almost always watched it Monday after work.

In both cases, the onus was on me to avoid spoiler alerts. I wouldn’t click on links about the show, or about the ratings, or really anything that could pertain to the show for that Monday.

Now, it can be impossible in this day and age to completely unplug yourself and rid yourself of potential spoilers. There were times I would read tweets about Mad Men – mostly cryptic – that would allude to things that were happening with characters. Again, this was on me. I could watch turn off my social media or I could watch live – the choice was mine.

But we have reached a point where the people waiting to watch feel that they have now been emboldened to squash any discussion about any show lest they have seen it.

That’s not what television is about.

During the Breaking Bad finale, I read tweets from people complaining about other people tweeting about the finale. This is America, dammit, and if people want to share with what they’re watching, God bless them. If you’re not watching what promised to be one of the year’s most-discussed episodes of any show as it happened, then get the fuck off of Twitter!

Everyone wants to point to DVRs and on-demand as the reason why scripted television shows have seen their ratings crater in the past decade. Did people not own VCRs? Is recording television shows really that new of a phenomenon?

No, the big change has become the discourse around how we discuss entertainment. For movies, very little has changed. When movies came out, people would give other people some time to see it – it wasn’t being aired at the same time on the same channel for everybody.

When people started talking about a movie, you had to go out and watch it to join the conversation. There are few things more painful and socially awkward as when a group at a bar or a party starts talking about the latest hot movie, and you have to excuse yourself – or bullshit your way through it – because you haven’t seen it.

With television, that was likewise the accepted norm. Until recently. Now, nearly all discussion about television shows is muted and hush-hushed away.

The water cooler discussion? How can you have a water cooler discussion when there needs to be a 100% quorum to discuss anything?

And why do scripted shows get treated differently in our culture than live events? Why can we immediately discuss the results of the Voice as it happens but scripted shows are held to a different standard? Because a portion of the audience wants to watch later? Why does that portion – almost undoubtedly a smaller percentage than those that watch live – get to schedule our discussion?

The worst part about our “spoiler-free” is how willingly publications and television networks have gone along with this, in a desperate attempt to glean any remnants of viewers they can from a fractured landscape.
All that has managed to do is foster a culture where watching television shows as they air is no longer necessary. If anything, it seems quaint and nostalgic.

I was excited on Sunday night, at 8:30 p.m., to watch the Christmas episode for this season’s Bob’s Burgers. I really like that show. It’s got a great timeslot, for me, where I can watch the episode before checking in on the football game. I try to watch that show live every week.

It is, without a doubt, the way television was meant to be consumed. More importantly, it is the best way for it to be consumed.

We consume all sorts of media in all sorts of different ways today. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether I read the latest about Bob Diaco in print or online, nothing is changing about the information or the experience – I’m still reading a newspaper.

Scripted television shows are no longer must-watch because everyone is enabling that and it’s not good. Once a television shows airs, it’s free game to talk about it. If you haven’t seen it, that’s not my fault.

You don’t have to be on Twitter. You don’t have to check Facebook. You don’t need to be clicking links and surfing the Internet. You can excuse yourself from conversations.

If the previous 1,000 words haven’t given this away – I am sick and tired of spoiler alerts and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

A spoiler alert is when you are giving away information about an entertainment show that has not aired yet. If Variety sent their tweet out 12 hours prior to Homeland airing, I wouldn’t be writing this. When Variety sends out a tweet about something that happened 12 hours after, I shouldn’t have to write this.

I know that newspapers and publications will still show good judgment. And I know they will still label things “spoiler alerts” when writing about shows that already happened. I get that.

But the masses – they need to stop. If you come across a spoiler, it’s your fault. In the end, that’s the point of this rambling mess of a blog post.

If you watch something, you can talk about it and you can post about it. It’s called social media for a reason.

If you don’t watch something, then it’s up to you to avoid spoiler alerts.

It’s not Variety’s fault. It’s your fault.

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