The Cult of the Almighty Spoiler

By on Feb 6, 2010 in Inner Monologues |

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Hi, my name’s Dan, and I’m a spoileraholic. (“Hi, Dan.”) Or, at least, I used to be. What is it about television spoilers that are so damn alluring, anyway? I’ve never skipped to the end of a novel to read how it ends. I’ve never looked up the ending to a movies. But TV spoilers have been too tempting to resist. I guess my compulsion to read spoilers was half impatience and half a desire to be “in the know.” I always justified it by saying that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey. But with so many shows these days (like those that are heavily serialized) those “destinations” are monumental and are just as important as the “journeys.” I can appreciate that now. I’m always pleased when I watch a huge, unforeseen twist play out. I like the surprise.

Though I’m pretty much sober now, I still read some spoilers now and again. I never hunt them out, but if I see a spoiler alert in a review or preview, I might disregard it if it’s a show that I’m not obsessive about. But even with shows that I am obsessive about, I still happen across spoilers through other blogs and Twitter feeds. It’s an inevitability when you stay on top of television news while being a few episodes behind on a certain show (which I perenially am for almost every show). And friends of mine happen upon spoilers inadvertently, too. As my friend Omid was catching up on Lost, a blurb on iTunes gave away the identities of the Oceanic Six. Bummer.

But is iTunes to blame there? That question segues into a debate that television critics always have with their readers: what is the statute of limitations on spoilers? In other words, how long after a TV show reveals a twist can someone discuss it? I posit that eventually the onus of avoiding spoilers has to be placed on the reader. The reader should know when a discussion is veering toward a potential spoiler and stop reading. This also calls for some prudence on the part of the critic: no non-sequitor spoilers! You can’t just blurt out how The Sopranos ends (unless everyone knows by now). You have to ease into it. But yes, after a certain amount of time—which depends on the popularity of the show and the mindblowingness of the twist—critics should declare it safe to talk about. And blissfully-ignorant readers should always read with caution.

But what about the people whose appetite for spoilers knows no bounds? How to best satisfy them? There will always be spoiler sites out there because there will always be chatty insiders. (Loose lips sink ships… and sometimes storylines.) How do writers and producers thwart their efforts? Because writers never want their stories spoiled, as far as I can tell. I’ve never known a showrunner to say, “Sure, Internet, I’ll tell you how this season ends.” So they resort to radio silence and sometimes even subterfuge, and they tell their actors to do the same. Some people, like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice boss Shonda Rhimes, even dole out lesser spoilers to avoid talking about the twists that really matter. But try as writers and producers might, information will always leak out. No production is an island… not even those that take place on an island.

I understand the appeal. I understand the addiction. But I have learned to stop ferreting and love the suspense. To go with the flow. To watch the show as it was meant to be watched. And I feel good about it. There will always be spoilers, and spoiler hounds, but consider me a newly-minted spoilerphobe.

Grant me the serenity to accept the spoilers I cannot un-know,
the courage to go with the unspoiled flow, and
the wisdom to know to do so!