Aaron R. Davis
I was a bit miffed this week by an article on /Film entitled Spoiler Alert: The Responsibility of Online Writers in a Hulu/DVR World. In the post, writer David Chen took online critic Jace Lacob of Televisionary to task over his response to an incident where Jace had allegedly “spoiled” the Mad Men finale for an angry reader by writing about it in his TV review column the day after the episode aired.
I was irritated by Chen’s article not just because he was using the apparent faux pas of another writer to praise himself and his website for its apparent “respect” of viewers by pussyfooting around the issue of “spoilers,” but also because he seemed to feel it was lazy and disrespectful of Jace to feel as though he didn’t need to throw up the words “spoiler alert” every time he wanted to discuss something.
The thing is: he doesn’t. No one does.
Let me explain.
The reader in question was angered by Jace’s post-mortem on the season finale of Mad Men, but by the reader’s own admission, he was seven episodes behind. Jace has no way of knowing this. Maybe the guy’s watching it online or recording it on his TiVo and is watching it, for whatever reason, at a leisurely pace. But does the whole world need to stop and make sure that everyone else is caught up before they can discuss something that’s already aired on television? Why should everyone shut up because this guy is weeks behind the curve?
Isn’t the responsibility on this guy to avoid any articles, blog posts or message board discussions about the Mad Men finale until he’s actually watched the damn thing?
I don’t think the issue here is that a TV critic didn’t post the words “spoiler alert” on his critical review of a TV show that had aired the day before. I think the issue is, as usual, the entitled crybabies on the Internet who think it’s the entire world’s responsibility to shelter them in a protective bubble until they can get around to finding the time to bother keeping up with the TV series they love so much.
Sure, to be fair, not everyone has the vast amounts of free time that I do to waste watching TV shows. And it would be nice if sites like Hulu could actually keep up with broadcasts and put these things online the next day instead of a week later. And it would be great if DVD releases of TV seasons came out in the middle of the summer instead of a week before (or worse, after) the new season comes on.
But if you’re not caught up, why are you reading a review of the season finale? You can’t discuss a finale without talking about what actually happens on it and how the season ended. How is that an online writer’s fault?
Sorry, but the responsibility is on you to avoid all discussion of something you haven’t seen. It’s not on the writer to assume you’re not caught up. This isn’t a pre-airing review, and it’s not some movie review that hits the Internet the day a movie comes out. In those cases, there’s a responsibility not to give away all of the key plot points. But when something has already aired or been released, it’s not our responsibility to whisper in hushed tones and tiptoe around plot points just because you haven’t caught up yet. Sorry, but that’s reality. We don’t have to guess what you do or don’t know. A spoiler alert isn’t a requirement. It’s a courtesy. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about courtesy, it’s that you can’t assume everyone will make it.
David Chen isn’t arguing against the laziness of an online writer. He’s arguing for the childish entitlement of the reader.
It doesn’t help that no one seems to be able to agree what a spoiler actually is these days. Is it a spoiler that there will be a new companion on a new season of Doctor Who, or that James Bond gets the girl in the end? Those are pretty predictable, aren’t they? You know Spider-Man’s going to triumph over the villain. The surprise is in the execution, not the bare plot points, and if you want to be surprised, an online writer didn’t ruin the experience by discussing something, you ruined it by jumping in on the discussion and assuming everyone else was going to clam up to protect your precious experience.
Don’t be a crybaby about it. You only have yourself to blame.
(Assuming you’re not using Twitter, which I admit is just one giant spoiler.)
And how long is the amount of time to expect that something is still a spoiler? Is it still a spoiler that Soylent Green is people or that Rosebud was Citizen Kane’s sleigh decades after the fact, just because you haven’t bothered to see the movies in question? I have a friend who once got mad at me for revealing, through discussion with another friend that took place in front of him, the big twist in The Crying Game. This was three years after the movie came out. How long are my hands supposed to be tied on that one just because he couldn’t be bothered to see the movie in that amount of time? It’s unrealistic.
Well, just so you know: the Martians die from human germs; the shark gets blown up and so does the Death Star; Ash is a robot – he’s a goddamn robot; Tyler Durden isn’t real; the Titanic sinks; Ilsa leaves Rick for the greater good; Darth Vader is really Luke’s father; Batman is really billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and Superman is really mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent; Bambi’s mother gets killed; the nerds get revenge; E.T. goes home; Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze all along; Bruce Willis is dead the entire time (as if it weren’t obvious from the trailer alone); the Planet of the Apes is really Earth in the future; the Fifth Element is love; Snape kills Dumbledore; the Nazis lose World War II; and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies all really, really suck.
There: you are now caught up on pop culture.
Oh, um, spoiler alert.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.