TV & Film

So, How Should The Internet Handle Spoilers?


As likely all sentient human beings know: Something pretty major happened on "Game of Thrones" this week. Of course, we (and the entire Internet) wanted to talk about it, but there were some folks who were not yet caught up with George R.R. Martin's latest attempt at wedding planning. After dealing with things like this, and a similarly major event a mere 20 minutes into the premiere of "House of Cards," Huff Post TV got to thinking about the way spoilers should be handled. Here's what we found:

Spoiler Alert: Do not read, if you have not seen "The Sixth Sense."

Lauren: Pegged to a certain thing that happened to a certain person on a certain show, I feel like we need to talk about the nature of spoilers, the way we handle them here on Huff Post TV and the way the Internet handles them in general. Is there a specific etiquette that TV writers should abide by (specifically if they want to avoid the kind of death threats you've been getting)?

Erin: Ugh, death threats, destroyed days and furious people are not things that should come with any TV show, or that should hang on any TV writer's shoulders. Still, people get super emotional about their characters and expect the Internet to courteously stop running for them. While there are certainly are no rules, it seems like there is a generally accepted etiquette to refrain from overt spoilers. But for how long? And also, how far is too far for a spoiler?

Lauren: Obviously there are the general things -- starting a piece with a spoiler warning, including the word "spoilers" in the headline, what have you -- that we should do immediately after. Generally speaking, by the next episode, I think it's safe to discuss the previous episode without pretense. But with something like Joffrey dying ... crap, sorry ... where you know the Internet has basically imploded over this plot point, I think the game changes. When something like that happens, to some extent, it becomes the not-caught-up viewer's job to steer clear of relevant articles (and probably Twitter altogether).

Erin: Totally, and there are so many examples from this TV season alone. From "Breaking Bad" to "The Good Wife" to "Scandal." The thing about TV is that you need to talk about episodes immediately after they occur, or things become less relevant. The majority of fans have already seen the episode and want to read about it. Why do we need to tailor our writing for those who haven't? If you want to avoid spoilers, there are ways to take precautions and plenty of awesome tools and filters to avoid spoilers on social media.

Lauren: Yeah, I think the onus falls on the viewers. One of the really great and awesome things about the Internet is that it means there is a place to have a constant discussion surrounding TV. Every episode comes with recaps and think pieces that fuel a greater discourse. That's really fascinating, but it also means there are spoilers. You know, I'm sure there were some folks in the 1930s that had the latest Eugene O'Neill play spoiled via telegraph. Spoilers aren't new, the conversations we're having (and Twitter/technology/the Internet) are.

Erin: Definitely.

Lauren: I'm also wondering if you think spoilers necessarily ruin something. I understand why we attempt to avoid them (I practically considered just taking off of work/the Internet until I caught up with that "Good Wife" twist), but maybe we're also being dramatic about the effect of spoilers in the first place.

Erin: I bet Romeo and Juliet's death was totally ruined for a whole colosseum of people one day too, what a shame. But that's a good question, is it actually "ruining" the show/episode? There's no doubt it's less exciting when you know what to expect, but with such high quality television lately (and these are the shows with the biggest spoiler alerts), isn't it more about the way it's approached then the fact of it? I was a little late on the "Breaking Bad" finale and one outlet posted a picture of Walt's obituary on Facebook. So, yeah, I was bummed, but in my opinion that finale wasn't damaged one bit having known it was coming.

Lauren: That's obviously not ideal, but it doesn't automatically destroy the experience.

Erin: And the same goes for film. Knowing the ending of "The Usual Suspects" or "Fight Club" doesn't make their twists any less great. You revisit those movies again and again because their plots are written so expertly and you have to re-watch them to catch all the the clues, and thus you appreciate them even more.

Lauren: Completely! Not that I am going to start seeking them out now, but I think given this state of excellent TV coupled with excellent discussion, maybe we need to embrace the plausibility of things being spoiled (rather than just whining about them). Also, apparently there's even fancy research that proves that literary spoilers actually can increase enjoyment.

Erin: And, either way, if all people are paying attention to with high-end TV these days is the shock level of the plot points, then sadly they're missing out, spoiler-free or not.

Lauren: I agree. Anyway, I'll talk to you later Erin, I'm gonna go watch "The Sixth Sense."

Erin: Okay, let me know when you're done and we can talk about that certain thing that happens with Bruce Willis.

Before You Go

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Sibel Kekilli as Shae

'Game Of Thrones' Season 4

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