Friday, November 13, 2009

When a 'Spoiler's' Not REALLY a Spoiler

Whenever I do a review of a TV show the day after it has aired, I usually include a bolded, italicized warning at the very top, “Warning: Spoilers ahead from the latest episode of [NAME OF THE SHOW].” Likewise, when I Twitter about the show after it has aired, I try not to put reveals in them and instead write very generally. It’s a bit of courtesy I extend to my DVRing/TiVoing friends who’ve delayed watching a program for whatever reason. But I don’t keep quiet forever. If you’re really a fan of a show and a significant episode has aired, like a finale, the thinking goes that you’re going to watch it sooner rather than later. If you wait too long, then if you hear about what happened, it's your fault.

However in the days – yes DAYS, as in plural – following the Mad Men finale, some folks on Twitter were complaining that others were spoiling the finale with their tweets. In fact, some were threatening to “unfollow” anyone who “spoiled” the Mad Men finale for them.

Then the backlash started against the “don't spoil” backlash. One Twitterer mocked the complainers by posting this tweet: “I’ve watched the Mad Men season finale so feel free to talk about Betty Draper’s psychotic break and tri-state killing spree.” A TV writer/blogger started posting what he called “old school spoiler alerts,” including this Friends-oriented one: “Ross and Rachel get together in the end.”

The blogger behind Televisionary took on this issue in a long post on his blog:

“I firmly believe that, once an episode has aired across the country, all bets are off. It's a free-for-all, as far as I am concerned. Writers, critics, bloggers, whoever, should be free to discuss the episode's intricacies and plot developments with abandon. There's no need to label a post, an interview, or anything as a ‘spoiler’ because it's not spoiling anything.

The details about the latest episode's plots, reality series eliminations, character deaths, etc. are out there in the public consciousness. Consider them public domain, if you will. And the onus to avoid them isn't on the part of the writer but on the reader.”

He said, rightly so I think, that if you haven’t seen something yet, it’s YOUR responsibility to refrain from going to web sites and social media (like, say, Twitter or Facebook), where you might accidentally come across unwanted information about the show you haven’t decided to watch yet.

What do you say readers? Can information about an already-aired show be considered a spoiler? Is it in poor taste to Twitter or use your Facebook status update to reveal information about show information?


Olga Tolbert said...

I agree. If the show has aired it is time to discuss, or critique as you like.

Meredith said...

Good to hear that you agree Olga. Not everyone agrees on this though. Makes it tough to discuss big doings on hot shows if everyone's spoiler-phobic.