The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom


Television Collision: Keep Me in the Dark – A Case Against Spoilers

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageI am obsessive about TV, that’s no secret. Most of the time I am indulgent about my obsession as well, I love television and I make no excuses about it. I carelessly devote uncounted idle hours to my viewing pleasure and more hours to my “viewing duties” (watching shows I personally am not crazy about, but which are hits with critics or the mass audience).
And yet there is a point in my obsession where I continue to stop myself and consciously keep myself in check: when it comes to spoilers.

There are countless blogs and websites out there offering “scoops” or “teasers” about upcoming episodes, story lines and events on all and any of the current shows on television, but I refrain from reading them as much as I can. I don’t even log into my Twitter account on certain days, because I know some of the TV critics I follow will have written about an episode from the night before that haven’t yet watched. (Yeah, I don’t watch television in real time, I live in Germany, so Grey’s Anatomy is not my Thursday night viewing, but my Friday afternoon viewing.)

As a TV columnist, of course, it’s very tricky to avoid spoilers. You want to and need to look ahead sometimes and if you don’t want to look dumb and simply speculate what might happen next, you gotta get your hands on the info people like Michael Aussiello or Matt Mitovich dispense every week. Curiously the shows I hate reading spoilers on the most are the ones I enjoy the most. I don’t want my favorite shows to be spoiled for me by spoilers. After all there is a reason why spoilers are named “spoilers”. The definition of “to spoil” is: “to impair the quality or effect of something/someone”.

This is precisely what spoilers do, in my opinion. I find the twists and turns and surprises, especially those during sweeps months, hit me so much harder and cause so much more joy or pain or anger in me when I can enjoy these episodes and scenes without having any idea before of what will await me behind the next corner. And this is why I love good television, because it can make me feel something and I am a fan of big emotions, so why would I want to take intensity away from it, even from my anger if a show pulls a completely stupid move?

ImageI am like this with books, too, by the way. I would never, ever, skip ahead and read the ending before I actually naturally got there. My grandma does this, my mom does too, and it drives me nuts! I cannot understand why someone would voluntarily deprive themselves of the joy of surprise. Maybe it is an absurd way to “regain control”, because in life we never get to look ahead, so we seize every chance to do so when we actually can.

I cannot say that my impatience sometimes doesn’t get the better of me either. During the long summer months, after all “my shows” have ended with a season cliffhanger, natch, the weeks grow long, and I, too, long for a hint as to what is to happen next. I succumb to the seductive promise of “scoopage”, even though most of the time even the scoop is still held vague. But in principle I am against spoilers.

Granted, the TV market has to tease us and coax us in to tuning in next week, or in three weeks, when it’s sweeps time, so they have to let us glimpse ahead and tempt us with the promise of “a twist you won’t forget”. It’s not that I don’t understand the mechanisms behind spoilers and scoops, it’s just that I hate the clamoring fan community salivating for the next shrouded, misleading morsel of insight that has been overheard outside the writers’ room of Show X.

I feel this is a blatant disregard to the “artistic process” that goes into making these shows we love. (I put “artistic” in quotation marks here because I am well aware some shows are far from “artistic” on any level of merit and yet I don’t wish to exclude them from this debate at all. The guilty pleasure shows have a rightful place in our lives, even if in some instances all they serve as is as a reminder for “What is bad television”. Sometimes I find spoilers are even more spoiling with these kinds of shows even, precisely BECAUSE some of them rely on spectacle and going over the top, which is so much better served if you don’t see it coming.)
In the best case scenario a lot of planning goes into the arc of a season of any given show. There are pre-set high points in a season that are decided upon early in the writing process and then the details in between are filled in. Most of the time (since we have moved on from the traditional anthology show where nothing ever changes, with the exception of maybe The Simpsons and Family Guy etc.) shows feature a development of plot lines, characters and relationships. Sometimes the writers may even want to intentionally lead us — the viewers — astray, only so they can turn everything around on us in the end. If we always race ahead and demand insight into their planning instead of letting them take us on the journey, we are robbing the “creative forces” behind our shows to truly show us what they could do if only we let them.


OMG, what will happen next?

We never quite seem to give the current emotions, current situations, current dilemmas of an episode the time of day. We always need to move on, look ahead, know what’s next. We are restless, never in the moment, which is a sickness I am detecting not only in TV viewing behavior, by the way, but let’s not stray too far from the point here. Instead of thinking about the newest moral dilemma a show has presented us with and spending some time pondering it or simply enjoying our anticipation (like we do, for example, when we are getting ready for a date we’re really looking forward to or some such thing, remember how great that feels?), so many people run straight to their internets and look up “what’s gonna happen next”.

I don’t believe I can make anyone change their habits. If you have always been the person to skip ahead to the ending of your book and find out who the killer is before you have gotten to the chapter with the crime, then you are probably one of the first ones drafting an email to Matt Roush about when Amber Tamblyn will leave House’s team and Thirteen will return. Me, personally, I’d rather not know and see how I feel when this character I have always had very ambiguous feelings about suddenly reappears. Try my method sometime, you just might find you like your TV better that way.



Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.

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