The Spoiler Culture


This past weekend, I watched one of the best conclusions to any TV show in recent history.  The end of Battlestar Galactica was a pretty big geek event, given the traction and popularity of the show in the past half decade, and it probably gave SciFi the biggest ratings numbers in the history of the network.  I won’t get into a lengthy review here (it rocked), but the aftermath of its airing brought something to mind.

On a number of different podcasts I’d listened to, as well as in a few different online conversations I had about the show, I found that there was a violent aversion of spoilers from it.  Of course, these were from the people who had recorded it on their DVR’s or planned to watch it on Hulu or Torrent it later.  They’d simply decided that they’d like to arrange the show into their time as opposed to the other way around, and I can totally respect that.  However, there’s kind of an interesting moral dilemma there.  Is their convenience more important than the enjoyment others would have from discussing their favorite show?  It’s one thing for a person to excuse themselves and walk out of a room during that conversation, but it’s totally another when they stick their fingers in their ears and shout SHADDUPP!! before you can get out the first word.

I suppose this is a new enough phenomena that we’ve not really developed a well defined ethical code or rules of courtesy surrounding it.  Hulu has only become commonly popular in the past few months, DVRs are still not an encompassing technology, and Torrenting still seems to be limited to the morally ambiguous geekerati .  So what type of rules would we develop around this?  Spoilers are easy to deal with online as you can hide them behind links or unhighlighted text, but they are certainly wholly separate in everyday conversation.  Is there a time span in which it’s expected that you not talk about any genre of fiction?  Is it expected for someone to simply withdraw themselves from conversation if they want to wait to see or read it?

It will probably take some time for that stuff to sort itself out, but I don’t really doubt that it will.  But for the time being, I think that the social experience of watching and discussing something in real time is something that should hold priority over the new conveniences we have when watching shows or movies.  Entertainment is meant to be social, not something that you experience on an isolated basis.  If I hadn’t talked to others about Battlestar Galactica and the last season or two, there’s no way in heck I would have understood what was going on in that finale.  And I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I knew that I couldn’t dissect it later on.

If you can find a way to schedule that around your lives, maybe we can work out some sort of deal.


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