In this golden age of television and comic book movies, the internet has presented a big problem: SPOILERS!! Every so often, my Facebook page (and I’m guessing yours, too) explodes with a debate about the etiquette for what to say when, how to say it or if it should come with a warning. Fortunately, though, like any internet problem, there’s a solution often found by spending a few minutes on a search engine.
Recently, a news site presented on-set pictures from an eagerly awaited sci-fi epic which featured a familiar spaceship possibly returning. This really is no surprise as said familiar spaceship appeared in every other live-action chapter of this franchise but still many on the internet cried “SPOILER” so I thought this would be a good time to write some thoughts about the Spoiler pandemic, about what I’ve done and what you can do to protect yourself. So read on – and I highly encourage you to spread the word about what you read here. Not to promote my blog (but cheers anyway!) but to help save the internet. Kidding, but kinda not.
****JUST TO BE SAFE: The following blog contains spoilers for Alien3, Watership Down and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. I can’t recommend the latter two enough, by the by.
To be clear, I HATE SPOILERS. I think they ruin the fun and overall experience of a television program or movie or stage-play et al. There was an article that went around recently called “Why Spoilers don’t actually matter.” I never read it and won’t. I’ve had enough things ruined for me to know that they do matter.
Full disclosure, dear reader: I do actively seek spoilers on one thing and that’s Doctor Who. For whatever reason, maybe because I’m so close to it and want to be so informed about it, I don’t want to be left in the dark. But I seek those out. I find the key and unlock them. I don’t broadcast them for all to hear. (And I have made that mistake, so I’m not trying to talk about this from a high horse. I have unintentionally spoiled things for people – and it’s a shit feeling)
There’s also the case of inaccurate spoilers. I won’t go into the details of the infamous Red Wedding from Game Of Thrones – but the so-called spoilers I got were well inaccurate so some surprise was maintained there. (Game Of Thrones deserves a shout-out, though. I know the Red Wedding was coming in Season Three, but there were THREE different weddings being prepared and built up toward, so I’m watching going “Which one is gonna be the Red Wedding?” Confusion or extra info can be an interesting way to combat spoilers. The folks did that during Star Trek II, when rumors of Spock’s demise leaked, they added the “Aren’t you dead line?” jokes from Kirk to Spock in the beginning to give the audience a false sense of security. Brilliant!)
And of course, as a person in the industry, one hears spoilers from everyday conversations and scripts passed around. I know more about next summer’s blockbusters than I’d like but that’s from the inside. I would NEVER post such information online out of 1) professional courtesy 2) I don’t spoil it for people who want to see those pictures. Because I know how much it sucks to have things spoiled.
I’ve had the following things, among many, spoiled for me:
-The ending of a season of Breaking Bad.
-The ending of Torchwood: Children of Earth
-A very specific death in Game Of Thrones.
Yup, Alien3. (I don’t know how or care to know how to type the stupid squared thing) Way back in 1991, I was reading Premiere magazine (remember that?) and in one of the first paragraphs about Alien3, the reporter described in detail how piping hot lead was being used to the destroy the Alien. This was a few months before it came out. No warning or anything. The action climax of the duel with the monster right there for all to see.
Suffice to say I was pissed and disappointed. Granted, that’s not the sole reason why Alien3 sucks (a prison full of rapists, murderers & serial killers? Um, OK, I’m rooting for the Alien. And no one is raping Ripley. No fucking way. But more on the Alien sage next week, rest assured.)
Still I was incensed that some magazine author arbitrarily decided that THAT point was not salient enough to be protected so naive readers like me could be, I don’t know, surprised and caught up in the movie. When I brought this episode up in film class a few years later, I was taken to task by my classmates. “The ending of the film is the least important part,” I distinctly remember one of them yelling that at me. We didn’t become friends.
This discussion rages on today on Facebook and twitter and all over the blogosphere. I’ve always advocated that a “SPOILER ALERT” type warning should accompany ANY potential spoiler (see above). I’m glad people are so excited about movies and TV they run to the internet to say “I can’t believe such-and-such just happened.” I’ve been blessed to work on shows that make people that excited and am equally excited to work on more. But I don’t think there’s any excuse to not give a “head’s up, I’m gonna talk about something you may not want to hear.” In my mind, that’s never been (and still isn’t) difficult.
But not everyone (in fact, far from everyone) agrees with me.
“Spoiler Alerts don’t work,” argue some. They always have for me. I see spoiler alert, I scroll past.
“People who complain about spoilers are telling others they can’t talk about the shows they like,” I can sort of see how this is implied (not really, I’m being generous) but don’t see how a spoiler alert is equal to shut up.
“Just stay offline or off social media for a few days,” Um, just not realistic in this day and age. And we are coming closer and closer to a day when we will never be offline. Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, it’s true.
So what to do? When we’re in a bar or at parties we show consideration. You wouldn’t scream the ending of True Detective out loud in the middle of a room where people hadn’t seen it, would you? (The fine gents at Script Notes left their TD segment on the end of a show with many warnings for anyone who hadn’t seen it.) You wouldn’t discuss the twist ending of a movie as you leave the theatre in front of the line of folks waiting to get in, would you?
People have a tremendous sense of etiquette and common courtesy – except for the internet, it seems. Or at least, we haven’t reached universal accepted behavior there just yet. (I just learned the phrase trolling can apply to any kind of critic online. What the fuck is that?)
And like Fiver coming to that realization of a dog loose in the woods in Watership Down, I remembered something. A conversation I had weeks ago. A friend of mine of on Facebook commented that he didn’t want a bunch of sports comments in his feed (this may have been for the NFL playoffs, I don’t remember) I recommended an app that blocked sports scores from social media.
After a recent debate about spoiler etiquette, I remembered this app and researched. Not only did I find it, I found several. And that’s probably the thing that shocked me the most about the various Spoiler debates I’d had. We actually have the power to block Spoilers from our online life – and just not enough people know about it. Long threads of “you do this,” “no, you do this” can be eliminated by any of links – freeing us up to watch more TV!
For the past month, I’ve been using The Chrome Unspoiler:
Effectiveness: I’d say about 95-98% Simply install in your browser and type in what you don’t want spoiled. It’s a good idea to include character names and keywords as well as the title. That sounds like a pain but actually only takes a few seconds. News articles, blogs, social media are personally and selectively shielded so you don’t see anything you don’t want to see yet. Not so ironically, Breaking Bad is the default. Every spoiler blocked is presented with the option to show it. You can turn as many options on and off as many times as you wish. This has been a lifesaver.
Now it’s not 100%, as I said. One noticeable gap is that it won’t hide the Facebook trending column to the right, at least not yet, so be warned on that one. And sometimes a headline will flash for a second or two before it’s blocked.
But the price-tag of “free” is hard to beat.
There’s also a version for Internet Explorer: http://www.it-support.com.au/block-tv-show-spoilers-ruining-your-day-with-unspoiler/2014/04/
What about my phone?
Works for both iphone and Android. Has great reviews from many users.
I haven’t found anything that’s as good as the Unspoiler. It might be out there and if you find it please post a link in the comments section. There is however, a comments blocker. (And gosh, if some websites don’t desperately need that)
Safari? I’ve not found one yet, but again if there’s a link I missed please post.
There’s also these articles on other ways of blocking out spoilers, but some of these seem a bit complicated so I’m sticking with the Unspoiler. But hey, they may be perfect for you so check ‘em out:
So anyone mad about seeing the spaceship reveal from Star Wars, download one of these, install it and type in Star Wars – because those are only going to get worse between now and December 2015.
(And parents, these apps may be useful for parental control measures as well)
So the next time you’re on Facebook and you hear someone bitch about spoilers or someone bitching about someone bitching about spoilers – send them to these links or apps. One of them will absolutely solve the problem.
We’re the on-demand generation. We’re twisting media to our personal demands, regular programming schedules be damned. (I JUST started Justified, for example) We decide what and when we watch TV, movies or listen to music. So if only follows that we’ll be exposed to spoilers – but only when we want.
If these links work for you, help spread the word. We can make the internet a nicer place to discuss things we disagree on. And any other spoiler solutions are more than welcome in the comments section. Thanks!