SPOILING THE GAME
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Shadowlocked's Richard Cosgrove has a bit of a rant...
Warning, spoilers ahead. Read on at your peril....
Wait, come back! There aren't really any spoilers here (well, nothing that isn't fair game anyway, but we'll come to that in due course), but had there been, at least you'd have been given the opportunity to decide for yourself whether or not to continue. Opening the Metro (London's free morning paper) last week it was only thanks to some well honed instincts that I managed to avoid having the penultimate episode of the third season of Game of Thrones spoiled for me. Judging by the furore and vitriol that erupted in the paper's letters pages the following day there were a great many readers who weren't so fortunate.
You see, there on page three was a half page picture that I'm told gave away a pretty major event, with the headline reading something along the lines of “Game of Thrones Shocks Viewers” plastered above it. This was my saving grace, as I've developed lighting fast reflexes over the years when it comes to averting my eyes from anything that may give the game (of thrones or otherwise) away, so before my eyes had drifted to the offending picture my brain had already instructed my hands to swiftly turn the page.
Defending its actions, the Metro reasoned that because the episode had aired the previous night it was fair game to print the picture, and while I don't entirely agree with this philosophy, it does raise the question as to when exactly does it become acceptable to talk about events in films or television shows, and what protocols should be in place to minimise them being spoiled for others. (For the record, the Metro isn't good with spoilers, having revealed the identity of the killer in Broadchurch a few weeks ago no doubt before many commuters had managed to catch up with the conclusion of this superb eight part series.)
The fact that the Metro chose to run the picture and the story isn't so much of an issue with me, but I do believe that they should have given readers fair warning as to what was coming so as to enable them to make the choice of whether they wanted to glimpse the future or not. By putting it on page three with no warning there was absolutely no opportunity for those no doubt struggling to wake up on the morning commute into London, or perhaps intending to catch up at the weekend, to avoid the huge picture.
Had the Metro thought to give notice on the cover, or in a sidebar on the preceding page if they'd chosen to run it later in the paper, then a great many people's days wouldn't have been ruined before they'd barely begun. It wouldn't have taken much to do this, and I genuinely feel for those who were effectively ambushed because if I'd seen the picture properly myself I would have been furious. (As it happens I'm something of a latecomer to the Game of Thrones party, currently working my way through season two, but thankfully my friends who are up to date have the good grace to ask where I'm up to before they discuss the show.)
Incredibly there were a good number of letters written in response to the complaints that defended the paper's actions with arguments ranging from the fact that it wasn't really a spoiler because the scene had appeared in George R R Martin's books nearly two decades ago, to accusations that if you didn't watch a program live as it was first broadcast then you weren't a true fan.
Both of these arguments are, in my humble opinion, utter rubbish. I know many friends who are watching Game of Thrones and not one of them has read the books. One tried but found them hard going, but to his credit at least he had a go. As for not being a true fan if you don't watch something as it’s screened, this is all well and good if you don't have a demanding job, or a family, or a social life. Not all of us can drop everything to watch our favourite shows the minute they air. That's what Tivo, or On Demand or whatever other service you may use is for.
So when is it acceptable to talk spoilers? To be honest, I don't have any problem with anybody talking about any potential explosive revelations providing that they give anybody in their immediate group of people the courtesy of asking whether they've seen a particular film or whether they're up to date with a particular show. I'm not going to claim to be perfect here, as I've inadvertently spoiled things for friends before, we all have, but I've never done it intentionally and when it has happened I've felt terrible about it afterwards.
There are, of course, several 'classic' spoilers that are so ingrained in popular culture that I don't think it's rude to assume that people are not aware of them. For example there can't be anybody left (or anybody who is likely to care, anyway) that doesn't know who Luke Skywalker's father is, or the truth about Norman’s mother. Likewise if you're at all interested or ever have any intention of seeing the original Planet of the Apes then you surely know that, ah, you know, that THING at the end? Of course you do.
Regarding more recent releases, though, my own personal touchstone is that if something hasn't yet been released as a box set then one should be very careful about discussing anything that's potentially going to ruin it for anybody. Even then, though, common courtesy should surely compel you to enquire before you spill any secrets.
It's not just loose lipped friends and thoughtless newspapers that are guilty of spoilers, though. Too often vital plot points are thrown haphazardly into trailers (something I touched on in my article here), which is why I feel a little sad at having had to give up one of my previous pleasures in watching them due to too many giving too much away these days. This paid off in spades when I saw The Cabin In The Woods, as when I watched the trailer afterwards it had given away several major surprises (thought to be fair there were still plenty to go around).
With the internet and Twitter and Facebook and a hundred other ways of people uploading their thoughts into the public domain without a second thought, the issue of spoilers is here to stay, I'm afraid, but if just one of you reading this article pauses for thought before giving something away in the future, then writing it was time well spent.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Luke's father is......(censored – Ed.)
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