I think it’s about time we start setting some spoiler guidelines. We now live our lives without the constraints of actually needing to watch something “live”, and while I enjoy the ability to watch television shows at my own convenience instead of having to make sure I am settled and in front of the television at exactly 7pm on Thursday, it can be very annoying when you are trying to talk to someone about a show from the previous night and they don’t want to hear about it because they haven’t watched it yet. I understand that people get busy, and that you might not watch something on the night in which it airs, but if you haven’t watched it within a week of it airing, you don’t get to complain about “spoilers”.
Beyond the timing issue, I feel like people have gotten too nitpicky with what constitutes a “spoiler”. Most shows don’t have real spoilers. LOST had spoilers, Breaking Bad has spoilers, reality shows in which someone is eliminated each week have spoilers, but a show like Louie or Parks and Recreation or Community don’t really have real spoilers. Here is the “spoiler” for every episode of every one of those shows: the main characters of the show are presented with an obstacle or problem, and, SPOILER ALERT, they overcome said obstacle and/or problem. Most shows, and most movies even, don’t provide enjoyment through dramatic plot twists, they have a plot as an excuse to enjoy the characters and how they would react to different problems. Even fiction that does depend on some amount of suspense or uncertainty probably has a pretty predictable ending. Take The Dark Knight Rises…SPOILER ALERT: Batman wins in the end. Who would have thought?!?! There isn’t any twist in which it turns out that Alfred was actually the villain all along, it’s just that Bane is a bad guy, he does some bad things, Batman faces some adversity, then overcomes adversity to emerge victorious. What a surprise! I thought Batman would lose in the end!
The enjoyment of almost all fiction is the journey itself and enjoying the events as they unfold, not the uncertainty of how it will all end. There are very few shows or movies that would really be ruined by spoilers. Movies like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, and The Usual Suspects would be viewed much differently throughout the film if you know the twist ending. These are the movies that would be ruined if you knew what the ending was ahead of time, but these movies are rare. I could say almost anything about The Avengers, and it wouldn’t really ruin the enjoyment of that movie, yet I’m not allowed to say a single word about it all summer because my friend hasn’t seen it yet. Therefore…
I propose the following guidelines:
Television shows: If you haven’t watched a show within 7 days of it’s original airing, you can’t complain about spoilers.
Television shows on DVD: If you didn’t want it spoiled, you should have watched it when it aired. I watched Citizen Kane knowing what “Rosebud” was, Soylent Green and knew it was people, and Planet Of The Apes knowing that they were on Earth. And yet, it was okay.
Movies: Six weeks. If there is a movie that you really want to see, find a way to see it within six weeks, or else risk having it spoiled.
Entertainment is meant to be enjoyed with others, and it is annoying as hell not getting to discuss it just because a couple of your friends haven’t seen something yet. So watch the things you like, and watch them in a timely manner, and we’ll discuss it afterward.