3 Helpful Tips For Avoiding Spoilers (That Don’t Include Yelling “No Spoilers!” And Expecting The Universe To Listen)
In the last six years that I’ve worked full-time on ye olde internet, blogging about, amongst other things, TV, there is one particularly common directive I’ve heard in our comments section, via email and on Facebook and Twitter that drives me absolutely bat shit nuts: “NO SPOILERS!!!” I suspect that this isn’t going to earn me much fan mail, but I can’t take it anymore, I just have to say it: If a TV show is spoiled for you, chances are pretty goddamn good it’s your own fault and, well, I have very little sympathy for your plight. Sorry! Rather than telling the rest of the internet — which is full of people who, unfortunately, do not know you or particularly care about you — “NO SPOILERS” and expecting them to contort themselves to whatever your viewing timeline happens to be, I suggest you take the following precautions:
1. Stay off social media. Last night, I live tweeted the “Breaking Bad” finale from The Frisky’s Twitter account. Seemingly almost everyone on my personal timeline was either watching the show in real time — including on the West Coast, where it aired simultaneously with the East Coast — or bragging about how they’ve never seen an episode of “Breaking Bad.” (An aside to those people: I feel sorry for you. Why are you proud of never having seen one of the greatest pieces of art on the small screen? You’re better than that!)
But there were exceptions. One Frisky Twitter follower replied to one of my (fairly vague) BB tweets to say, “People in other countries aren’t loving you right now.” I feel for you folks across the pond, I do. Last season’s surprise ending on “Downton Abbey” was totally spoiled for me because it aired so much earlier in England than in the United States and I, and many others, could not escape finding out what would happen well before actually watching the episode. It was certainly an annoying disappointment, but I certainly couldn’t expect an entire country to keep quiet — not the night it aired, let alone the days, weeks and months after — for my benefit. I am special flower, but not that special!
My advice to this Frisky reader was to temporarily unfollow The Frisky on Twitter if they wanted to avoid me spoiling anything about “Breaking Bad” for them, but that they should really steer clear of Twitter/Facebook for the entire evening, or even a few days, if he or she was genuinely determined to avoid spoilers altogether. The beautiful thing about social media is that it has made it possible for us as fans to watch together, turning highly anticipated episodes into actual events. The event will go on, whether you RSVP or not, you know?
2. Make catching up a priority. The secondary underlying emotion underneath most cries of “UGH, NO SPOILERS!”, after anger, is jealousy. It feels like everyone is watching without you, and then talking about it for days afterwards, and you can’t participate because you haven’t yet seen it, and god, I get it, that blows. I truly feel for those people who would have watched the “Breaking Bad” finale last night if they didn’t have to work late or are too poor for cable and thus must wait for the episode to be available online. I empathize most with those who are only ever about 24-48 hours behind on a TV show, for those reasons, and do my best to write about climactic occurrences on TV during that window with ample spoiler alerts. Believe me, I would love for all of you to enjoy the thrill of not knowing what’s going to happen to Walt and Jesse until you actually watch it.
But let me be clear. That window does not extend longer than 48 hours with me. You get two days to catch up before I won’t hesitate to put an OMG spoiler akin to “KEVIN SPACEY IS KAISER SOZE” in a headline or the introduction to a post. Prior to that, I’ll do readers the courtesy of putting spoiler warnings in the headline and before the jump. (I haven’t always been perfect at this — I once put a spoiler in a headline about a particularly crazy “Dexter” episode and have learned my lesson!) That’s the best that any of us who blog about entertainment can give you. That you might encounter a spoiler anyway is a risk that comes with not watching a television show live. It’s up to you to catch up as quickly as possible. It’s not the responsibility of the rest of the viewers to shelter you from spoilers. The efforts made to temporarily shield you — via special spoiler warnings and hashtags — is but a courtesy. Them’s the breaks, kid.
3. Get over yourself (please). Did you start watching a particular show late and are still a few seasons behind? Sorry, but your late arrival means you’ve forfeited your right to demand no spoilers because the 48 hour window has closed many times over. It’s fair to ask friends, family and coworkers to not willfully spoil the conclusion to that particular series if they can help it, but you can’t expect them not to discuss (or, in my case, write about) television events that occurred weeks, months or years ago. If you’re significantly behind on a TV show and want to avoid spoilers, I refer you back to points one and two. If you’re lucky and you work quick, avoiding spoilers can be done. There have been many TV shows I started watching late or even after their final episodes had aired, and I still managed to avoid spoilers in almost all of those cases — season one of “Homeland,” all of “The Wire,” season 1-3 of “Breaking Bad,” I could go on — via dedicated binge watching, avoiding all articles about the shows online and off, and slapping on a pair of headphones when the show was a topic of conversation for those around me. But I also accepted that by being late to the party, I couldn’t complain about missing the important announcement.
Besides, at the end of the day, it’s just a TV show.
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