Spoiler Culture, and the Spoilers Who Spoil It

santa claritaNetflix

The other day, I was tooling around the internet, seeing what kind of news was out there and what was happening in this crazy mixed up world of ours, when I popped onto one of the entertainment news websites and happened upon the first of a series of stories about this new Netflix show, Santa Clarita Diet.

It stars Drew Barrymore — whom I like okay — and Timothy Olyphant — whom I love because he was the star of Justified, which is only one of the best shows of the 21st century — and so I had plans to watch it once it was available for streaming.

Turns out, the show has a bit of a twist involved, and this website gave fair warning that it would be revealed after the jump. Not taking the bait, I moved on, now keenly aware that there was some tricky business afoot, and since I am averse to spoilers the way I am averse to eggplant and goat cheese, I trod carefully.

Which worked just fine until I went to Collider, which led with a headline that told me exactly what the show’s secret is.

No tease, no warning, no heads up, just this: “Surprise! Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet Is Actually About [Redacted]”

#Spoiled.

dietNetflix

Now, it doesn’t mean I no longer want to watch the show, but a prime moment the creators wanted me to have as a viewer, a surprising or shocking moment that might make me jump off my couch and enhance my viewing of their project, has been taken away from me without my permission or agreement, and that, quite frankly, is not acceptable.

I understand that there are people who might be turned off by this facet of the program, but there are still better ways to handle it. For instance, something as simple as, “Interested In Watching That New Drew Barrymore Show On Netflix? There’s Something You Should Know First (Spoilers)”

See how easy that is? Here’s another one: “Surprise! Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet Is Actually About (Spolier)!”

#NotSpoiled

walking deadAMC

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. A little over a year ago, I was hit by something else that was rather upsetting. See, I watch The Walking Dead. I’m not a fanatic about it or anything, but it’s a mainstay on my DVR. I also enjoy watching without having big events and twists revealed to me ahead of time. This is generally true with any kind of entertainment I am likely to consume, but I think that just makes me a sophisticated viewer. Or, y’know, as sophisticated as I get.

Of course, it’s rare that I watch the show — or any show, really — during its actual broadcast. Normally, I wait and watch it the next day, or maybe during the course of the week. So, when the word filtered down after this particular episode that a major character had been killed off, I knew that the internet was going to be something of a minefield. For the most part, the interwebs were respectful of those who hadn’t seen it yet, refusing to reveal the victim without very visible warnings, which is as it should be.

And then there was The Hollywood Reporter, which ran a piece on that Monday afternoon with the headline: “Walking Dead Boss Breaks Down Deadly, Heartbreaking Episode,” and the sub-heading, “Showrunner Scott M. Gimple talks with THR about [spoiler’s] fate and the decision to leave things unclear.” Under that was another warning that the piece held major spoilers about the previous night’s episode, and anyone who hadn’t yet seen the show shouldn’t read further.

All good so far, right? Yes. But then here’s the rub:

Run alongside the post was a large, page-wide picture OF THE VERY CHARACTER WHO WAS SUPPOSEDLY KILLED OFF.

#Spoiled

jon snowHBO

There were not, of course, any repercussions for such a transgression, because why would there be? Remember when Jon Snow “died” at the end of Season Five of Game of Thrones? The New York Post waited until the next morning to plaster a still from the episode featuring actor Kit Harrington with the oversized headline “DEAD SNOW,” not even pretending to give people a chance to avoid the big reveal.

#AreYouKiddingMe.

It should be noted that the accompanying piece did have a spoiler alert at the top, but that’s sort of like clicking on the safety after you’ve already pulled the trigger.

This didn’t use to be a problem. Prior to the internet, spoilers were a word of mouth kind of deal. But with the anonymity of the web, and the fairly atrocious way that people behave on it, it’s generally only a matter of time before something is going to be ruined. I mean, can you imagine how long the twists of The Crying Game or The Sixth Sense would last today? I’m guessing maybe a day or two. Maybe.

6th senseBuena Vista Pictures

I was actually really surprised that the big death in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens stayed secret as long as it did. It was almost as if people agreed not to ruin the most anticipated movie of all time for other people. Obviously, the stakes on a new Netflix show aren’t quite as high, but still, one would think that an entertainment news website, of all places, would know better.

There should be some acceptable rules here. Yeah, I get that there is so much content available that you need to have some awareness of what you’re about to watch, but it’s not like anyone said anything about, say, Stranger Things, or even The OA (to take two other twisty Netflix offerings), and both of those got a whole heck of a lot of eyes on them, right? So why do we need to be told every little thing about every little show before they air?

Movies aren’t any better anymore, either. How often are you sitting in the theater, ready to watch a new release, when some trailer comes along and gives away every funny beat of a new comedy, or every climactic moment of a highly anticipated actioner?

Y’know, I’ve actually stumbled upon a top secret startup that can help address this very issue. It’s working on a platform that understands what you and your friends have watched, and so it’s able to intelligently share content, texts, gifs, and comments based on when you watch a show, not whether or not that show has actually aired. (It’s called Cooler, and you can actually sign up for the private beta now by going here.)

This doesn’t solve the overall problem, of course, and certainly doesn’t deal with what happened last week, or last year, but it’s a step in the right direction, at least.

Another step? Stopping to take a moment to think before you post something, or tweet something, or write something, or whatever. Stop and think, “Is this going to ruin something for someone else who hasn’t watched it yet?”

rosebudRKO Radio Pictures

Then, if the answer is “quite possibly,” your next move is very simple.

DON’T DO IT.

Consideration for others shouldn’t be an endangered concept.


ProfilePic adjusted 2 is a filmmaker and journalist who has spent close to two decades working in and writing about Hollywood. Feel free to send him a tweet at @neilturitz. He’ll more than likely respond.

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One Response to Spoiler Culture, and the Spoilers Who Spoil It

  1. A coworker ruined The Sixth Sense for me the weekend it premiered. I waited until last year to see it, but knowing the twist already, it didn’t have one iota of the power it should have had I gone in blindly. I’m still pissed that person ruined it for me.

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