Epic battles and tragic deaths lit the internet on fire with the releases of Avengers: Endgame and the third episode of Game of Thrones final season, “The Long Night.” These two pop-culture juggernauts not only concluded major conflicts in their story arcs, they turned millions of heads upside down.
As a fan of both franchises, I am still processing the fallout from Game of Thrones more so than Endgame. For two consecutive weeks now, Game of Thrones has toyed with my emotions. Last Sunday’s “The Long Night” episode featured 82 minutes of the most intense scenes I had ever watched on TV.
Fans can attest to that jaw-dropping ending being the most memorable, but last night’s episode, “The Last of The Starks,” upped the ante with another shocking moment. After the episode was over, I immediately surveyed Twitter looking to deliberate with my Game of Thrones pals. Sidetracked by reading countless fan reactions, messaging those friends quickly shifted into retweets and micro-discussions with other fans.
Unaware that 30 minutes had past, unread messages began flooding in from one of my friends. The most recent message read “???” As soon as I opened the conversation, two preceded with “They killed___” and “Watching it Monday…don’t tell me anything.” Right away, I was afraid that I’d inadvertently spoiled one of the episode’s biggest moments. Was it one of my retweets or a comment from another comment?
Sadly, the paranoia I felt was real. Stressing out about “spoilers” is a ubiquitous phenomenon in pop-culture today. For many people, they take the real fun and enjoyment out of their favorite entertainment. Whether it is inadvertent or not, spoilers are a huge faux pas.
People treat spoiling any plot detail from a blockbuster movie or Emmy award-winning show as a serious crime. Think I’m joking? Take NFL running back LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills who tweeted the biggest scene from Endgame. People were obviously angry and upset.
McCoy not only lost thousands of followers in the process, he gained several petitions asking for his suspension. Take things a step further, a man in Hong Kong was reportedly assaulted outside a movie theater for revealing the plot of Endgame. The same outcome happened in Texas with two Domino’s coworkers.
These past few weeks have demonstrated that a vast majority of people cannot handle spoilers. People are either harassing others online, testing their own limits of rage, or pointing the blame at someone other than themselves. Ultimately, the blame falls on us. We are the ones who buy into the spoiler culture through showcasing our frustration, outrage, and paranoia.
No different than Trump tweets, spoilers are designed to provoke people, specifically engaged fans. If fans were smart, they wouldn’t flinch at McCoy tweets or spoiler-free reviews. With Endgame and Game of Thrones mid-way into its series finale, fans are forfeiting self-control in favor of an easier way out.
Case in point, dozens of media publications have released guides on “How to Avoid Endgame Spoilers.” From “Muting” keywords on Twitter to app protected software, these so-called spoiler fixes have duped fans into believing they could live a spoiler-free life without logging off.
When McCoy tweeted and spilled the beans on a major scene in Endgame, he misspelled an important character’s name. His tweet conceivably slipped through the filtered cracks for those followers who used the “Mute” function on Twitter. This not only was a cautionary tale about the spoiler culture, it’s a cautionary tale about our own digital habits.
These habits highlight the hypocrisy surrounding the spoiler-free movement. Logging off social media is simply not an option. That stubbornness to refrain from platforms like Twitter, a ground zero for spoilers, is another reason why we share the blame. Spoilers are no different than measles! People ignore the signs and opt out of listening to conventional wisdom.
So, if people are that scared that someone may somehow ruin that unseen experience: Why is it so hard to log off these apps? Why can’t we take a break from the internet? Today, it isn’t that easy. For most of the world, using these devices and services have become routine.
Just ask yourself: How long could you go without your smartphone? Nobody can go without their device for that long because we’re too invested in them. Everything we need and want runs on a device or service. With that said, people must choose their battles wisely. Spoilers are a game of self-restraint and control. People must focus more on choosing that over hacks like the “Mute” function on Twitter.
Since we’re all on different time zones, all watching at different times and paces, we simply cannot walk into that burning building that is social media. Not when we know that the probability of coming out untouched is highly unlikely. Social media platforms along with the internet are just traps that test our free will.
Everything is a TRAP!
IMAGE: MARVEL STUDIOS
Nevertheless, spoilers are just as subjective as opinions. Despite the mainstream outrage, spoilers impact people in different ways. When I found out that my friend knew that someone had died last night on Game of Thrones, I thought I was responsible, but I wasn’t. My friend just had the case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and went on a Reddit forum to get some hints.
The rationale behind his decision was that the “anticipation” was “killing” him. Ironically, anticipation today leads people to either rebel or embrace the element of surprise. This is true for spoilers as well. In 2016, UC San Diego conducted a study revealing that spoilers make people enjoy stories more because they enhance other aspects of the filmmaking experience.
The truth is, we cannot make everyone happy. UC San Diego’s study also found that the majority of people still believe spoilers ruin plots. This is largely based on how long the spoiler culture as been around. Dating back to the Victorian times, novelists were just as irritated back then as entertainment studios and fans are today.
Take Wilkie Collins 1859 The Woman in White novel, it was highly regarded throughout England for being one of the first mystery novels. The only issue, the novel was published in weekly installments before it became a book in 1860. For critics, it was hard to review The Woman in White without ruining the plot. Today, the status quo has not changed, critics still walk on eggshells.
To a certain degree, users share a lot responsibility. Spoilers are inevitable and will continue to infect pop-culture. Knowing that, we have to ask ourselves: Do spoilers really affect us? If they do, then maybe awareness and a little bit of restraint won’t hurt. With the bulk of the spoiler culture being online, it takes better decision making from the people who are easily bothered by spoilers.
Considering how Endgame and the final season of Game of Thrones are once in a lifetime entertainment experiences, is it fair for fans to be outraged by the recent surge of spoilers and leaked plots? No, not when spoilers are a matter of perception. Audiences will still flock to their favorite movies and TV shows, even if they’re exposed to spoilers because that’s true fandom.
So, if you stumble onto information that isn’t privy, don’t lash out at the ones who have already gotten the opportunity to see what you haven’t. They’re equally as inclined to react and decompress on that experience because it’s all about communal reactions. They are what boost hype, ratings, and acclaim. If you cannot stomach that, then why bother.
Before, I hated going on social media whenever I was behind on shows like The Walking Dead. Now, I look at that behavior as absurd. Shure, I have encounter spoilers, but that did not stop me from watching a single missed episode of my favorite show. For eight consecutive seasons, I have successfully dodged Game of Thrones spoilers and leaks. How? Discipline and always watching the show live.
Honestly, avoiding spoilers is not impossible, it’s a craft that requires a lot of discipline and restraint. I went into Endgame spoiler-free because I am a fan who did not buy into the stress. I walked away from social media and resisted the urge to look at spoiler-free reviews.
In the end, the biggest key to reframing from the spoiler culture largely comes down to our own level of engagement and tolerance. We must find it in ourselves to accept that spoilers will not disappear. Complaining about spoilers just proves how incapable we are of being left in the dark. Acknowledging that might mitigate all the noise that is going on today.
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