The Statute of Limitations on Spoilers by Steve P. Vincent
How do you feel about spoilers? Steve P. Vincent, author of the Jack Emery series of political thrillers, on why we’re overdoing the spoiler alert.
They weren’t really a problem until about a decade ago, because for the most part everyone watched shows, played games and read books at pretty much the same time. Popular culture content came and went, along with the conversations about it, because we were bound to release schedules. Even if you found out someone hadn’t read or seen something, while you wouldn’t deliberately ruin it, people were a bit less hysterical about it.
But with the internet, streaming services and ebooks, we’re no longer bound by broadcast or release schedules. This is great, because there’s fabulous content available all the time, but I also feel like it’s taken something away. We’ve lost the ability to freely discuss the media we’ve experienced while it is fullest and freshest in our minds, at least until we’ve done the strange, wink wink probing of where the other people we’re talking to are up to.
It hit peak ridiculous for me when, having coffee with a friend, we were talking about The Wire. Another friend returned from ordering and let out the universal shout – NO SPOILERS! I thought they were joking, but it turned out they weren’t. They didn’t want to hear anything about a show that last aired in 2008, because they might want to watch it some day. World War Two was done and dusted in less time!
I have been on the other side of it. I was years late to The Sopranos, but I knew roughly how it ended before I’d watched a single episode. This is my fault! I was years late to the party, I was able to enjoy the show and didn’t throw my weight around about people talking about it. That’s because the constant vigilance about spoilers destroys so much conversation about these great stories and the feelings they evoke.
Spoilers suck, but so does not being able to discuss the things that moved us, terrified us or made us laugh with friends and family. So, it’s time for a statute of limitations on spoilers.
So I’m just going to say it:
My right to enjoy something I have watched or read, and share this experience with others who have, is at least equal or probably greater than your right to be insulated from anything that might ruin your potential future enjoyment of such.
While I won’t go out of my way to be a jerk and spoil something if I know you’re not up to date (particularly if it’s a recent thing), I do have an intention to discuss things I enjoy with others. I will wrap all internet posts in spoiler tags.
For your part, please avoid howling like a stuck pig at the slightest reveal, and recognise that, while you may still be riding the Breaking Bad wagon, others have already well and truly enjoyed the ride and would like to be able to talk about it.
If that concerns you, take steps to remove yourself from a conversation or plug your finger into your ear and shout ‘lalalala’ if, by chance, you find yourself in the vicinity of such discussion.
As for the statute of limitations? I don’t know… but for a show everyone is watching, a popular movie or a great book, I reckon you’ve got a very small amount of time… a few days or a week? If it’s a bit less popular, probably a bit longer.
But under no circumstances should people be shamed into not discussing something that’s older than some nations on Earth.
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