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People have been tearing their hair out over spoilers in recent weeks... but why?

How has the fear of spoilers changed the way productions are made and how we view them?

The final season of Game of Thrones has many viewers hiding from their social media feeds to avoid spoilers.
The final season of Game of Thrones has many viewers hiding from their social media feeds to avoid spoilers.
Image: HBO

PEOPLE HAVE BEEN doing their best to avoid spoilers from films and televisions shows in recent weeks.

Between Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones’ final season, social media has demonstrated that some people are fearful of finding out any detail – no matter how trivial – of their favourite shows.

Obviously this makes sense – learning such details could fundamentally ruin the experience of watching it for many viewers. Especially if someone dies or there is a twist.

From the reveals in films like The Sixth Sense and Psycho (which we’re too nice to spoil here for you), twists and surprises you didn’t know were coming can enhance a film’s experience.

Eventually they can also become part of pop culture, such as touchstones like Darth Vader telling Luke ‘I am your father’, or the Statue of Liberty rising from the shore of a future Earth in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes (despite being a major spoiler, that twist is often used as a promotional image for the film).

And while two different psychological studies disagree on whether knowing major details of a piece of entertainment can make the experience better or worse, it’s been social media that has really changed the game.

US-LOS ANGELES-HOLLYWOOD-FILM AVENGERS:ENDGAME The release of Avengers Endgame whipped up feelings around spoilers as fans did their best to avoid details about the film. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The last few weeks have seen major levels of discussion online about spoilers relating to the new film Avengers: Endgame.

Things got so intense that this week a new trailer for Spider-man: Far from Home featured Spidey actor Tom Holland introducing himself at the beginning… and giving a spoiler warning.

But not one for Far From Home: one for Avengers: Endgame.

He states if you haven’t seen Endgame yet, don’t watch the Spider-man trailer as it will ‘spoil’ things for you about what happened in the former film.

Source: Sony Pictures India/YouTube

Darren Mooney, film author and creator of website The Movie Blog, says in the age of social media, the talk around spoilers can create hype around a film or television programme.

It can create a fear of missing out for those audience members who weren’t originally interested, but become so from all the online chatter (and clever marketing from production companies).

It creates the impression, Mooney says, “that these things are so big and and that they have to be consumed instantly or else you’ll possibly get some information that will diminish your experience of it”.

Industry Changes

To save viewers from potential spoilers, film and television companies can have military-style security around their productions.

From digital scripts that cease to function after the filming has stopped; devices that can disable drones looking to spy on sets; and actors not being given scripts until the day of filming (or, in the case of Spider-man’s Tom Holland, being given a script of fake scenes due to his habit of giving away plot details), the ‘spoiler’ is making an impact.

Indeed, studios have played up to spoiler-phobic fandom surrounding favoured franchises, like Marvel’s hashtag campaign #Don’tSpoilTheEndgame.

When 40 minutes of leaked footage appeared online, the film’s directors also posted a letter to social media pleading the same.

Even at press screenings for the James Bond film Skyfall, critics were left envelopes on their chairs that cautioned them against speaking about details of the plot so “that James Bond fans around the world, could experience this on their own terms”.

Or in the case of critic viewings for Blade Runner 2049, where they were asked not to talk about details of the film afterwards, but instead simply state that audiences will meet a lot of interesting characters over the course of the movie.

How you can protect yourself from spoilers

Though the internet is the home of spoilers, it can also be effective in limiting your exposure to them.

You can filter Twitter to automatically hide tweets that contain particular keywords from appearing in your timeline and notifications. The mute function on Tweetdeck achieves this same result, though there is no guarantee that something won’t slip through.

Google Chrome introduced an extension called Unspoiler a few years ago where you type in the names of shows you don’t want to read about. It would put red banners over any website referring to those shows to warn you off.

Facebook also had an extension called Social Fixer that achieved a similar result, but many of these extensions are now defunct or little used.

Many users on forums complained these apps or programmes didn’t catch all the potential information that could protect them from spoilers.

The real answer then?

Simple – don’t go on the internet and don’t talk to anybody. Not necessarily a easy task in our modern world.

A Shared Experience

Mooney says that it’s only small number of people seem who seem to make it their mission to ruin surprises for fans.

Most fans are decent about not spoiling secrets, he says. Often, though, that depends on what show or movie is being discussed.

“With Endgame there was at least an understanding that people were going to watch it over the weekend and therefore you didn’t blurt out information… but take something like Game of Thrones and the spoilers are a lot more common,” he said.

People are tweeting out things as they are happening and reacting to things as they happen… there’s this sense of urgency about it. Not only do you have to see it to be part of the conversation, you have to see it before the conversation moves passed you.

“Social media makes everything move so quickly,” Mooney says. “The idea is that things happen so fast, that when the next big thing happens, we’ve already moved on from it after lunch.”

He suggests that perhaps the cultural madness around spoilers is a way of people marking something in the now. Something that people want to experience live and within the context of a wider cultural experience shared with others.

I can understand the appeal of that urgency. I can understand why that’s important to people.
Do you care about spoilers?


Poll Results:

Yes (1670)
No (619)
Don't care (276)



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