June 6, 2020

June 2013: Life in the Astro-BlogoSphere: Spoilers or Just Spoiled?

For your viewing pleasure

(and to set your mind at peace)…

a rising waning gibbous Moon.

(Photo by Author).

It’s a tough vagabond life, being a science fiction critic these days. As the summer sci-fi blockbuster season rolls on, our fancy turns to movie reviews. Hey, I do it, we all do it. Science writers just can’t resist the urge to mention Harry Potter whenever a science story hints at the promise of invisibility, or segue into a sidebar about the astronomical plausibility of the worlds depicted in The Game of Thrones. We all chase after the all-mighty SEO, baby.

But this has also given birth to a curious culture and a new set of cyber-ethos. It’s strange to think, that back in the day (i.e., that 99.999999…% of the history of the universe that was before, oh say, 10 years ago) we actually had to wait to consume entertainment. Your favorite show either came on at a certain night of the week, or you had to actually go out and forage for movies at the local video store.

Ah, how the consumption of the media landscape has changed. These days, we share our viewing experiences instantly via social media, and it’s probably only a matter of time before we figure out a way to bit torrent things from the future.

And along with this new found ability, the term “spoiler” has entered the lexicon of even those who think that a “lexicon” is a type of car. Do we, the concerned and vigilant reviewers, have a “moral imperative” to preserve every twist and turn in a plot line?

It’s fascinating that those who could care less about the injustices in the modern world will immediately cry foul at the very hint of spoilers. One can argue that spoilers have always been with us, and not just as ornaments on cars. We’ve always been able to flip to the very last page of a book for example, saving us the hundreds of pages of dramatic tension to find out the ending.

There’s a great Portlandia skit about the slights felt in modern day culture at the very hint of “spoiler-sign.” This is a very psychologically telling 1st world phenomenon, a feeling that those around us have somehow betrayed us. Perhaps there should be well-defined areas of demarcation where even reviewers should fear to tread. Certainly, “He’s Luke’s father, Spock dies, and Bruce Willis was actually dead all along” are spoilers in true sense of the word.

But it also seems as if folks often only cry foul when the standard admonition of a “spoiler alert” is hung before them… is this the modern day equivalent of whispering “I’ve got a secret?” Can we not resist the siren song of the spoiler to follow? I would also make the assertion that many who decry spoilers have in fact already seen the movie/TV show/three act play being discussed. How would folks know if a spoiler was in fact valid if they had yet to see said media?

Keep in mind, that to a writer, there’s not much in a plot twist and turn that can surprise you. We know that tragedy means just that, and foreshadowing and plot elements are introduced for a reason. It’s amazing what folks will claim are spoilers these days, as they feel slighted in a sacred trust against a modern day 11th commandment.

This came around again with the “Red Wedding” segment of the Game of Thrones, where those who hadn’t read the books (or yet watched the TiVo’ed episode) felt betrayed by those who had. Jon Stuart echoed the sentiment of many “spoilees” admonishing them to simply “read the book…”

A drastic thought; do modern consumers of media actually have an obligation as well?

We apologize if we ruined any subtle twist and plot turn in your favorite movie/novel/TV series over the years. Hey, believe it or not, there are folks in this world who haven’t seen Star Wars yet. (Sorry about the “Luke’s father” thing) Should there be “statute of limitations” on plotlines? We promise that it’s all in the name of science and the “teachable moment.”   What writers and reviewers really want you to know is that there are very few true spoilers in fiction or in life, and that there are really a very few ways to tell the tale of the human condition. That being said, we’re flattered that you care so much about your favorite characters, often as if they are kin.

It’s a brave new world of cyber-media out there. We’ll keep writing ‘em as long as you’re reading ‘em, but fair warning; spoilers ahead!

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