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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
What's the shelf life on SPOILERS?
In this morning's Living section of the Tennessean, there was an article about SPOILERS for TV shows and movies that asked the question--how long should the statute of limitations run on SPOILERS?

It's funny because my friend Sarah and I were having this conversation earlier this week about Lost. She said she'd finally found a friend with tapes of this season's episodes and was going to catch-up. Before I could say a word, she said, "And don't tell me who dies...I've made it this far without knowing and I want to be surprised."

Last year, I was listening to a podcast where the podcaster had TiVOed all of BSG's first season and was upset that a TV Guide cover gave away a SPOILER for the first season on the cover two months after the episode had aired, thus ruining one of the many twists of last year's season finale.

The article in the Tennessean had a warning that when discussing a TV show, movie or a book, a polite person would ask the people around if they'd seen said show, movie or read the book and not ruin plot twists for those who hadn't seen them. It even went as far as to say you really shouldn't discuss the ending of Million Dollar Baby just yet without asking if the person had seen it since it was just now hitting pay cable.

Which, I can understand being sensitive to SPOILERS. I try to go out of my way to avoid them, preferring to find the twists and turns of the plots as they occur. It's why I tend to avoid the previews for Lost, 24, and The Shield as they sometimes give away the last five or so minutes of the story--really Gilmore Girls has been the biggest offender on that front this year. (In the case of GG, it was more of the teasing the last minute of an episode and making you think the episode would deal or address that conflict and being disappointed when the show took forever to get to that point...) But I think there's a difference in spoiler levels before and after a show has aired.

For example, Smallville celebrates the 100th episode milestone this week with a big honkin' death of a major character. I know this because the WB has been teasing this for weeks now, not only on TV but also at other places around the Net. So, going in, I know someone is going to die. But I don't know who and I intend to not find out until we get to the episode tomorrow evening (I do know that Clark and Lex can't die and much as I'd love it, I doubt the producers will kill off Lana). Same thing earlier this year on Lost--I knew someone was going to die, but I didn't know who. (I'm not going to give it away here out of respect for Sarah, but the answer is lurking here in the blog if you look at November's archives). The funny thing was the next day you could barely log onto just about any web site and not see know who'd died...and those weren't even message boards. I don't know why Yahoo! Finance needed to tell us that this character had passed away, nor am I sure exactly what affect it had on interest rates, but it was pretty vital I'm sure.

So how long after something airs do we have to keep the SPOILER rule? I know some people who prefer to pick up the entire season of a show on DVD rather than waiting a week in between episodes. So, do we not give away SPOILERs for the new season of 24 because some fans prefer to wait and see the whole day in one large gulp? Where does my responsiblity to not spoil end and yours to not be spoiled begin after something is out there and part of the popular culture? With movies and books it's a bit easier since we can assume not everyone sees the movie on opening weekend and not everyone can consume the book the second it comes out. But what about TV?

And also, I think the term SPOILER is one of those things that can have a wide vareity of defintions. Last fall, I went to see Serenity at the blogger preview evening. Being a Firefly fan, I was stunned by the two deaths in the film, but to my mind that revelation wasn't nearly as big as what we found out as to who and what created the Reavers. So, when I posted my review, I hinted at that, but came out and said who died in no uncertain terms. (I am keeping it a bit shrouded here as Barry has just watched all of Firefly but hasn't seen Serenity yet so if he's reading, I don't want to ruin it for him.....) SPOILER can be a subjective term in a lot of ways--what I think is a huge plot twist might not be one for you and vice versa.

Also, I seem to recall that in the case of two big movie soundtracks in the past few years--Star Wars: Episode I and Serenity--that events late in the movie were spoiled by the track names. And since the soundtracks came out before the movie, some of the surprise was ruined--esp. Episode I where I didn't know that QuiGonn was going to die.

Oh yeah, and if you're visiting and do know the twist of who dies on Smallville, please let me remain in my bliss state of ignorance until tomorrow evening....thanks!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/25/2006 08:53:00 AM | |
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