With the end of Game of Thrones and the new Avengers film, geek discourse has tried to be hushed, like a naughty child. This is because the one topic everyone is shouting about is spoilers – which is shutting down fan conversations about amazing stories.
The wish to avoid spoilers is completely understandable. Some people wait years to find out what happens next in a story they love and they want to see a scene play out, not discover the plot from a random Twitter post. However, the obsession with spoiler avoiding has made fandoms just really uncomfortable spaces. People aren’t asking politely for there to be less spoilers, They are downright screaming at people to shut up. This has included actors being criticised for promoting shows they are on and are contracted to talk about, to people arguing that even saying a film is good constitutes a spoiler. The spoiler shouting has gone too far.
If you wouldn’t go up to someone in real life and tell them off then you don’t have much business doing it on social media. It’s unfortunate when it happens but that’s just life. Some people get excited. Some people only socialise through fandom. There’s no real reason to police their output unless they are coming onto your timeline and annoying you (and the block button does exist). Individual users have more opportunities than ever to avoid spoilers – but it takes effort. Don’t just block a title. That will never be enough. Block character and ship names too. Block variations of title names. Okay, it’s work, but your social media is your responsibility and it’s much better to try and manage your own account rather than scream and harass others to moderate their own content for you. Some things will still slip through but you could be in a queue at the supermarket behind a family talking about how The Big Bang Theory ended. It’s not that different.
It is nonsensical to ask people not to talk about content they love until you’ve seen it. What about everyone else? When is it appropriate to start talking about a film? A week? A year? Two years? Who decides?
Stories have long existed and avoiding spoilers has been something all fans have had to navigate through the centuries. However, capitalism has changed the nature of story-telling and it would be absurd to pretend otherwise. Spoiler bans serve creators because it allows criticism to be shut down so that the negative parts stay secret and people keep buying tickets to their shows. There are a lot of issues with Endgame from fatmisia, to throwing women out of the way, to mocking alcoholism. Yet, these criticisms struggled to be made so that all fans could have an ‘authentic surprise’. This is not servicing fans. This is silencing critics and audiences which could be harmed by bad content. Fans should be allowed to hold content to account, and critics must be allowed to do their jobs and evaluate stories. Critics have been under increasing attack in recent years for not being enthusiastic enough against light content such as Venom and for rallying behind the increasingly representative Star Wars franchise. The spoiler ban is just another way to undermine critics and make their work irrelevant. So many review features reveal absolutely nothing because the author is so scared of including anything which could be a spoiler. It’s 400 words of clickbait – which isn’t good for fans or the entertainment industry.
If you don’t want spoilers then that is okay. Few people do want to know what happens before they see it. But why should it be the responsibility of others to make sure you’re kept in the dark? Control your own content as best you can. If you’re a fan then don’t be a pain, and don’t deliberately spoil content. Accidents happen though and that does not give anyone license to start screaming at other fans. We all want to talk about the stories and characters we love, but there should never be someone setting a schedule of when we can do that.