Posting Spoilers Online – Is It Really A Big Deal?

Is it really that big of a deal?

After the LA Times spoilt a MAJOR plot twist in Succession this weekend, it begs the question – are spoilers actually a big deal?

*Succession spoiler ahead!*

The LA Times has come under fire this week for revealing a plot twist in the much anticipated HBO mega-series Succession, by releasing an obituary for the series’s patriarch, Logan Roy, who unexpectedly passed away during the latest episode. The online article was released mere minutes after the episode concluded leading to uproar on Twitter from the show’s fans who were eagerly awaiting the release of the episode on America’s west coast and Europe.

When it comes to hit TV shows, there is a constant stream of comments, reviews and opinions from viewers reverberating online whilst the show is being aired, particularly on Twitter. You can understand that more traditional media outlets want to get in on the action and stay relevant by engaging in these conversations and bringing the show’s viewers over to their platform, however should they give warnings when they comment on newly released materials?

What kind of protocols should media outlets take to allow them to be part of relevant media conversations in real time, whilst also avoiding disclosing spoilers to fans?

When Is It Appropriate To Reveal Spoilers? 

For older shows, movies and books, is there an appropriate time limit on revealing a plot twist or ending? For example (promise no spoilers!), Fight Club has one of the most shocking endings in cinematic history, containing more twists to the plot that a loopy-loop rollercoaster. However, the iconic film was released in 1999 – that’s 24 years ago! So, can we shout the ending from the rooftops or should we still maintain a sense of hush-hush when it comes to the major plot line for those that haven’t yet seen it?

24 years is surely long enough to be able to openly publicise about a movie’s ending, however when about the likes of Game of Thrones or Stranger Things; series that continue for years on end, this can reveal a different answer. Can you spoil a series that has a continuing plot line? If so, how long can you wait before revealing ‘too much’?


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Why Do We Hate Spoilers? 

Have you ever wondered why some people have such an adverse reaction to spoilers anyways? What is it about knowing the ending or the plot twist of a series, book or movie that some people feels ‘ruins’ the whole experience for them?

Some fans of certain franchises thrive off the anticipation of the unknown when it comes to their favourite shows, books or movies. The unknown can strike fear in certain real-life scenarios some but when it comes to fictitious storylines, we know it can’t harm us, therefore the anticipation is experienced as excitement rather than fear.

Think about your last holiday; part of the excitement of going on holiday is the build-up to actually going away. Studies have found that your happiness metric continues to rise before you go on holiday, peaking in the days just before you leave for the trip. Regardless of how amazing your holiday is, on average, you will experience the highest feelings when anticipating the holiday compared to actually being on the holiday.

The point is, we love a surprise – what’s wrong with that?

Fiction Vs Reality 

Sometimes when we are invested in a story we mentally place ourselves in the plot line. Great storytelling and visual media can sometimes allow us to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Spoilers can remind us that the story is just that – a story. Stories allow us to live vicariously through the characters that we invest in and therefore we can experience the emotional rollercoaster of the plot on a deeper level. In some ways, we can create excitement in our own lives through these stories without taking on any of the risk that the characters entail.

All-in-all, it comes down to the fact that some fans delay watching some movies or shows because they want to get the full emotional impact of the anticipation and first viewing. They want to experience the unexpected twists and turns of a plot line in its full glory. Watching an episode or movie for the fist time can only be experienced once, and for some viewers, this first impression means a lot to them, particularly when it’s a series or franchise they have been following for a long time.


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How To Avoid Spoilers

In the age of social media and Google alerts, it’s more than difficult to avoid spoilers and guard the information you see online. Unfortunately, self control is the primary option to avoid highly anticipated spoilers and media moments.

As soon as you scroll through Twitter or Instagram you are bound to be faced with the latest updated from highly anticipated TV shows and franchises, therefore when you really want to protect yourself from spoilers, you may just have to avoid the phone screen for a little while.

Turning off Google Alerts or auto-prompts is also a great way to filter the information you receive, helping you avoid spoilers if you really want to. However, this isn’t a long-term solution to spoiler avoidance.

So do spoilers really matter in the grand scheme of things? Do we overreact to hearing spoilers? Does it actually ruin the experience of watching a new series or movie if you know what’s going to happen? For now it’s a personal battle we will have to face if more traditional outlets are going to try to stay relevant without disclosing their own spoilers.