The Art of the Spoiler Alert

There’s an episode of 1973 sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Where the two main characters make a bet with an acquaintance that they can make it an entire day without finding out the result of a big England football game before it’s televised that night; they spend the whole duration of the episode ducking their friends and even find themselves during one scene sitting in a church away from all the racket.

Minutes before the game starts, and feeling guilty that they already know too much from the partial newspaper headline “England f-” (and driving themselves insane with what it could mean), they pay up before finding out that the game was “flooded out” as per the paper.

Imagine for a moment that you’re driving yourself so crazy trying not to find out what happened on TV last night or during a new release at the cinema. Now take into account that this was 1973, where you’re not even being plagued by social media and easily-accessed interwebs. How hard is it these days not to find out who dies at the end before you’ve watched it? Not to hear all about the big twist before you’ve even pressed Play? Yep. It’s tough.

River Song Spoilers

Over at the Official Botchamania Page on Facebook, moderator Maffew had a big ol’ splash image of the result of last night’s TLC pay-per-view main event between Randy Orton and my girlfriend’s boyfriend John Cena. After receiving a flood of complaints Maffew reluctantly took the image down, but still pointed out to fans the definition of a spoiler.

“A ‘spoiler’ is where someone tells you the result of something that you haven’t enjoyed yet, like a book or a film.

It isn’t a spoiler if the event was last night and you decide to come onto the largest newsfeed website on the internet and simply hope to not read/see it.”

Yeah, that’s fairly basic common sense. Trying to avoid an oncoming car by running headlong into traffic is a ridiculous idea. And you know who makes it even more difficult? Geeks!

When I arrange to watch a WWE pay-per-view with friends the Saturday night after the Sunday before, I have to go fully six days without…well, basically, not clicking onto a wrestling news website. These things get spoiled, it’s only natural. I could overhear some colleagues talking about a heel turn, or else simply scrolling through my Twitter feed – how can I reasonably expect not to have things spoiled in this day and age? I try my best, and it does frustrate me when I hear something if I believe I’m doing particularly well not to have heard until then, but come on!

Maybe there should be an official Statute of Limitations placed on these things? (And no, I don’t mean US pace as opposed to UK pace; it’s hardly fair that I should hear about the new episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. before its time just because I’m not illegally downloading it earlier in the week.) By now, and SPOILERS ABOUT SOMETHING WHICH CAME OUT IN 1972, PEOPLE, we all know what happens to James Caan’s character in The Godfather whether we’ve seen it or not! We all know now that Darth Vader is Luke’s father – that’s easy. However, for one reason or another – whether that’s lack of funds to buy the DVD, or just no time to watch it – we don’t necessarily know the fate of Walter White, or Dwight Schrute, and it seems unfair to spoil it for others just for the hell of it.

For those of us who are slow on the uptake, be a little more thoughtful when talking about the latest TV episodes or comic issues – another curse of Geekdom is the Backlog of Consumption, and boy oh boy, mine will be even more tricky to get through some Christmas Day (I hope). It’s part of the whole nature of being a geek, and if I know geeks, I know they can be real cranky buggers every now and then.

What’s your spoiler policy? (and no spoilers!)

PS Huh, that was weird. Minutes before putting this post live, a friend posted a Family Guy spoiler right there on his Facebook. I told him about the post I’d just written and would dedicate to him; he then very quickly deleted the status! See, geeks can be considerate sometimes.