First of all, I do recognize that it’s ridiculous for me to make any kind of be-careful-with-spoilers plea when I’ve been moderating a spoiler section for four years.
But that also gives me a lot of experience with how people react to the various hints, interviews, trailers, teasers, and sneak peeks that are released, and some of what I see makes me sad.
My goal here isn’t to make anyone angry, but to just to share a couple of assumptions and an observation. You all will have to decide if any of this is valid, or if I’ve gone completely around the bend.
First assumption: TV shows are entertainment, and thus watching them should be fun. Even if the series in question is straight drama (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, etc.), we should enjoy watching it, or what’s the point?
Second assumption: If the purpose of a TV show is to bring pleasure to our lives, then spoilers should do so as well. They should entertain us when the show isn’t on, give us stuff to discuss with other fans, etc. Again, if we’re not having fun…why bother?
Observation: Spoilers don’t always result in happy fans.
This isn’t an anti-spoilers post. It’s really not. I know a lot of people, including myself, whose enjoyment of the show is increased by speculating on what’s coming (particularly in the long, dark days of summer hiatus!)
But a quick pass through Twitter this week, for just about any show being featured at San Diego Comic Con, reveals angry fans mixed in with the giddy ones where spoilers are concerned.
This isn’t a Bones‘ specific post, just for that reason – I follow people who watch a lot of different shows, and fans reacting badly to spoilers isn’t limited to one series. But among Bones fans, I saw two different comments yesterday, one of them by more than one person, that illustrates the issue.
As is common for shows during the summer hiatus, things are fairly dark, story-wise, for Bones right now, and a few spoilers have come out in the past few days about how that’s affecting the characters, particularly Booth.
Most fans seem to be reacting positively to the hints and clues. But one person on Twitter yesterday announced that she already knows she’s going to hate the premiere. Why? Because her interpretation of the spoilers is that they’re taking the whole show in a much darker direction for season 10. She doesn’t want that, won’t like the characters if they do that, etc.
Based on multiple years’ experience with the show and the fandom, I am absolutely certain – yes, absolutely – that the show won’t be changing fundamentally in tone, and that it will remain a ‘dramedy.’ There will probably be a lighter scene or two in the premiere, and if not, the next episode will certainly have one – and that’s if the entire second episode isn’t noticeably lighter in a comic sense. And while I could obviously be wrong about this, I expect that fan will be happy enough with the premiere, once she sees it.
So what’s the problem? The fact that she’s not happy now. And probably won’t be for the next two months, because in the summer, show marketing tends to emphasize the problems the characters are facing, so we’re going to hear more about how bad things are. (If you want proof of this, I can point you to spoiler speculation from the past few summers, paired with responses to the season premieres which followed.)
Meanwhile, a couple of other fans were posting just the opposite type of comments. They, too, are interpreting the spoilers to mean the show is going darker, in a way they say they’ve long been waiting for. Unlike the first person, though, they are very pleased with what they believe is going to happen.
Unfortunately, I’m going to predict that they’ll be angrily posting tirades against the show, probably the night of the premiere, or by the following week, at least, when it becomes clear that the show is going to remain a dramedy. And, based on unfortunate experience. those fans will probably be blaming the show for misleading them, making them think it was going in a way it didn’t go.
I realize that spoilers aren’t always to blame when a viewer doesn’t like something – it’s possible not to like an episode or story arc even if you don’t have a clue what a spoiler is. And people do grow out of shows, gradually losing interest in something they once loved, and spoilers don’t have anything to do with it.
But it’s just particularly sad to me when some of that loss of joy is due to how spoilers were interpreted, whether the reaction is before the episode airs, or after.
So what’s the solution? I don’t know, really. And I know it’s not my business to tell people how to interact with show marketing (aka spoilers) – even if I thought anyone would listen. But my advice, for what it’s worth, would be to ask yourself if spoilers enhance your enjoyment of the show or not. If they do, that’s fabulous. More people to discuss stuff with! But if they don’t? Then do like many do, and walk away.
Also? It’s absolutely fine to draw your line in a different place than others do. I know a number of people who follow all spoilers except sneak peeks. Some of them don’t go near those discussion threads at all, while others are fine with summaries of the peeks, but just choose not to watch them.
Last year, I watched sneaks twice, I think, but for the most part, avoided them. I plan to do the same thing this year, though it’s not a hard and fast rule. (See? Flexibility is fine, too!)
Here’s the problem with sneak peeks, in my opinion: if I read an interview with an actor or writer, where they’re giving hints about the show, it’s not hard to remind myself that no matter what it sounds like they’re saying, it’s just the way my brain is interpreting their words, and I could be (and quite often am) wrong.
But if I actually see scenes from the show that appear to be sharing something that’s coming, it much harder to remind myself that it’s still just an interpretation on my part, one based on what’s often part of a scene taken wholly out of context.
Last year – and I swear I do not recall the episode, let alone who said it – someone reacted badly to a sneak peek that was released a few days prior to an episode, saying something along the lines of, “There is no possibility that the scene means anything other than what it appears to mean, and I’m going to hate everything about this arc.”
Only of course she didn’t, because seeing the scene in context made it completely different.
But the result was that she spent several days being angry and upset over her favorite show. Was it worth it? I don’t see how.
I’d say, then, if you can follow spoilers with an overall perspective of trust in the writers, remembering that interpretation does color things, and they increase your pleasure in the show, then go for it.
(And no, trusting the writers doesn’t mean you’ll never be disappointed, or never realize you’ve stopped loving something you once were crazy about. But not trusting them doesn’t prevent that same disappointment, as far as I can tell, and does seem to spoil the anticipation of waiting for a new season or a turning point episode.)
But if you can honestly admit that spoilers (whether all or only some, like sneak peeks) make you unhappy…why follow them? Why be anxious?
Life’s way too short to let entertainment make you unhappy.