The pReview Re-viewing
(warning: Contains no actual spoilers. Unless you count the series finale of Alf, a mid-series bombshell from Dallas, or the 2011 BWF World Championships. In which case.. There are spoilers.)
by Jeff Finck
Let's talk spoilers for a minute. Let's say that it's a very cold, bitter early evening on November 21, 1980. You find yourself meeting some friends down at a local dive called McGuillicutty's. One by one your friends shuffle in, shake off the cold, and before you know it, it's time to get drunk! It's rounding 10pm and you're four shots and six beers in, when a nicely dressed couple sidles up next to your group and starts getting chatty. Reeeeal chatty.
"Can you.." "..on Dallas.." "That was so crazy.." "..radical.." "J.R.'s shooter.."
Your ears especially perk up at that last part. Dammit! Dallas was on tonight! And more importantly, after six months of being stone-walled by stupid teasers and Ronald Reagan monopolizing everyone's televisions, tonight was the night they were going to finally tell everyone who actually shot J.R.! You drunkenly slur to your friends, very much out loud, that you do NOT want any of them to tell you whodunnit if they somehow find out before you. You're hoping beyond hope that your significant other was saintly enough to tape that shit for you. "Oh!" pipes the nicely dressed gentleman at the adjacent table.. "You'll never believe it! It was his sister-in-law, Kristin!" And as a quiet rage slowly takes over your initial, "I fucking knew Kristin did it!", the whites of your eyes boil entirely out of your skull, leaving only flames. Everything turns red and the next thing you know, you're standing in the 50x50 foot husk of a building that appears to be the site of every riot in the history of riots.
That's really just a worst case (extremely true* story) scenario. But, unless your website is called, IGetOffOnSpoilingThings.com, I feel very strongly that there should really be some kind of universal grace period for spoilers. Recently, on Facebook (because, of course Facebook), there was a question posed about spoilers for sports compared to television and movies, and whose responsibility it actually is to avoid them online. The easy answer is, clearly, you are. But that got me thinking about spoilers in general. Online or otherwise. Obviously, a constant source of streaming information makes it very tricky.. Unless you are able to avoid EVERY social media outlet until you're caught up, it is nigh impossible to avoid spoilers. The rules of spoilers kind of already exist in the real world, but could just as easily be incorporated into your every day, online, social networking experience. But probably won't because the internet is jam packed full of assholes. As far as a list of importance, I feel that sports scores.. Or the end of a movie.. Or a resolved arc on a TV show.. Are all prety much in the same thatched, Easter egg shaped basket. However, each one should have way different grace periods.
(*not a true story)
For instance: With the exception of, say, a major event in a sport (Super Bowl, World Series, Badminton World Federation Championships, etc.), sports games/matches/ho-downs are almost always happening. (I may not know what packages sports come in, but I'm pretty sure "matches" is the odd man out) As such, the grace period should probably be much sooner than, say, what just happened 72 hours ago on Game of Thrones (assholes). (Or, 13 years ago, depending on who you ask) After a particular game, you should have about a day-- maybe two-- before spoilers can be given without regard for people feeling butt-hurt over missing that particular game. And in actuality, I feel most sports discussions usually already start with, "Hey! Did you see the game last night?!" That's pretty much been ingrained in most sports fans, already. We need that spoiler gauge in place due to a mutual respect for your fellow, diehard local sports team fan. In most cases, that gauge nearly helps finish the conversation, anyway.. Leaving one of two outcomes: Either the question is followed up by, "No! What happened?!" ..or, "Don't tell me! I recorded it and I'm going to watch it later!" Either result ends with everyone still remaining friends and no one getting a badminton racket shoved into their ass for spoiling the fact that Zhang Nan and Zhao Yuniel took home the Mixed Doubles win at 2011's BWF World Championships.. Bradley Thornton. Prick.
As for TV shows, where you usually have week-to-week airing, it gets a bit trickier than sports because, sometimes an arc will span several episodes (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, soap operas).. Or a whole season (Firefly).. A whole series (How I met Your Mother).. And, in rare cases, *both* (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Blue's Clues.. Go back and watch every episode of Blues Clue's and tell me I'm wrong). But again, in real life, it usually comes down to that initial question: "Did you see it?" It should always be asked before going ahead and just announcing a freaking minute by minute synopsis of everything that happened to every character in such excruciating detail that every syllable feels like your fingernails are being shaved off with a pink lady bic. I'm a little conflicted on what the grace period for spoilers should be when it comes to shows because I'm, like, seasons behind on some shows that are years old.. Even decades! But I feel, as far as willy-nilly spoilers for TV go, it would be fair for one to forgo spoilers until the beginning of the next season. Or, at the very least, it would be okay to leak some info after the end of the next story arc.. As for series finales, you should get a solid six months to catch up. Period. Or, in some cases, NEVER spoil a series finale! It's just not very nice to make someone cry themselves to sleep every night knowing that the series finale of Alf ruined everyone's childhood.
Finally, movies. Ah, movies: That safe place we can always fall into if we're feeling down or alone.. Or really up, but you want to be depressed, so you go and watch Requiem for a Dream and then don't sleep for three straight days. As for movies, I feel the safest grace period before the unsolicited spoiling of all the spoilers to everyone you know (and don't know), should be at least a week after the movie finally comes out on DVD/BluRay. I realize that, in some cases, this means no talky-talk about something for months at a time.. But think about it? You get a good three to six months of teasing those poor souls who just refuse to sacrifice and spend roughly a third of their paycheck (movies are pretty expensive in a lot of areas, nowadays) to go to the theater to see movies. You get to play with everyone's minds.. You get that feeling of superiority that you know something that someone else doesn't. Actually, be a little cautious, if you tease too much, you may want to watch the hell out. In fact, sometimes, you better downright tiptoe when it comes to movie spoilers with some people. Like, there are people who still don't know anything about Star Trek Into Darkness and they will fully shove their 1/64 scale model NCC-1701 directly where you absolutely do NOT want them to shove something that is that oblong and awkward.
So, the next time you're discussing spoilers on the internet without regard for who may or may not have seen the subject in question, just ask yourself one question: Do you like things shoved inside of your anus against your will? Because that is literally* what you are doing to people!