On Spoilers

(This post contains no actual spoilers.)

Something happened on your favourite TV show last night.

Don’t worry, I won’t tell you what happened.

But boy did something happen.

In the age of Twitter, spoiler etiquette is more important than ever.

Unfortunately, many, including the most prominent TV, movie, and book critics, fail to grasp spoilers on a basic, fundamental level—even though not spoiling the reviewed work is the sole rule all critics must honour.

One vice is giving in to the urge to react to an episode, followed by the urge to share the reaction.

Some share multilaterally by discussing their reactions with other people in public—Twitter, Tumblr, the watercooler.

But they couldn’t possibly spoil “it” for other people, so “something” becomes “that thing”. You may even fashion the conversation with an acronym—hashtagged, of course. They will never know!

Then retweeting and reblogging features enter the picture and amplify everything a thousandfold.

Saying that something happened implies an extraordinary event. For most TV shows, this means someone died. I’m not entirely sure what it says about you that you presume me so dense that I can’t parse your brilliant crypto-spoiler. You’re the Mt. Gox of spoilers.

And let’s not forget the common cryptographic variations on the turn of phrase:

  • The episode was a “shocker”, “surprise” or “bombshell”.
  • It had “a twist”.
  • “Major plot development”.
  • “Just finished watching X. Whoa.”
  • “How were the people behind X able to keep the secret for so long?”

I’d research the examples more, but, you know, I didn’t want to ruin more shows for me than you already have.

Is it my prerogative to reveal that this season’s episode was not like the others? In doing so, I deprive people of the same feelings that impelled me to share the information to begin with.

I could go on and write a long, academic piece on spoilers, but I won’t.

Because let’s be honest.

It’s not rocket science.

Spoiler alert.

(This post originally appeared on the Essays blog.)