The spoiler wars

Thu Oct 17, 2013

I am a cord cutter. And having paid my last cable bill about two years ago, I’m never going back. Instead, I’ve opted for high-speed internet, apple TV, and Netflix. For news and sports, I’ve set up an antenna for over-the-air broadcasts of local TV stations. This arrangement works for everyone in the family. But having joined the growing group of cord cutters, I’ve noticed that war is coming.

Who is the enemy? That is complicated, as it always is when it comes to warfare. But the weapon of choice for the enemy is clear: the spoiler. I’m tempted to say that cable loyalists are the worst offenders. And those that tweet spoilers as they are watching an episode air for the first time definitely constitute the worst of the worst. But not many are willing to risk the ire of their friends by being so transparently thoughtless. And the best thing about this breed of troll is that it is easy to avoid them by simply abstaining from all media and internet the evening a show airs.

Most often, cable loyalists will simply declare that they are watching a show with something generic and relatively spoiler-free like “omg, the [insert show title here] finale was so awesome.” Such a statement is a way for the loyalist to identify themselves as part of an elite sub-cultural clique. Loyalists love to tell the world that not only can they pay a premium for fresh content by subscribing to HBO or whatever, but they actually have the time to drop everything and watch the show at a scheduled time slot. Loyalists love to be part of the trendy in-crowd and join in a loud public conversation with other loyalists. That conversation excludes those who are too poor - or unwilling - to pay for cable, as well as those with time constraints, such as parents of small children (or other such marginal uncool groups). Naturally, cable companies love these people because they pay their bills. Most of the time loyalists are annoying in their smug superiority, but harmless nonetheless.

The real enemy here are those who desperately want to be part of the conversation, but are late to the party. They may even be cord cutters themselves. They often ride the wave of buzz for a show by catching up on old episodes and issuing blatant spoilers in a sycophantic effort to join in. If there is one rule that everybody should agree on, it’s this: there is no expiry date on spoilers: Not one week, not one month, not one decade. You may think that everybody who is anybody has seen a show, but there will always be some who have not. The worst part is that these wannabes always catch you off guard because there is no way to tell exactly when they will casually drop that bomb… and obliterate the show you’ve been waiting ten years to watch.

There is an unspoken rule that we don’t spoil books (the sacred silence surrounding Harry Potter plotlines for example), so why do it for television? There are some shows out there that are just as timeless and classic as the great novels of our cultural milieu. I hope we can all get along and head off the coming war, I really do. But if you’re the one who kills a show in my Netflix queue, God help you.

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