It’s time to reassess the rules that govern TV spoilers

If you can’t watch a popular reality show as it airs, stay off social media


SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers suck.

Nobody likes to have an anticipated film, TV show, sports result or literary plot point ruined. But in the age of social media, it seems like NOTHING remains spoiler free (especially on Twitter and Facebook).

However, it might be time to reassess the rules that govern spoilers in some cases.

In 2018, is it okay to discuss Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father? In the age of live-tweeting event television and instant social media reactions, do we set ourselves up for extreme disappointment and frustration knowing that inevitably most things will be spoiled if we don’t watch them live as they air?

Last Thursday, March 15, was the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3. I’ve been a loyal fan of the reality competition since it premiered in 2009. I’ve watched the show’s popularity rise exponentially in the almost-decade since it began, especially in the last three years. In Toronto alone, there are 10-plus bars where standing-room-only crowds congregate to watch their beloved drag queens lip sync for their legacy or lives.

Like a major league sports game, Drag Race has become a communal experience.

Last week’s episode both shocked and enraged some fans, and delighted and thrilled others. Upon the crowning of the third queen to enter the Drag Race Hall of Fame, fans immediately went on social media to express their happiness or horror – often in posts that included a disclaimer or did not bluntly state the winner’s name.

This was a courtesy to fans who had yet to watch the episode or who live in a different time zone. Still, some spoiled it (including this publication, on Twitter) and people complained.

We won’t have to wait long to see how the dynamic will play out when the show starts again – season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres on March 22.

Regarding spoilers in the age of social media, and as a reality television producer by profession, I have some ground rules that govern my TV viewing habits when it comes to appointment or event television (ie. reality shows, live sporting events, award shows and watercooler dramas like Game Of Thrones).

If you truly want something to remain spoiler-free, watch it as it airs. If you can’t watch it as it airs, stay off social media. If you simply can’t resist the urge of your news feed, you risk spoilers.

It’s really as simple as that.

I don’t personally believe in posting overt spoilers, but I’m also not naïve enough to think they won’t appear on a timeline that exists for people to discuss news, opinions and information. I’m aware that not every Drag Race fan in Australia can tune in on Thursdays at 8 pm EST, but over the years I’ve made sure to be awake in the middle of the night to watch an Olympic event. If you really care enough and are resourceful, you can make it work.

The spoiler ground rules for non-appointment TV viewing – say, a newly released theatrical film or a series designed to be binge-watched – are a bit different. Since these are usually consumed in a more individual way, people should be more vigilant about not posting spoilers.

Not everyone will go see Black Panther on opening night, so maybe hold back on the Wakanda secrets for a little while. These spoilers often get lost in the shuffle of a larger social media algorithm anyways, but it does feel a bit self-serving for them to be posted in the first place.

I usually give myself a month to watch a newly released film or Netflix series, and after that I resign myself to potential spoilers. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was spoiled for me, but I also didn’t rush to get to the theatre to see it.

There are definite cases where people should hold back on spoilers. Posting on social media about the death of a character or a major plot point surprise has never benefited anyone. EVER! Plus, it’s so easy to speak about things in a vague way. #REDWEDDING

I wasn’t able to watch the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race as it aired last Thursday evening. I knew I would find out who won the competition if I went on social media. It’s a decision I made and was okay with, and I can’t imagine getting angry at those who posted spoilers. Similarly, this past summer, I hadn’t watched a pivotal episode of Game Of Thrones and it was spoiled for me on Facebook, but I knew the only way to control that would’ve been to avoid social media and I didn’t.

People are passionate about things that delight or dismay them. Social media was created as a platform to vent, discuss and opine. Yes, this spoiler debate is ongoing, but we’re at a point now where I don’t see a future with fewer spoilers on social media. People are tired of having to censor themselves at every turn.

We will continue to live-tweet the Super Bowl, the Oscars, political elections and many other events as they happen. I also don’t see a world where people cumulatively make a pact not to post their reactions to a beloved reality show or sport’s team victory or defeat. People can work at not posting overt spoilers (it’s really pretty easy), but we all have to manage our expectations.

Spoilers will exist, and social media is where they’ll appear. And for appointment television, you either watch it as it airs, or spoilers beware.

And for the record, a certain queen was ROBBED last Thursday. Halleloo!

movies@nowtoronto.com | @mikeyerxa

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