Prompted by a Twitter exchange with @markjwestpfahl this morning I decided to put my spoiler policy into words. Mark and his wife, @jenpioneerpress, just started watching Longmire, and I tweet about it often.
<blockquote><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/kwatt“>@kwatt</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/wordpressdotcom“>@wordpressdotcom</a> trying. so. hard. not. to. read. this.</p>— Mark J. Westpfahl (@MarkJWestpfahl) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MarkJWestpfahl/statuses/359345867486007298“>July 22, 2013</a></blockquote>
<blockquote><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/kwatt“>@kwatt</a> I know. We have only seen two episodes in season 1. This is going to be tough.</p>— Mark J. Westpfahl (@MarkJWestpfahl) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MarkJWestpfahl/statuses/359346629087731712“>July 22, 2013</a></blockquote>
I don’t know if this is where it began, but I first started hearing “spoiler alert” on Lost podcasts. Most of the time it was used jokingly, as in, “When Oceanic 815 crashed on the island – spoiler alert,” for times when what you were about to say really wasn’t a spoiler. It was usually to mock people who claimed to be upset when they would hear something from an episode they hadn’t watched yet.
You see it more commonly in next-day reviews posted online. I have no beef with bloggers who want to put that in their posts. But after giving it some thought even before today, I am not going to. Let me walk thru my policy and explain why.
WHEREAS the rise of DVRs and online viewing means more and more viewers are not watching televisions shows as they air live; and
WHEREAS that is an individual decision no broadcaster, tweeter, Facebooker or blogger can anticipate; and
This is where the policy begins. If you have yet to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, you can’t possibly expect everyone you interact with online to shield you from the red wedding. By the same token, how can a blogger know if his or her readers have seen something? Do you give them a day? A week? A season to catch up?
WHEREAS most stories are best experienced as a surprise; and
Can anyone argue that a television show or movie is more fun to watch when you know the outcome?
THEREFORE The Wandering Lostie considers the first live broadcast of a television show to be the public unveiling of its content; and
This is the foundation for any spoiler policy; you have to define a point at which information is no longer considered a spoiler. I chose to take a position that is unassailable: Nothing is a spoiler after it airs.
THEREFORE The Wandering Lostie defines a spoiler as the publishing of content relating to a show or episode before the content has been broadcast; and
The deeper question is if we should define spoiler based on broadcast status or on viewing habits. Defining it based on its broadcast status is definitive. Mistresses airs Monday at 9 p.m. There, done. Defining a spoiler based on viewing habits is, as I established above, virtually impossible. You want to define a spoiler as anything revealed within one day of an episode airing? Why not 18 hours? Two days? I believe in basing policy on concrete information whenever possible, and there is nothing more concrete than the fact that Revenge was on.
THEREFORE once a show has aired, the discussion or revelation of any content therein is no longer a spoiler; and
THEREFORE The Wandering Lostie is not a spoiler site; an
There are sites that divulge storyline details before they air. If you want that, you can seek it out.
THEREFORE it is an individual’s responsibility to avoid spoilers; and
Again, no one can account for everyone else’s viewing schedule. The responsibility then has to rely on each of us. If you don’t want to be spoiled on this week’s Bachelorette, stay off the Internet. If you are on Twitter after it airs, you have assumed the risk of a spoiler for yourself and should be ready to accept the potential consequence.
THEREFORE The Wandering Lostie will not issue “Spoiler Alerts” or any such warning in advance of a discussion of content already broadcast; and
THEREFORE complaints from readers regarding discussions of already-broadcast content will be moot.
The spoiler policy is posted as its own page and will remain on the main menu accessible from every page and post within The Wandering Lostie. You are assumed to have read it.
The policy contains further explanation of times when I might label something as a spoiler alert:
Casting news regarding existing characters whose fate is in doubt;
Casting news regarding new characters that may shed light on an existing character’s fate;
Comments from writers, producers, cast or others regarding upcoming episodes or seasons.
Let’s call this The Victoria Grayson Clause. After season one her plane had crashed and her fate was in doubt. Until not too long after when it was clear that Madeleine Stowe was back filming and Victoria’s survival was the worst kept secret on TV. But a worst kept secret is still a spoiler to someone who doesn’t read TV Guide. Here a tender hand is needed. Under The Victoria Grayson Clause I would allow myself to write about her fate with a spoiler alert before it airs.
So there it is. If you can’t watch a show when it airs and don’t want to know what happens, that’s your responsibility.
Even during the Olympics.