Ever since entertainment began; since William Shakespeare penned Henry IV in 1589, since Thespis of Icaria was decorated for tragedy in 534 BC, and since Neanderthal Man began retelling epic escapades of pre-chivalrous sexist torment the likes of which Andy Gray and Richard Keys would be proud of, there have been spoilers.
Where there are spoilers there must be, for the sake of all sanity:
!!! SPOILER ALERTS !!!
The spoiler alert is an indispensable tool in modern society. As fundamental as the fire alarm and as requisite as the civil defence siren. It does little to prevent the midnight charring of your children or the annihilation of a nation’s population. What it does do is defend against the digestion of material detrimental to the outcome of dramatic fiction. See? Vital.
The term; spoiler, was coined during the internets adolescence, becoming increasingly common over the years. Netiquette requires that spoilers are avoided, but recognises that this isn’t always practical. For this, humanity provided us with the spoiler alert. When it’s not possible to convey the information you wish without using spoilers, one must alert readers to the advancing dangers.
Here’s an internet example of the kind of spoiler-induced conflict improper use can cause:
Although most civilised people uphold the law, not everyone is playing by the rules. The internet is the domain of both spoiler and spoiler alert. But what happens when spoilers outgrow their habitat and begin infesting every other innocent medium we have? When spoilers appear in magazines? On TV? Or worse, when they inhabit our minds and are manifested through the very words we speak?!?
Unfortunately it seems that as a work ages etiquette is shunned in favour of parody. It becomes acceptable to spoil something provided it has sufficiently aged. Many of the greatest twists and turns in cinematic history were apparent to me long before I had seen them. I knew of Luke Skywalker’s patriarchal heritage long before I had seen Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. I knew of Dr. Malcolm Crowe’s clinical status long before I had seen The Sixth Sense. Perhaps most tragically of all, I even knew of the identity of Keyser Söze before I had seen The Usual Suspects.
The international inhalations audible when these works were first screened is a moment that should be long repeated. But thanks to the spoiler menace, our surprise supplies are dwindling. Spoilers can appear anywhere, and without an alert you have no idea what media monstrosities you’re about to uncover.
The journey begins innocuously enough. Rapid assimilation. Pupils flickering from left to right and you eat up the words of your free newspaper. But unbeknown to you you’re perilously approaching sensitive information in direct relation to the conclusion of your current addiction. The surrounding bystanders cling to the tangible jeopardy in the air. Dread fills them as your gaze dips. You’re approaching Spoiler Town at warp speed and all are powerless to stop you. Then it happens. You read it and a look of resentment wipes your face clean of all pleasure. Raising your head you make eye contact with those around you. They offer no comfort. They cannot undo what just happened. Now you know. You’ll always know. Weeks of solid viewing raped, ruined and spoiled in the space of a sentence.
It could happen to any one of us. It happened to me. Since Christmas I’ve been knee-deep in the greatest TV drama of all time – The Sopranos. Since embarking on my epic quest I’ve inadvertently come across information destructive to my experience. It’s as if the world is determined to make me aware of how this wonderful show ends before I reach that magical moment.
Magazines, TV and friends all carelessly mentioning the finale of The Sopranos as if it’s irrelevant. As if it doesn’t matter to me. As if I’m not so hopelessly engaged that I’m forgoing opportunities to sleep to see what’s occurring in New Jersey.
Worse still is that upon assimilation you become hysterical. Your brain panics and immediately tries to forget everything it knows. To dispel all memory, to eradicate everything from your mind. Unfortunately this isn’t possible. One only succeeds in reinforcing the information. Each swiping hand simply deepens the hole in which the memory is buried, embedding it further and further into the muddy depths of your mind. Where it stays, and from where it will return at the exact moment preceding its relevance.
Despite the fear of a double-dip recession, the fear of terrorism and our fear of hosting the Olympics, it is in fact the spoiler that provides the single largest threat to our country. It is imperative that as a nation we tackle this problem and begin ruthlessly policing spoilers to eradicate them as if they were foreign visitors without the proper paperwork.
Every work of media, every piece of print and every slice of public speech will be put through a rigorous quality control check. Here the MOSC [Ministry of Spoiler Control] omit spoilers where possible and insert alerts where not.
While it may halt narrative fluency and stifle the cohesiveness of speech, it is completely and totally necessary. If Pope Benedict XVI wishes to compare the social situation of humanity with the finale of Lost in an epic Vatican-top monologue, spoiler alerts shall be legally enforced. A major SA consists of fireworks, rolling digital banner-clad blimps, optional ear plugs and a shuttle bus service to ensure citizens escape the area spoiler-free. This is the minimum precaution expected.
If this law enforcement strategy infringes on the delicate democratic nature that made this country what it is today, fine. But I ask you, nay, I implore you; please refrain from using analogical expressions pertaining to the climax of my favourite shows and games simply for the sake of reference.
Until my polite proposals and radical policing ambitions are internationally enforced, please think twice the next time you’re about to relate a predicament to the life and trials of Jesus Christ. Not everyone has read the Bible. Thanks.
Article first published as Why We Need Spoiler Alerts on Technorati.