Enter 2019, a golden age of fandoms, where even non-nerds have dedicated a good decade or more to universes like Game of Thrones, Marvel, and Star Wars.
The mass adoption of these universes is a cultural phenomenon, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Harry Potter novels were first published. In this year alone we will reach the culmination of anywhere between a five, to 42-year journey as GoT, the Infinity Saga, and the Skywalker Saga come to an end.
However, the very existence of this stan phenomenon has brought about another: spoilers.
Half the fun of being in a fandom is theorising about who will end up on the Iron Throne, or die in Avengers: Endgame, or rise as the next Jedi. The other half is finding out if your predictions were right. So, needless to say, the fear of having that fun spoiled has people hiding in caves with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears.
What Makes A Spoiler?
It may seem like an obvious one but clarifying what actually makes a spoiler is a big one. Note, images of GoT characters popping up online before the final season is okay. Leaked footage of Avengers: Endgame online however, is not.
Spoilers are the snippets of info online that reveal the shocking or amazing twists, reveals, losses, or wins in a show, movie or book to a person who has yet to read or watch said show, movie or book; thus ruining the surprise.
For example, Vader is Luke’s father, the planet of the apes is actually Earth, Bruce Willis was dead all along, Tom Cruise was just dreaming and Vanilla Sky is a terrible film.
By definition, to spoil something means to diminish or destroy its value or quality (got that straight out of the dictionary) and that’s exactly how it feels when, say, you’re holding your brand new copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and someone says, “Sirius Black dies”.
Why Is Spoiler Culture A Big Deal?
Well, once upon a time, when Nokia 3210s roamed the Earth, the only way a person could spoil something was to your face. Then you’d cut them out of your friendship group and never speak to them again. Now, you can’t scroll through social media without seeing a spoiler, usually posted by a complete stranger who will never feel your wrath.
Social media gave rise to something the internet has donned as “stan’ or really, stan Twitter. Basically, niche (or mass) fandoms. Stan Twitter got its name after Eminem’s Stan, a track about a super obsessive fan.
For an audience member like the super fan, the risk is that a story will be wrecked for you. For producers, however, the risk is that a story will be wrecked for you to such an extent you won’t bother buying a ticket. Spoilers can actually convert to financial losses.
It’s become so much of a problem production companies have taken to begging audience members to keep their mouths shut. If you see the stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child you will be handed a pin on your way out saying, “#KeepTheSecrets”. Blockbuster movies don’t just have trailers anymore, they have videos of the cast asking you not to discuss the film. And then there are the hashtags; #ThanosDemandsYourSilence #Don’tSpoilTheEndgame #WadeWilsonDemandsYourSisterSorryStupidAutoCorrectSilence.
How Is Spoiler Culture Unravelling Today?
Right now, no one is winning. Spoiler fear has become so real people are avoiding social media for days in an effort to remain ignorant. Unfortunately, trolls can smell fear, and they appear to be going out of their way to ruin other people’s fun, because some people just want to watch the world burn.
For Avengers: Endgame alone: a man in Hong Kong left a viewing of the movie yelling spoilers at people waiting for the next session, another man walked into a screening and stood at the back of the cinema shouting spoilers at the audience, yet another man spent a year befriending an internet troll who had spoiled Avengers: Infinity War for him, then took photos of crucial moments of Endgame and sent them to the troll as payback, with the message, “we were never friends”. Oh, and here’s a gold star for creativity: spoilers were posted as items for sale on Facebook Market Place, and if you look up “Avengers Posters” on RedBubble you will find a fake poster with spoilers printed across it. It’s exhausting just to think about, and the tip of the iceberg.
However, that’s not where it ends, because there isn’t just spoiler fear, there’s spoiler rage. That Hong Kong man was beaten up by the crowd, the next guy was banned from the movie theatre for life, and a third dude has been charged with assault after bashing his co-worker for spoiling the film.
So now we’re not just ruining fun, but finances and faces as well.
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Image credit: HBO | Marvel Studios