Avoiding spoilers – who is to blame?

Last weekend, I wrote up my reaction to the second episode of the latest series of Sherlock (got another post coming on the final episode just finding the time/gathering my thoughts), and prompted this reaction.

Thank you for the wonderful SPOILER. GOOD JOB.

Ever heard of a spoiler warning?

Thankfully, I have a pretty prominent spoiler alert at the very top of the post, so I feel like I did my part in trying to avoid this exact situation. Even so, I do feel slightly dismayed to think I’ve spoiled someone else’s enjoyment of the show – it’s such a good one.

As a conscientious blogger, I try to put in a threefold strategy to avoid people being spoiled.

  1. Make the title as specific as it can be, including series and episode numbers. You don’t want to think you’re reading a generic post about Sherlock or Doctor Who, only to find information about an episode you haven’t watched yet. The title should be the first barrier to people who are trying to stay in the dark on the episode in question.
  2. A Spoiler Alert banner. I have spoiler alerts for Doctor Who, Sherlock and Film Watch, even when the movies are years and years old. If I’m writing about TV that doesn’t have a banner, I do try and incorporate spoiler warnings into the text itself. I know that images may not show up for everyone everywhere, but it’s a more elegant solution and as part of this three-pronged attack, is normally good enough.
  3. No spoilers in the first paragraph or two. Some people don’t read titles, and I don’t want the first words to reveal the end of an episode in bold letters with exclamation points. Breaking into the post gently gives readers time to realise what they are looking at and turn away if they want to.

I hope that those are enough to keep the majority of people from being spoiled, but I also think that at some point you have to take responsibility for your own ability to stay unspoiled. There’s plenty of scope for debate on how old a film should be before it becomes common knowledge (Sixth Sense?), and how awkward it is that TV companies still don’t understand the idea of a global community. Apparently Sherlock is not on until May in the US, which makes avoiding spoilers that much harder.

I do think, though, that if something has already been released then the onus is on you not to be spoiled. Assuming you’re not reading a post about baking lasagne and being spoiled on your favourite TV show, then it’s up to you to avoid the good stuff.

I knew that I was behind the times on the final episode of Sherlock, so I signed off the internets for 24 hours until I could catch up. I loitered on my Twitter mentions page, and that was all. It was painful, but it meant that much to me. It was the same with the finale of LOST, which I said we’d never speak of again, but forced both Mr C and myself off the internet for several days. In that instance, it wasn’t worth it, but it would have been much worse if we’d read the end before we’d seen it.

It’s a tricky subject, one that is full of shades of grey and great arguments. It comes up often in conversation on Sidepodcast, because watching sports delayed is a challenge. Ultimately, I think spoilers are a fact of life, and you can do your best to ward them off, but the odd one is always going to slip through.

18 thoughts on “Avoiding spoilers – who is to blame?

  1. I can’t really see anything else from what you included as to how clear you could’ve been. The first thing you see is the spoiler warning, so what else can you do?

    I’m very conscious about putting spoilers on Twitter or Facebook following a program or a sports event, especially ones not live in the latter. Much like yourself, the idea of spoiling something for someone else tears me apart a bit so it is a very conscious-heavy thing the idea of spoilers especially in this day and age of instant communication on social media networks.

  2. Frankly, if someone doesn’t want to be spoiled about show/film ‘X’, and then goes and read a post/comment about show ‘X’, he/she can’t complain. Even if there is no “spoiler alert” to be seen, one must always assume there will be some information about the show in question.
    I’m particularly sensible to spoilers. When I really care about seeing something unspoiled I even switch channels when there is and ad about it or when the infamous “on the next episode” is shown (that includes not seeing movie trailers).

  3. Mr C is a bit funny about movie trailers sometimes. I haven’t quite got that yet, but I can see how some of them do have a bit too much information.

  4. Mr C is a bit funny about movie trailers sometimes. I haven’t quite got that yet, but I can see how some of them do have a bit too much information.

    Yeah. I think a good trailer can give you enough of an idea about the movie, and leave you wanting to know more, without revealing anything important. Sadly, not all of them are like that, and sometimes I find halfway into the movie that that small piece of info I saw on the trailer actually solves the problem and tells me the end… 😦

    So, if I really want to see a movie, I don’t see the trailer. I’ll see the movie anyway, I don’t need it to be sold to me. If I’m in doubt I take the risk, and half of the time I end up regretting it.

  5. I thought that comment was hilarious, there’s a massive sign at the top and it was clear where the post was going. Add to that, any write-up on a blog in all likelihood wouldn’t be like a Radio Times entry which gives a synopsis without spoiling it (which must be really hard to do). I once wrote a review on my personal blog trying to avoid spoilers – it just doesn’t work, you end up using a lot of words to say nothing useful at all. Better to have an opinion which people should know to avoid if they don’t want to be spoiled.

    I made a point to avoid your review until I’d seen the show, which was only last night. I still haven’t seen ep.3 yet and plan to do so tomorrow. What a brilliantly-made series, even the weaker episodes. I was a bit surprised on Sunday to see so many people mentioning ep.3 it on Twitter, I had to look away and even then I might’ve got spoiled. That’s partly why I waited, I’ve now forgotten everything they’d said!

  6. I too stopped watching trailers a long time ago, as Guille says they just ruin it now, always with the plot reveal (or if no plot: the biggest explosion!).

  7. You are a very conscientious blogger and therefore you should take the comment with large a pinch of salt.

    My only suggestion if you wanted to do something (not that I think you need to), is to put the word spoiler in the title of the post. This could mean that people people reading you content via readers or on mobile devices who might miss the banner would get an up front warning?

  8. The spoilers that make me maddest are those on the BBC archive F1 highlights. There is the embed for the video and just below it tells you who wins the race! A few I remember who won but the others it made me livid, although I now remember to get it playing and on full-screen until then using an arm to block the information. I do not know what it is like trying to navigate to watch the replay of a very recent race without seeing the result.

  9. It’s funny because there are two kinds of review, reviews to read before you watch something and reviews to read afterwards. It’s actually quite unusual to find the latter on the web. My friend Nick has a movie review website and he does review movies with the aim of not spoiling them and he finds it very hard to write that way I think but he’s writing for a specific audience. He does sometimes want to review something that would ruin the movie and so then he makes that clear.

    I wonder if your style is more of a reaction, his more of a review?

  10. I found it kind of interesting after my adventures in Torchwood. When Children of Earth was on I got complaints that I spoilt the fourth episode because I said my reaction was ‘flail!!!!’ Apparently that gave too much information away. There are some people out there who have no common sense and ignore spoiler warnings. There are many words for this sort of person, none of them polite.

  11. If you don’t want to know what happened in Sherlock don’t go bouncing round the internet blandly reading posts about Sherlock. Simples.

    I think there is far too much showing what happens in future on TV and it has to stop. Of course it is cheaper to make two minutes of clips linked together with an annoying voice over than to make two more minutes of program.

    My personal favourite in this category is Dragons Den. From my point of view the hook in the program is to assess the pitches and decide if they will or you would invest. So why show a trailer at the start of every episode, and one for the second half in the middle of the show then one for the next episode at the end. It drives me nuts and I not only turn the sound off but I try not to even look at it. They spend days filming so just drop all the trailers and show us another pitch per show.

    Rant over. For now.

  12. i think the other two systems are fine without it, but as a point of interest, the banner doesn’t appear on rss feeds. But I think it’s not necessary to expect a full rundown on the show based on your blog to date

  13. i think the other two systems are fine without it, but as a point of interest, the banner doesn’t appear on rss feeds.

    ah-ha. perhaps another nail in the coffin of “full” rss feeds?

  14. i think the other two systems are fine without it, but as a point of interest, the banner doesn’t appear on rss feeds.

    It shows up in Feed.ly

    I can’t see how you could have made it clearer. In my case if I am waiting to watch something and I don’t want to know about it, I just avoid the internets. Simples! Managed to go 2 days without finding out the result of an F1 race and a whole day (with sports mad people) without knowing the Champions League result before.

    As for trailers, etc. I am watching a series right now (no names, as I don’t want any spoilers!) where they show a sort of montage of the episode in a few seconds at the start. I absolutely hate it and I have to look away as it spoils it.

    Also, NCIS do that weird thing where they show a B&W still after the ad break to try and hook you in to the next 6 minutes of TV. This just seems artificial to me.

    ah-ha. perhaps another nail in the coffin of “full” rss feeds?

    On an aside here, seems like social media is starting to replace my RSS feeds. I don’t like Google reader anymore and feed.ly isn’t much better.

  15. I didn’t watch the latest episode of Hustle till last night. I was scanning through twitter when the episode staarted on Friday night. Someone tweeted HUSTLE!!!!!! so I closed twitter before I learned anything about it. I didn’t mention to anyone that I hadn’t seen it so that it wouldn’t be a topic of conversation and when I watched it 24 hours later all I knew was someone had tweeted HUSTLE!!!!!!!. Avoiding spoliers for things like that is not difficult.

  16. I would like to correct myself… I meant completely the opposite of what I said (well done there Alex!). I meant it’s rare to find reviews on the internet which aren’t reactions intended to be read afterwards. i.e. your article is the more typical style.

    Also the banner does show up on Google Reader.

  17. Avoiding spoliers for things like that is not difficult.

    Katherine just had a major plot point of the new series of Dexter ruined for her when a knitting person she follows on twitter who happens to live in America tweeted about it out of the blue. They are showing a series of Dexter over there that we don’t get in the UK for 6 months! Now that’s frustrating!

    If there are nails for coffins being handed out can we use the full RSS one to kill delayed distribution instead?

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