Avoiding spoilers - who is to blame?

Published January 19, 2012

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.

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