Blame George R.R. Martin. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been put in the precarious position of continuing a story that hasn’t been finished. And unlike a series of novels, a television show can’t take as much time as it needs/wants to get itself produced. Because of this, Benioff has revealed that the show will begin to outpace Martin’s books, and key events will be revealed on screen before they are read on the page.
This was all brought up during an appearance at the Oxford Union, and I’m certain this revelation is going to rile the feathers of some of you crows (what do fans of this series call themselves? Educate me in the comments). But, let’s use this unique example of pop culture to open up a discussion about something I’m pretty adamant about: spoilers.
The idea of spoilers has changed the way we converse about entertainment, and in my opinion it’s not for the better. Spoilers have limited the openness of dialogue that art is supposed to help cultivate, and this idea of branding certain elements of a story as “spoilers” truncates stories into something completely sectional. People begin to remember stories for their “spoilers” only. A great example of this is The Sixth Sense. The casual audience will primarily remember that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, and they’ll fail to retain all of the other factors that made The Sixth Sense a wildly successful picture. The Crying Game is another victim of this phenomena. Boiling things down to spoilers takes away from experiencing how a story works overall. If I tell you that the shark in Jaws dies, that doesn’t encapsulate the richness of how the story is told.
There’s also the problem of subjectivity with spoilers. The general consensus is that a character’s death is a spoiler, but that’s subject to the kind of story that’s being told. Mr. Boddy getting killed in Clue isn’t something one would consider a spoiler, would they? This mass appropriation of “spoilers” as coded talk for “a character dies” has also made it real easy to figure out the fate of a character when someone tells you they don’t want to spoil you. But, if we broaden our definition of spoilers, does that include any memorable moment in a film? Does that make trailers and TV spots little spoiler reels? Remember when the trailer for The Avengers hit and there was that amazing moment of Hulk saving Iron Man? Would that have been more enjoyable and impacting if it hadn’t been experienced out of context (spoiled) in a commercial designed to sell a product?
Probably my biggest issue with spoilers is the sense of entitlement it has engendered. Some people get miffed when a reviewer “spoils” something in an article. If you think that you’re going to come across a piece of information you don’t want to know, then don’t read the article. If you need another person’s opinion to justify whether or not you want to consume something, then check out Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic for a blanket consensus. Don’t read reviews if you don’t want to welcome the possibility of finding out something you’d rather had been surprised by.
So, how does this all circle back around to the news about HBO’s Game of Thrones gearing up to spoil the books? Firstly, it’s an event that is, to my knowledge (again, someone educate me in the comments), unprecedented in modern fiction. I have to believe that because of this, there will be significant deviations from the source material, which apparently has already happened with this show. There are also characters in the books who aren’t going to be in the television series, so their fates will still be left to Martin’s pen. The two interpretations will essentially be the same, but with the kind of differences that make real fans clamor for all the variations they can get.
If you’re still huffy about this development, there is a solution, but you’re not gonna like it: don’t watch the show. Yes, you’ll be excluding yourself from one of the biggest cultural phenomenons in our current entertainment landscape, and you’ll be forced to silence yourself or others when the topic shifts to what happened on last week’s episode. You’ll have to exert incredible willpower and awareness in order to avoid any potential knowledge about what happened in the story. I know someone like this (his “no spoilers” territory is Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and while I can’t imagine attempting to stay ignorant of so much information, I am in respectful awe of his determination to do so.
There are plenty of people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who dig to get at the information first. Fans who will get their hands on a shooting script and read it the second its out there. Devotees who scour the web for pieces of concept art or test footage leaks. These people have the potential to be just as annoying as spoilerphobes. Everyone sits somewhere on the Spoiler Spectrum.
Because this is CHUD (the website with the smartest readers on the information superhighway), I expect the comments section to be passionate but intellectual and respectful. Let’s talk about Game of Thrones and how its decision to march ahead past its source material might be a watershed moment for spoilers. I’ll add some context to this, and even give those of you who disagree with me some free ammunition: I only watch the show. I read the first book and found Martin’s prose tremendously difficult to enjoy, even though his world and characters were profound and fascinating. I want to hear from Chewers who consider this development a possible slight against them and their fandom, and what actions they may or may not be taking in the future. This seems like something worth a lot of good-natured discussion.