No matter which way you slice it, spoilers have become another part of the process when it comes to many aspects of fan culture. Whether you're a movie fan, a comic book fan, an avid TV watcher, or even a gamer, many of us sit on one side or the other when it comes to spoilers.
Fan magazines dating back generations kicked off this particular part of the fan experience in ways very close to how we consume them now: inside sources - either friends of the publication or an outright made-up person - would tip off journalists on the newest scoop for films such as The Empire Strikes Back. Mark Hamill, who returns as Luke Skywalker in [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) later this year, remembered one such instance back when we interviewed him in January:
I mean, we had a little of that on 'Empire Strikes Back' ... when we were in Norway. And [journalists] bribed an emergency helicopter... to buzz over our set. They didn't get much, they took pictures of snow mobiles: "Strange alien vehicle" ... y'know, on the set of 'Star Wars 2'. But there was nothing like today, with text messaging and new media.
When The Phantom Menace was gearing up to hit theaters in 1999, a certain love of spoilers in fan magazines bridged forward to the internet, where sites popped up left and right to dole out every ounce of information they could find. One infamous leaker, SuperShadow, remains legend within the Star Wars community - but not for good reason. SuperShadow's reports were creative at best, but mostly fake, and their persistence earned them disdain from all sides of the spectrum. Thanks to leakers like these, the now-established mantra on most rumor reports (including our own) come with a cautionary "take this with a grain of salt" message.
While every other article on spoilers seems to be defending them or against them, it's important to remember that people are different. It's hard to avoid spoilers when your favorite TV show is airing, but there is an entire subset of fandom that loves exclusive scoops or leaks from "trusted sources", supplementing message boards and social media with a fresh batch of plot points (whether true or not) to speculate on.
Why People Love Them
Everyone gets excited in different ways, and the very core of being a fan in the first place rests within the enthusiasm for upcoming events or releases. Fans power the hype, especially now that social media has taken word of mouth to reaches it had never seen before.
Beyond that, though, exists the spirit of anticipation - knowing tiny details, checking out concept art, and generally not sitting in the dark for the year-plus that an upcoming event or title takes place. For many of us, this is the thrill of the wait: following films as they develop has quickly become one of my favorite things about entertainment journalism. Along with a newfound appreciation for everyone down to the uncredited interns, the insight that comes with following a film's development can serve to teach us quite a bit about how movies are made in the first place.
But, just as there are so many like me who find the thrill of spoiler hunting and speculating to be part of the process, other folks prefer to watch movies in what they see as a more pure, surprising way.
As a spoiler lover, I can only give my honest opinion: I can't sit in the dark for a year if my heart's that invested in something. Knowing that it's happening and seeing concept art helps me realize that so many of these things are real, and the movie magic that fans are given access to is too precious to me, as someone who just loves movies. I simply can't just wait around and not know anything. At the end of the day, I don't want to know who dies, but knowing what they look like and that my favorite character has come back for the sequel trilogy, in the case of Star Wars - well, that's just magical to me.
Why People Hate Them
There is an equally vocal, and equally valid group of people who prefer not to see anything before the film, with some going as far as avoiding trailers and "going in blind."
For them, the thrill of the experience rests in the element of surprise. Plot twists, jump scares, and unpredicted familial relations keep these fans just as close to the edge of their seats as anyone else. Another prominent quote from Hamill's Q&A stood out for this reason.
But I like surprises! Y'know, haven't you ever gone to a movie, you see the trailer and, well now I've seen the whole thing!"
The sense of mystery behind a movie keeps these fans, daring enough to often go on little more than a poster an a synopsis, coming back to theaters. The outcome of the movie is everything, and for a lot of film fans, going all in on a movie this way is a time-honored tradition. Some people simply don't like spoilers, and that's okay, too.
It's understandable. Along with wanting a fresh viewing experience at the movies, television fans who don't like getting spoiled often have to go dark on social media if they can't watch along with their friends, live anywhere but the East Coast of the United States (A.K.A. best coast future TV-watching people), or have to watch days later for any other reason. While filtering your social media, or outright avoiding it certainly isn't fun at all, it's what being part of a fandom is about: your passion for a subject, and your empathy when it comes to the ways others celebrate it.
What You Should Do
Do you, of course, while letting others do what they do as well. At the end of the day, I have friends who celebrate their favorite comics or movies in their own unique ways, and because we're all fans together, they're alright with the ways I decide to do that, too.
In the event that this magical, rainbow-ridden remedy doesn't help, the internet is chock full of wonderful filtering apps like SpoilerShield, which operates on several platforms to help your social media feed stay spoiler-free. This is particularly helpful for fans of TV shows, the casts of which, more and more, are making it a point to live-tweet episodes as a way to connect and share in the experience with their fans in real time. Alternatively, a quick search for spoiler sites within your fandom can keep you updated on the latest leaks to power your next big speculative piece.
Yes, it might be hard to avoid spoilers, and yes, it may be hard to talk about the Easter eggs you've just found with your anti-spoiler friend, but (in the case of movies, at least) you're going to end up watching the same movie in the end. You and your spoiler-loving (or hating) friend are going to share an experience, and with any luck, it'll be enough of an experience that you'll be talking about it for weeks to come.