How social media became a minefield of spoilers for the Game of Thrones fan
You always remember your first, I suppose. Mine was in 1999, the year we had Y2K on our minds, Snake on our Nokias, and button flys on our Levi’s. I was in the queue to enter Sterling (Cinema; Fort) to watch the movie everyone had been talking about. All I knew was that the boy could “see dead people”. And, suddenly, in the exiting crowd, I spotted a familiar face. Neuman, a friend from college, was grinning at me. And just as he passed by, he yelled into the waiting crowd: “BRUCE WILLIS IS A GHOST!”
Neuman spoiled the surprise ending to The Sixth Sense, leaving me forever fearful of running into people at the cinema. Today, 17 years later, I have far more to fear than just a grinning Neuman. Monday morning Twitter is filled with #RIPJonSnow (or any other character, frankly; they fall like flies in Westeros). Han Solo is trending the Saturday after [Star Wars] Episode VII releases. And there are headlines screaming that Gone Girl had faked her disappearance all along.
For a long time, this was the work of cruel individuals: folks with time, internet, and the need for attention. But over last year, it’s been less random revelations, more organised oracles. News outlets, pop-culture magazines and entertainment blogs, all toppling over each other for clicks, now leave no stone unturned, no twist unspoiled in their social media updates. Netflix even launched a website, Living with Spoilers (spoilers.netflix.com), in 2014 to honour the culture.
It’s subtle. It’s sly. No one will tell you outright what happened to Daenerys in Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 4. But they’ll be aflame (ahem) with wordplay in their coverage of the show’s ratings. You may have saved The Walking Dead to binge watch, but they’ll helpfully report on all the Coral memes that came out (ahem) after Season 2, Episode 5. Who framed Priyanka Chopra on Quantico? Like a boss (ahem), they’ll confirm your suspicions in a recap.
If, like me, you feed on pop culture, but aren’t loser enough to consume everything the second it becomes available, there are no defences. Daily life becomes a minefield. I run from tweets about leopard prints, fur and sequins – it might reveal the fate of Cookie Lyon on Empire. I skim the entertainment posts, never dwelling too long to make spoiler-ific connections. When I meet entertainment writers, I ask about Girls – that show is so polarising, it keeps people from talking about anything else. Finally, a use for millennials!
There are, however, worse things than stumbling upon the identity of Keyser Soze, Tyler Durden, Luke Skywalker’s father, and Norman Bates’s mother. I was once discussing a horrific, much-publicised rape case with a fellow journalist. Without thinking, and assuming she knew, I blurted out the victim’s details, realising my mistake only after her look of hurt surprise. Those are the moments that make you see knowledge for the privilege and responsibility that it is. That’s where you’d hate spoilers. Because you always remember your first, and hope you never cause a second.