Scene Stealers

Marijke Rowland: Spoiler alert: Columnist spills many beans

mrowland@modbee.comApril 17, 2014 

Game of Thrones

King Joffrey, played by Jack Gleeson, during his wedding in “Game of Thrones.” The episode, “The Lion and the Rose,” aired Sunday, but the book it derives from was published in 2000.

HBO

Spoiler alert: This sentence leads to another sentence.

And another sentence after that. And another sentence. And another. Until the end of this column. You’ve been warned.

Watching and talking about TV and movies has become a minefield of late. The most unforgivable sin, it seems, is to spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen it yet. Hence, the now ubiquitous “spoiler alert.”

Which makes sense, in theory. No one wants to be a jerk and ruin something fun for someone else. (Spoiler alert: That’s a lie. Some people want to be jerks.)

But in practice, the politics of the spoiler alert have become complicated and fraught with controversy. When, for instance, should a spoiler alert be deployed? When talking about a key plot point before the episode/movie in question premieres? Yes, almost certainly.

When talking about a significant scene the same night it airs? Sure, probably – everyone gets busy and needs a minute to catch up on the DVR. A week after an episode airs? A month, a year, 10 years?

Take, for instance, last Sunday’s “Game of Thrones.” Shocking, yes. Can we talk about the specifics in a newspaper column that publishes five whole days after the episode was broadcast without tagging it “spoiler alert” for fear of having readers send me angry missives about how I’ve ruined everything for them forever?

I don’t know, let’s find out. (Just kidding. Spoiler alert: Joffrey dies. Hallelujah.)

But this brings us to the deeper nuances embedded in the concept of the spoiler alert. “Game of Thrones” is based on a series of books written by George R.R. Martin dating back to 1996. The events of last Sunday happened in his third book in the series, “A Storm of Swords,” published in 2000. That means the key plot twist has been out there for anyone to read for 14 years.

Yet those who followed the novels are forced to talk in hushed tones huddled among themselves as if they’re discussing Snowden secrets. (Spoiler alert: I am not among them. I have not read the books and therefore know nothing, like Jon Snow.)

But let us delve even deeper. How about the latest big-screen adaptation of “Les Misérables”? When the movie came out in 2012, the novel it was based on was 150 years old. Yet still, does decorum dictate we keep quiet on the major deaths in the movie? (Spoiler alert: It’s Jean Valjean. And also almost everyone else. Seriously, almost everyone dies.)

So how about classic movies? “Planet of the Apes”? (Spoiler alert: It’s Earth.) “Soylent Green”? (Spoiler alert: It’s people.) “Citizen Kane”? (Spoiler alert: It’s the sled.) Also, “vader” means “father” in Dutch, so figure “Star Wars” out for yourselves.

When does “spoiling” something for another human being extend past courtesy and into lunacy?

The spoilee (Spoiler alert: That’s not a word) must take on some responsibility of her or his own not to get spoiled as well. I stayed away from Twitter, Facebook and the like before “Game of Thrones” aired on the West Coast last Sunday because I know, in that three-hour time delay between time zones, it is almost impossible to avoid someone spilling the beans in my social media feeds.

Don’t want to know what happens? Don’t go online. (Spoiler alert: But please, keep reading the paper. We rarely spoil anything – except some politicians’ days.)

I think spoilers, like life, ultimately boil down to that Golden Rule. (Spoiler alert: It’s do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Duh.) I don’t expect you never to talk about a movie or a TV show indefinitely until I’ve found the time in my hectic schedule to watch it. Just don’t get mad at me when I talk about something you haven’t seen in a timely manner, either.

Unless it is “Game of Thrones.” Don’t you dare tell me what happens next in “Game of Thrones.”

(Spoiler alert: This column ends now.)

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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