Accepting the Spoilers
In contemporary Internet culture warnings are more and more becoming plastered on the content we take in. They are a defense mechanism against the ruthlessness of the Internet and our inability to control what is presented to us. Trigger and content warnings have become commonplace in articles, podcasts, and Facebook posts. We use these phrases to say, “Hey, before you click this link, or watch this video, or listen to this podcast, just know there might be discussions of things that you don’t like, or things that offend you, or remind you of things you’d rather not be reminded of.” These warnings show courtesy, but are a way to prevent criticism from people who felt things they did not expect to feel. Another type of warning we see is the extremely important spoiler alert. When writing or posting about current shows it is imperative to write SPOILER ALERT as a disclaimer.
If that spoiler alert is not there, someone who is not up to the most recent episode of the series could make the horrendous mistake of clicking the link, only to have their entire world shattered. Although possibly lighter in nature than the other types of content warnings, it can feel the most like an attack when this particular type of alert is not used. But what about everything that has been written about television before spoiler alerts were the standard? What about the shows that premiered before the Internet was as booming and full of endless information as it is today? How can one combat the possibility of a spoiler when watching a show that everyone else saw 15 years ago? This is an issue I’ve encountered over and over again while watching Dawson’s Creek over the past few months. Anytime I look up articles about the show, or try to find certain clips on YouTube or Google image search, I find out more information that I didn’t want to know. Before finishing the first season, I already knew every major character that, eventually, dies. I also knew which main characters would end up together. You might be saying to yourself, “well why didn’t you just be more careful? Why didn't you just avoid looking up anything about the show?” The problem is, as an artist who often turns to television and pop culture as source material for my art practice, it is nearly impossible to not set myself up to stumble upon this kind of information.
Even if I didn't generate work about television, I would still be inclined to learn as much as possible about the television show that i am currently binge watching. I will admit that at first, each unsolicited spoiler felt like a jab in the gut; unexpected and painful. But as I continued to realize these instances could not be avoided, I learned to accept the things I could not change. What I’ve concluded is this: if a show is good, a spoiler will not make a difference in how it is experienced. As I am nearing the final seasons of Dawson’s Creek, some of the spoilers are now in my past, and some are still in the future.
Just as someone can never really prepare for the death of a loved one, one cannot prepare for a serious change in the plot of a show. Defining moments in a great television show hold their weight no matter what, and should affect their viewers in the same way every time the show is watched. I’ve learned to recognize that a show’s strength is in the emotional depth it creates, and it’s ability to make viewers feel as though they are really living in the universe that the show exists in. If a show is able to successfully draw a viewer in emotionally, a spoiler should not affect our emotional reaction to what has happened. ⊗