Spoiled Rotten: Are spoilers really such a bad thing?

The Irish Metro Herald has been bearing the brunt of many a Game of Thrones fan’s anger since publishing a rather spoiler filled article on page 3 yesterday, but I can’t help but wonder why everyone is so upset about it?

Spoilers

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 9 aired in the US on HBO on Sunday night, before being beamed into Irish homes via Sky Atlantic on Monday. The article in question was published on Wednesday morning, so surely it should have been fair game by then, right? Surely at the stage it wouldn’t still be considered a spoiler? Apparently not.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from transatlantic and domestic TV over the past few years, it’s that the humble spoiler splits the audience down the middle. Take Downton Abbey for example: We knew from the off that Season 3 would feature a birth and a death, with the producers teasing us with spoilers before they had even started filming. When that death occurred in November 2012, we half knew it was coming, but viewers across the ocean had no idea, and were supposed to wait until January 2013 to see it. However, with the likes of Tumblr and Twitter at their fingertips, they knew who had popped their clogs within minutes of the character doing so.

downton-abbey-spoilers1

The tiny incident caused uproar, with Downton Abbey cast members like Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham himself) taking to Twitter to voice their opinions on what could be done to avoid a repeat occurrence: Air the TV shows at the same time in each country he said. That’ll solve it. Well Hugh, I hate to break it to you, but this latest Game of Thrones saga begs to differ.

It’s the same here at home when it comes to Love/Hate. Sure didn’t we see photographers out on the street day after day, snapping photos of the cast and crew on the set of Season 4. We knew Robert Sheehan was back before we saw a single episode, and speculation about his role in the series was rife. Even writer Stuart O’Carolan jumped on the spoiler bandwagon, telling Ray D’Arcy what the story was with Sheehan’s return on Today FM last month.

So, if the writers and producers are willing to give away snippets of information about what’s to come, we have to ask ourselves if spoilers are really such a bad thing? I’ve always been one to keep an eye on what’s happening down the line in my favourite TV shows, because I actually find that it makes them far more interesting: Sometimes it’s nice to be one step ahead. And indeed, there is evidence to show that knowing what’s going to happen can actually be a rather good thing. Think of it as fan liberation akin to Tyrion Lannister’s sensational slap.

slap

Back in 2011, a study carried out by the University of California at San Diego found that  knowledge of spoilers actually enhanced readers’ ability to enjoy stories, and argued that being in the dark “may even impair pleasure by distracting attention from a story’s relevant details and aesthetic qualities.” In summary: You’re better off knowing what’s going to happen next. And sure Alfred Hitchcock himself said it’s the suspense that makes a story so gripping: Let the audience know what will happen in the end, and they’ll be far more interested to find out how the characters wound up where they are.

And sure wasn’t the internet only delighted to hear about the big reveal on How I Met Your Mother, less than 12 hours after the events of that fateful night? So why should things be any different with Game of Thrones? I mean, it’s a book series that’s been around for years, surely you’d think it was fair game to give the episode a nice, err, spread on page 3 about 48 hours after it hit the screen?

Say what you want about them, spoilers are very much a part of modern film and TV (don’t forget gaming and literature too), and it certainly doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere any time soon. I, for one, am all for them, and think they add to the excitement of a TV series.

Perhaps I’m just a bit like Joffrey, and don’t care about spoiling the fun…

joffreyhappy
Disclaimer:
I don’t own any of the above gifs, I just can’t seem to find their original creators online to credit them properly!

 

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