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Small Council: What role, if any, should spoilers play in fan communities?

It’s no secret that Game of Thrones has a spoiler problem. There have been plenty of plot leaks over the years, and they have not pleased HBO. Should companies clamp down on the problem? Or should they accept spoilers as inevitable, or even take them as a compliment, since it just shows how passionate the fans are for info? What about actors like Maisie Williams, who recently said that leaking information is “a childish, annoying thing to do”? Basically, are spoilers helping or hurting the fan communities that absorb them? What role, if any, do and should they have? The Small Council is in session.

Also, while this roundtable is about spoilers, we’ll don’t mention any actual spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7. Although there’s a spoiler for Batman v. Superman in there, oddly enough.

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DAN: I think any company making TV and movies in the internet age is going to have to come to grips with the fact of spoilers. That’s particularly true on a show like Game of Thrones, which simply employs too many people to keep secrets from leaking out. We’re talking about a show that shoots around the world and retains a vast army of actors, extras, crew members and digital effects wizards. HBO can deliver all the stern warnings it wants to its workers—at some point, someone along the food chain is going to blab, intentionally or not.

And if they don’t, fans will pick up the slack. During the filming of season 6, I remember being impressed when fans managed to snag video of the filming of the Tower of Joy scene at the Castillo de Zafra, but I shouldn’t have been. I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to underestimate the resourcefulness of fans, not when there are so many ways to record and disseminate information. If they want the info bad enough, they’ll find a way.

So how should HBO deal with this fact? To borrow a phrase, if you can’t fix it, you have to stand it…not that I blame HBO for trying to address the issue, what with withholding episode screeners for season 6 and generally not showing as much advance footage as the show became more popular. And of course I understand why people who work on the show would be annoyed when something gets past the internal firewall. But if the problem is going to persist no matter what they do—and I think it will—it might be a better to get out ahead of it.

Personally, I don’t mind spoilers. I never have. That’s because, for me, the quality of a movie or TV show or book or whatever has little to do with what happens and everything to do with how it’s executed. To quote Roger Ebert, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” That’s why I can watch, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark or All About Eve multiple times and still enjoy them even though I know what’s coming. Had I known ahead of time about Cersei’s plan to blow up the Sept of Baelor in “The Winds of Winter,” I think I would have enjoyed it just as much, because it was just so damn well done.

But I know not everything feels that way. What do you guys think about the nature of spoilers? Where do they belong?

Queen Cersei Lannister Official

COREY: This is one of those debates in which I see both sides of the argument, and it’s an argument that will likely continue among fans of all kinds long after most of us have gone the way everyone in the Sept of Baelor. I have a friend who is so anti-spoiler he refuses to even look at movie posters, let alone dig up leaks on the internet. When he’s in a theater, he covers his eyes and ears during the previews. I don’t go that far, but I don’t actively seek out leaked info, either.

Game of Thrones is an exception, as I can’t both avoid spoilers and contribute to this site. But with other properties, I stay largely unspoiled. Watching and dissecting trailers is fine. It’s fun to pass the time speculating on the direction a movie or show might take, and I don’t think using logic and reason to forecast the plot should count as spoilers. But for some even that’s too much. For example, I once had someone get very upset when I mentioned that Bruce Willis and company visit NASA in Armageddon. (As if NASA being involved in a movie about an asteroid was a spoiler).

If something is spoiled for me, I agree with Dan that it still matters how it’s executed. I knew going into Batman v. Superman that Batman and Superman would stop fighting due to the fact that their mothers shared the same name, and it was just as horribly executed as I feared it would be. Had they managed to pull that off, I wouldn’t have cared that I knew going it ahead of time. Cersei’s destruction of the Sept was subtly hinted at throughout season 6, but it was still a breathtaking moment. Likewise, I’d correctly predicted that Tommen would commit suicide before the end of season 6, but the moment was still shocking.

Spoilers are a case of “to each his own,” as far as I am concerned. Seeking out and discussing them can be fun, but can also rob fans of some of the surprise. If you can still enjoy something without the surprise factor, go for it. If that factor is important to you, stay unspoiled. I think like most things in life, leaning too much in either direction can be a bad thing. A more centrist route is the way to go.

Tommen Baratheon Official

KATIE: My first experience with spoilers had nothing to do with Game of Thrones and everything to do with Harry Potter. During the midnight release of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, someone in the crowd shouted out a page number. Now, through the dizzying zig-zag of lines, you couldn’t determine who, exactly, shouted, but ignoring this bit of intrigue proved impossible. Come to find out, the page in question contained this quote: “Dumbledore is dead.”

As an avid fan of the Potter series since its inception, I have to confess that I always flipped to the last page before I read each book through. I voluntarily spoiled myself to ease any worries. It didn’t ruin the experience for me because—as Dan and Corey have already explored—the thrill is in the journey of the story, not its conclusion. So what bothers me wasn’t my continuous discoveries that Harry had indeed made it through another book, but that the anonymous person in Barnes & Noble tried to spoil the thing for everyone else. Of course, everyone who heard could very well practice self-restraint and avoid flipping to the page. But that page number would undoubtedly stick in their minds, and with every succeeding page their anxiety for what was to come would surely worsen. It was a cruel, immature thing to do, especially in the company of children, who made up a good portion of the crowd that night.

In the case of Game of Thrones (which is most decidedly not meant for children), I sympathize with the cast and crew’s frustration with spoilers. It’s one thing for a group of fans to stake out filming spots to learn future plot points for themselves, and quite another to leak that content onto the internet for everyone to see, whether they want to or not. The only way to truly avoid Thrones spoilers is to avoid the internet entirely, which is a tall order to ask of fellow fans.

On the whole, I don’t understand the point of leaking content—be it photos, videos, or scripts—nor do I see it as a compliment to the creators. You don’t need to disrespect their request for privacy to show how excited you are for new content. We all know how popular this franchise is already, and how much we’re all looking forward to what’s to come. Not to mention, leaking plot points without the full context of the narrative is less titillating and more agitating. You’re not doing anybody any favors. During the off-season, Game of Thrones is best left to the imagination, rather than stolen scraps of plot that are unceremoniously shoved down our throats.

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SARAH: Spoilers and I have a strange relationship. Example: I once left a screening of Kick Ass in order to go to the bathroom and read the synopsis before returning to watch the rest of the movie. I had to do this because of the severe anxiety I feel whenever I watch a movie or TV series that might feature sudden violence. My behavior when I watch a new episode of Game of Thrones is now a running joke in my house. Because I stay up until 2 am to watch it live, I can’t read a synopsis beforehand, so instead I suffer from palpitations, cry inexplicably at perfectly ordinary moments and experience spasms of nervous wind-breaking—none of that is a lie. It’s just a strange eccentricity that I’ve learned to deal with. Reading spoilers is sometimes necessary for me to relax, so I can’t really hate them, yet…

While I admit that spoilers are a byproduct of the modern world’s obsession with having it all now, and that there’s an undercurrent of entitlement running beneath all of the leaked videos and fan photos, I’m okay with that. I have to be—I’ve sought spoilers in the past, which means I’ve bought into it, and I can’t condemn something that I have benefited from. My problem with spoilers is that they can’t be confined to the eyes of people who want to see them, and for that reason alone, I’d rather they didn’t exist.

When we report on leaks, we ensure that there’s a spoiler warning to preface the content, as do some other news sources. The content on Wikipedia is there to be perused by people who are looking for it. That’s all fine. But then you have Twitter, where people are constantly at risk of coming across material they’d rather not see in their timelines without the safety net of a spoiler warning, or Facebook, where a news post about politics could feature one ‘Han dies!’ comment that ruins the movie for the hundreds of people reading it.

I’m not blaming social media—the world has been full of Joffreys since the dawn age—but its existence certainly makes it easier for those crappy people to ruin someone else’s experience. So while I’ve seen the set photos and puzzled over the Reddit leaks in the run up to Season 7, a much bigger part of me feels bad for the poor suckers who try their best not to know what’s coming, only to inevitably find out anyway. Because of this, I agree with Katie. Spoilers are a pointless preclusion of genuine surprise, and there’s no reason why all of us—myself included—can’t just be content to wait for the real thing.

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RAZOR: Love them or hate them, spoilers now play a huge part in every successful television or book series’ fandom. With spoiler junkies and spoilerphobes making up two very divided factions in each fanbase, sites (like this one) must cater to both sides, or risk losing interest from readers who actively search the internet every day for bits of news about their favorite show, and those who avoid spoilers like a plague. And yes, while spoilerphobes are probably the larger of the two groups, spoiler junkies are beginning to make themselves known, and so their needs must be embraced.

Personally, I love spoilers. I don’t think that learning about the plot of a particular episode before it airs ruins it in any way. I am a firm believer that the quality of a show is in the acting, the direction and how it’s all put together. Knowing what happens beforehand is a small part of a much larger picture.

I think back to Game of Thrones season 6, and how the information about the Battle of the Bastards was leaked to the Freefolk subreddit. We found out that Jon would live through the battle, defeat Ramsay, and that Wun Wun would die, as well as other details. But did that detract from the quality or enjoyment of that episode? For me, it didn’t. Miguel Sapochnik directed an amazing episode of television, and Kit Harington acted his ass off. So while I understand that some people just don’t want to be spoiled for their favorite shows, networks and websites that cover those shows should recognize that spoiler junkies are also part of the fandoms, and deserve to be listened to, as well.

Battle of the Bastards

RICHARD: I think the topic has been extremely well covered above, so I’ll just toss in my ten cents worth here. I’m not a spoilers guy. I don’t do spoiler articles because I don’t want to see them. The powers that be understand this and avoid assigning me any spoiler-related pieces. I like to see the episodes fresh because I like the surprises. That said, simply being around so many spoilers as Winter is Coming reports the news means I do see some things, and that really doesn’t bother me. I totally agree with Dan’s example of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the enjoyment of the entertainment has almost nothing to do with knowing exactly what happens in every frame before it appears: I simply prefer not to know all of the new story stuff before the first viewing, is all. But if I do, it’s okay.

Of course, when a book or series of books like A Song of Ice and Fire precedes a TV series or Jurassic Park becomes a major motion picture, you’re going to have a big spoiler problem, but it doesn’t seem to bother anybody. We want to see the story play out on the screen and live in it another time. With the internet and the explosion of fan tools to dig and dig and dig, its almost impossible for a popular show to shield scripts and production pictures from all those prying eyes, as valiantly as they might try. In the end, spoilers are fun for those who love them and almost impossible to avoid for those who don’t; but if the show is good, we, like Bran and the Three-eyed Raven, will all be watching the finished story over and over again.

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven


47 Comments

  • I totally agree with Dan. The magic lies in how well the story is told. Personally, I like to know beforehand what I am about to see so that I can discern whether it will be worth investing my time in it or not. At this point, GOT has me TOTALLY invested.

  • The only way to find spoilers is to purposely search for them on the Internet.

    It’s simple, if you don’t want to know spoilers don’t look for them lol.

    If you found them,chances are you were looking in the first place.

    • For the most part…

      The comment above about social media does have validity.
      Though, if you are on social media you should be aware of possible spoilers coming out of nowhere.

    • Ditto. So, so easy to avoid. It’s only during the actual screening season I find it difficult. For God’s sake people-use some simple self control and stop complaining! Certainly don’t agree that spoilers are shoved dowm my throat, that’s for sure.

      • Last year, I found out that ‘The Door’ had leaked early when I opened Twitter and saw spoilers all over my timeline and even tweeted to me several hours before the episode aired, so unfortunately they’re not always easy to avoid.

  • For fan-sites (like WiC) as long as an article or post is identified as having “spoilers” then I think that is all the fan-site should be required to do. Because if you’re a fan and you’re visiting a fan site, and the site provides fair warning about spoiler information, then at that point it is totally up to the fan to decide what to do next.

    As for the production companies (like HBO), while I can understand their frustrations with spoiler information being leaked, I think it is up to them to determine how much time, effort, or money they want to spend in order to protect their work.

    The only place I draw the line is on bootleg/pirated episodes because in many cases the bootleg/pirated material is just a way for someone to make money off of other people’s work, and that’s not right.

    • I have not seen the “plot leak” for Season 7 yet and I don’t intend to read it.

      I already know some of what is going to happen from posts and articles here but will avoid finding out the whole plot if at all possible.

      • I had no intention of reading the plot leak, until some piece of shit put a massive twist in a comment section, without spoiler tags

  • I know the book and show are on a slightly different route, but still will probably end up in the same place when all is finished. Sarting with the books HBO delivered in away i think is the best thing to happen since The Wire. With The Wire social media had’nt suduced the world like today. With that my vote stands cause if i can avoid it via looking it up or passing by upon a surf of the net,oh well. I know HBO will not let me down. I just hope they dont take as long with another hit show as long as G.R.R.M is with his next book… So my vote is, Whatev’s… If i can avoid it cool, if not, Ill still compare the two. Please, No Letdowns?

  • For GOT, just reading the books was spoilers…………so what is the difference now? Nothing really. I think HBO worries about it too much because of the ratings, normally networks think their ratings will go down if there are spoilers. I say: if the show is great u have nothing to worry about! That is the case for GOT, if they keep up the excellent work, there are no worries here. Spoilers in general create buzz for the show, free publicity.

  • I don’t understand the need of the female writers on this site to always bring up the fact that they have been abused or still suffer the after effects or whatever. Many people have been victims of abuse in some way or another, but most don’t constantly seek attention or pity for it. This was an article about spoilers. I’m sure most people could give two shits about how you recoil at the violence. Get over yourself.

    • Actually, I just hate jump scares. Have done since I was very little. It’s not a result of any childhood trauma, just a weird quirk. I also wasn’t looking for sympathy. Your ire is quite misplaced.

    • None of the “female writers” brought up abuse or the after affects (your words) in this discussion, so I’m not really sure as to why you felt the need to attack them. Sarah may have mentioned she gets anxious when watching violence in movies or tv (here’s a hint, I’m a “male writer” and so do I) but she didn’t say a single word about abuse.

      We can talk about the topic at hand, if you wish, but please refrain from attacking someone for something they didn’t even do.

      Thanks!

      • In the WIC Writer’s defense,

        I have been a regular on this site for quite a long time. Every writer here, brings there own unique style and flavor to each topic of their choosing.

        What i I find incredibly annoying, is the personal attacks on the Gender or “so called” biased opinionated claims of WIC writers.

        If your ego is easily bruised due to someone’s expressions on a topic, weather it be personal or validity of a comment. I suggest you look inward deal with your own issues and stop coming here to ignorantly shame people you don’t know.

        I think all of the WIC writers are great. Thank you for giving GOT fans a place to chat. You guys are awesome!

        Thanks WIC! 💜

        • I think all of the WIC writers are great. Thank you for giving GOT fans a place to chat. You guys are awesome!

          Thanks WIC! 💜

          Thanks for being a loyal reader! ❤ 😊

        • I’ve very rarely seen a writer attacked for their gender here.

          I have seen writers called out for their takes(which are sometimes incorrect) in articles or when the writers inject real life politics into their articles.

          I have no trouble with people not wanting to have to read about politics in a forum dedicated to a Fantasy Novel and TV series (even one the deals heavily in Fantasy Politics).

          There are plenty of other avenues on the internet for political discussion.

          Regardless, no writer or commenter should try to tell anyone here how they should or shouldn’t react and what they should or should write in the comments as long as they do not violate this websites posting guidelines.

          • I have seen some writers taken to task for spelling errors, grammar errors and messing up character names on occasion.

            Sometimes that borders on petty but other times it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for an article that doesn’t have multiple errors in it.
            Things like that can sometimes detract from the substance of the article.

  • I chat with fellow football fans on a site and we talk about all sorts of things but one thing that I find very annoying is the idea that once a show is broadcast, you still can’t talk about it because some people are waiting for whenever to binge watch it and we can’t spoil them. I’ve respected this despite being ticked by it especially months after something has aired.
    Have you guys run into this and if so, how do you deal with it?

  • Dumbledore is dead?! 🙁 Thanks, Katie!
    Just kidding.
    I don’t think reading the books spoiled the show for me, because it was more interesting trying to figure out what they would or wouldn’t keep from them.
    I’m more irritated Winds of Winter isn’t out yet for that reason, among others. So much so that I’ve tin foiled the rest of the series in my head! Anyone else do this, too? I am fairly confident about the nature of Lightbringer, Bran, and the Night King. Not confident about who survives, though!

    • Loved your Dumbledore comment 😆😂😆
      I am also in the same line of thinking regarding WoW. I think it is already written but he probably has a deal with HBO to not publish till after this season airs probably.

  • I agree with Dan. I like to read the spoilers (which are read and taken with a pinch of salt). It’s the execution of the plot line shown on the tv that is the most impressive. I still stay up to watch it live at 2am UK time.

  • The main thing is we all have to respect those who avoid spoilers and try not to reveal them, even accidentally, even when others do. Half-way through S1, my unsullied SO asked, “Does Ned die?” I innocently responded, “Why do you ask?” “Because Sean Bean is listed for only nine episodes.” “Oh, Ned gets captured and spends an episode in prison.” Satisfied, the SO enjoyed the surprise and horror and frisson we sullied experienced when we read the first book.

    I have a love/hate relationship with spoilers. The books were spoilers for the first few seasons except where D&D made major changes. And I”ve read the leaks for S6 and 7. But for some reason I don’t want spoilers for S8 because it’s final. And in broad outline, that final outcome will theoretically apply to the books as well. I feel so invested in certain story lines and characters that at this stage I dread learning the final outcome until it happens. None of this would stop me from reading it after the show ends–the journey is everything. But as the ultimate DESTINATION looms into view I crave as much surprise and pleasure as can wrung from it.

  • We are all bored right? Waiting and waiting and slow mo voice, wwaaaaiiTiing?…… Has any one noticed anything wrong with the show? It says when you vote,to create a poll. You know like with the Jon Snow wavy sword at The Battle OF The Bastards. Costume flip flops, whatevs? The sword thing is all i can think of rite now. I did have one other thing but its late on a Frifay and I’m Cersie’d a bit… Or maybe memes like that???

  • This is probably one of my favourite articles I’ve seen on this site. Really enjoyed it guys! Well done! This needed to be discussed. I completely agree with Razor. His points of view are my own.
    I really enjoy everything you guys post. Every morning I wake up, the first thing I do is check this app for something new! Keep up the awesome work!

  • I enjoy a few spoilers, but I read the season 7 plot leak and now wished I hadn’t. Reading the entire story outline of the season was too much for me. If I could unread that outline, I would.

    • I hope the leak was an early outline and a lot of it has been changed by the writers, directors, and actors. What we see will be different enough to stay interesting!

  • Spoilers are always misleading, ambiguous, and vague. They are generated to keep fans interested in the show. It seems to me the fake plot only focused on Jon/Dany.

  • The show will end up spoiling the books, not HBO’s fault in any way but it saddens me that it will be that way. I like the way you can seek out spoilers if you want, but I don’t want to ever spoil the books or show for anyone else. If I introduce Game of Thrones to my friends with either the books or the DVDS, I never divulge any of the major plot points. I feel like this would be dishonorable on my part. I enjoyed, suffered through every one and I would not take away that joy of discovery from a friend. Not everyone seeks out websites such as this that might contain spoilers, and not everyone will read all the books. They will maintain their innocence until someone spills the beans. My point being that if they seek out spoilers on the web, that is their choice but to have someone personally spoil the story is WRONG!

  • Some people hate spoilers; others crave them. In a perfect world, there would be a foolproof way to avoid them without giving up social media altogether. But it isn’t, and there isn’t, so ‘Caveat emptor’ becomes the watchword by default.

    Personally, I don’t believe that knowing how a story ends ‘spoils’ it. If that were the case, none of us would ever reread a favorite book or rewatch a classic movie. And one of the reasons I love ASoIaF is the fact that I glean new insights from each reread.

  • Spoilers never ruined anything for me on GOT. Knowing what happens doesnt stop countless people from watching historical dramas like the recent Victoria or The Crown. For me its all about the execution. But 2 of my friends avoid spoilers like plague so much so that they tried to stay away from social media yet they were spoiled about Jon’s resurection by a news outlet .This i think is wrong. Spoilers should not be used as a way to increase ratings even if the news was broadcast after the episode aired on HBO.Not everyone can watch at the same time

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