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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.