When Is a “Spoiler” Fair Game?

TV Worth Watching posted a fabulous reaction piece to a complaint that he “spoiled” the end of Dexter season four in a recent NPR airing. His argument is that the episode aired almost two years ago, and the DVD set has been out for almost a year. This has given the community plenty of time to watch the show, and it shouldn’t be considered a “spoiler” anymore.

As a TV blogger, this is often a discussion I have in my own head as I’m writing about shows. What can I reference openly that might “spoil” something for someone who hasn’t seen it? If I compare Jane and Grayson in Drop Dead Diva to Luke and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls and tell you how their relationship played out, is that spoiling it for those of you who haven’t seen Gilmore Girls?

Of course, this an awful example, because Jane and Grayson are nothing like Luke and Lorelai, but let’s take another example. If, based on what I saw in the season finale of Vampire Diaries, I start comparing “evil Stefan” to Angelus of Buffy and Angel fame, am I spoiling anything? We saw that Stefan drank human blood — killed a girl — and we know what Angelus is like. But did I spoil it for those of you who haven’t caught up?

What is the expiration date of a “spoiler”?

In my own opinion, it’s three hours after the episode ended. Keep in mind, I’m in Boston. I’m seeing shows on the East Coast, in EST. The West Coast is three hours behind me, which means if I watch Falling Skies and immediately tweet, “OMG! Mike was just killed!” there’s a good chance that a West Coast fan will get mildly miffed. After all, they haven’t had the opportunity to see the show yet.

But three hours later, they have. And then it’s fair game. I know what you’re thinking: But what about all the people who catch up online? Well, honestly, I don’t care. I’m not heartless. I, too, watch things online. But I also don’t expect other bloggers and other fans to cater to my TV schedule. If I’m not watching it live, I’m missing out. I now need to be aware that other people are discussing the show on Twitter, on blogs, on news outlets, and heck, even on Facebook. If I don’t want to know what happens for a day or two, I need to do my own homework and stay out of the way. At that point, saying “spoiler alert” isn’t appropriate. It’s out there. It’s done. It’s in the past, and you can’t “spoil” the past.

Which brings us to catching up on TV shows. I, myself, am just now watching Mad Men. Started from season one about a month ago. Sure, this could open up an entire can of worms. Many of you readers might be quite annoyed with my take on “spoilers” and might put in the comments fifteen things that spoil my watching. Hey, that’s what I get for not watching it when it was airing. Just like I could have run into any article discussing the newest episode of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and have a reference to Peggy Olson in there. That’s my fault, not theirs. It’s fair game.

You can’t write about TV or discuss TV without discussing what’s been done before because most likely, it was done either much better or much worse that what we’re seeing now. We can’t do things on everyone else’s time table. Some of the job of the viewer or fan is to pay attention to their surroundings and accept that you might just find out something because you’re watching things late. Hell, I just found out about a main character being killed off in a series I’ve yet to finish…but there’s nothing I can do about that. I shouldn’t been reading a post called “Shocking TV Deaths.” There’s always a good chance I’ll be spoiled, too.

So give us a break. Perhaps I’m a harsh reviewer for thinking that a three-hour window is all a “spoiler” needs. But if the majority of people have seen it, I’d say it’s fair game. Your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “When Is a “Spoiler” Fair Game?

  1. In my own opinion, it’s three hours after the episode ended.

    A million times this. I am so tired of hearing people complain about spoilers. Some people just take it to ridiculous levels. Once the show has gone out live, it’s not a spoiler anymore. If you can’t watch it live and you don’t want to be spoiled, it should be your responsibility to stay away from anything that could ruin it for you.

  2. I agree. Once a show airs, then if you want to write about it, go ahead! If I miss a show, I won’t go online to read about it until I watch it. And if it was a super important episode or something, I will avoid all media outlets until I watch it! What I don’t think is fair though, is when people give future spoilers for shows. For example, I watch The Bachelorette (the one trash show I watch) and there are certain websites I’ll avoid because people will write about who they read she ends up with. I don’t want to know until I watch it!

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