What self-hating part of myself doesn’t understand that this show is going to ruin me over and over again!?
Joanna Schroeder was chastised for posting Walking Dead spoilers on Twitter after the show aired… And she’s none too pleased about it.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead’s episode 408 below, and for some random old movies.
I’m an annoying TV watcher. Even though I don’t try to be, I’m very interactive with my visual media. I stand up and clap when good things happen, I get glazey-eyed and rosy-cheeked in romances, and I tend to scream, shake, peer around the corner from the kitchen, or get up and run across the house to hide in my bed when things get terrifying.
So of course I completely freaked out during last night’s The Walking Dead‘s horrifically traumatic cliffhanger episode, when The Governor hacked off Herschel’s head with Michonne’s katana.
It was horrible. I was angry, like REALLY angry, at the show and angry at myself for watching it when I know I’m probably just too sensitive to handle the endless brutality. Robert Kirkman said later, on The Talking Dead after-show, that he feels the more important the character is to the audience, the more brutal his or her death needs to be. Think of Shane killed by Rick, then again by Carl. Or of Carl having to shoot his own mother in the head after she’d just given birth. That seems like a totally horrific combination, but is a testament to the ways in which that show pulls no punches. If a character who was larger-than-life and central to our experience in that setting had a lovely and peaceful passing, it just wouldn’t feel post-apocalyptic enough.
And I wasn’t alone in my trauma. Predictably, Twitter lit up like a freaking christmas tree with people expressing outrage and horror at the death of the most beloved character in the history of the show. It also lit up with people complaining about the fact that people had the gall to talk about it before everyone in the world had a chance to see the episode.
For those people, I have one singular message:
If you haven’t seen an episode of a wildly popular television show that is built upon suspense and value, don’t log onto Twitter right after the episode airs.
Those of us on the West Coast already have this mastered. I literally never open Twitter when Scandal is airing on the East Coast because I know whatever my favorite gladiators are getting themselves into is going to be splashed across my timeline, and that’s one show I absolutely relish being surprised by.
But apparently not everyone knows this rule. Last night, after irritating my husband by talking about Herschel and baby Judith over and over again, I turned to Twitter to vent. Almost immediately, tweets started rolling in from people who couldn’t believe I would give away a spoiler like that. Some people had a sense of humor about it, but most did not. One particularly dramatic fellow said, “You’ve lost a follower!”
Here’s why that’s ridiculous:
1. Twitter’s top trends at that moment included things like #Herschel and #RIPHerschel and #TheWalkingDead. So, you know, deal with it.
2. Twitter is about breaking news. Things happen on Twitter faster than anywhere else. #BindersFullofWomen popped up literally moments after former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney used the phrase in a debate. You barely have to turn on a TV to follow play-by-play action of the most popular football and basketball games. Just open Twitter and you’ll see trends like #Interception or #UCLAWins pop up.
3. There’s no way to “SPOILER ALERT: WALKING DEAD” on a tweet. You only get 140 characters. Are you going to waste 27 of them warning people about something that’s going to happen literally one line later in a two-sentence tweet? No.
4. How long are we supposed to wait before we can use spoilers? A day? Two weeks? I’m sure there are people who are three weeks behind, do we need to be careful of those folks? Other than not spoiling it before it’s aired, any other time frame set forth for a TV show on Twitter is ridiculous.
5. Turns out, spoilers may not even ruin people’s enjoyment of stories! From Wired’s excellent 2011 piece Spoilers Don’t Spoil Anything, Jonah Lehrer explains:
…spoilers don’t spoil anything. In fact, a new study suggests that spoilers can actually increase our enjoyment of literature. Although we’ve long assumed that the suspense makes the story — we keep on reading because we don’t know what happens next — this new research suggests that the tension actually detracts from our enjoyment.
It’s hard to fully wrap my brain around the data in this study because I’m not sure I can pull apart exactly what “enjoyment” means when it comes to consuming arts. I was one of the lucky ones who saw
The Sixth Sense
in theaters on opening night, so I had no idea there even was a twist, let alone that Bruce Willis was dead the whole dang time. I was shocked, and will admit that I was pretty traumatized by it all. Would I have enjoyed it more had I known? Hard to say. I wouldn’t have had that incredibly visceral moment of realizing what was going on when the ring rolled out of his wife’s hand, then turned to my friend Carolyn, tears streaming down my face to say “HE’S DEAD!” and watching her face crumple up as she realized it too. But maybe I also wouldn’t have had a month of nightmares. As I said above, I’m sort of a baby about this stuff.
So to all of you who are freaking out about TV spoilers on Twitter – take some responsibility for your own viewing enjoyment. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, avoid Twitter until the fervor dies down, and understand the harsh reality that someone will, probably, spoil the ending of something for you if you take too long to watch a show like TWD or Scandal. Sorry for the cold hard truth, but someone’s gotta break it to you.
After all, once you watch the episode, you’ll probably want to talk about it on Twitter too, and if everyone’s so afraid of ruining the surprise for that inevitable group who hasn’t seen the episode, you’ll never get the chance!
And if someone spoils something for you, remember that it’s not the end of the world. After all, you may even enjoy it more knowing what’s going to happen. I sure wish someone had warned me!
Oh, and PS – Judith’s totally alive. You know how I know? The clasps on her carseat were open, and if Walkers can’t even figure out how to turn a doorknob, they’re not unbuckling a five-point harness!
Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project. Want more?