Spoiler etiquette is definitely a conversation film fans should be having in the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening in theaters worldwide on December 18.
One Facebook friend has already gotten the axe, and he’s quite fortunate I’m not showing up on his doorstep to exact vengeance.
The internet, whether certain politicians want to admit it or not, is a utility, and many people (from many different industries) cannot physically do their work without it.
Staying off the internet as the first droves of film fans show up to watch The Force Awakens simply isn’t an option for yours truly and countless others.
And while people are doing well enough on spoiler etiquette, for the most part, there are morons who choose to screw it up for everyone, both cluelessly and deliberately.
If you’re a Star Wars fan — or maybe just a hater of spoilers — who clicked on this article fearing that you would find out something you didn’t want to know about the movie, rest easy.
I’m about to recount the experience that went down for me this morning with details removed.
Awful human @BuzzFeedAndrew just sent me a Force Awakens spoiler disguised in a “quick edit” email.
— Kyle Blaine (@kyletblaine) December 18, 2015
A now ex-friend logged onto his Facebook and left the status update, “I can’t believe they killed [Star Wars character name] so early.”
While the gist of the comments was that he was joking and just deliberately trying to get a rise out of people, the attempt at humor missed the mark because it was a character I had already suspected might be living on borrowed time in the series.
It didn’t matter to me, at that point, whether he was joking or not because the “joke” was a plausible plot detail that might actually happen. At this point, truthful or no, he was already interfering with my enjoyment of the film, and he was doing so without any extra exertion on my part.
He found me, in other words. I didn’t go looking for him.
Rather than take my chances with this guy, I went ahead and hid all posts and blocked him, and quite frankly, it makes no difference whether I speak to him again.
Would it be different if he had been a family member? Well, yes, of course, because he really was just an acquaintance and with family, you have a bond that runs deeper than film.
I still might have hidden a family member’s posts, though, and I would have been very angry had he done it on purpose.
Does that make me thin-skinned? On this, perhaps. But failure to abide by spoiler etiquette — and particularly the attitude one has when spoiling something — also says something about the spoiler.
Netflix conducted an ethnographic study in 2014 through anthropologist Grant McCracken on just why people feel the need to usurp spoiler etiquette. What he found is that Americans are some of the worst people in the world.
This proved to be true when looking at the attitudes of most U.S. citizens compared to the rest of the world when it came to spoiling television shows.
Just take this U.S. to Canada comparison on spoiler etiquette as reported by the A.V. Club.
“Some 69 percent [of Canadiens] said they’d accidentally spoiled something and apologized for it, while just 11 percent said they felt that the day after a show airs is an appropriate time to discuss it publicly. In comparison, a mere 37 percent of Americans said they’d felt guilty for spoiling something, while 21 percent said it was okay to start talking about a show as soon as it airs.”
In other words, if Americans spoil something, oh well! Don’t want to hear about it? Stay off the internet!
I don’t think so.
What is more pathetic among those who won’t or don’t abide by spoiler etiquette is the “why” behind it.
“To know about a show that you don’t know about is to have power,” McCracken told the New York Times, mimicking the mindset of a movie/TV show spoiler. “I live in the future that you are about to occupy.”
It’s possible to discuss with those who have seen it and keep it from appearing directly on your friends’ and neighbors’ Facebook feeds.
It’s possible to write headlines that offer spoiler warnings and leave a little room so that the spoilers don’t end up in search result snippets.
It just requires one to exercise spoiler etiquette and stop assuming the rest of the world saw something at the same time you did.
If we can’t show that level of respect for our fellow man on small stuff like this, then we really are doomed.
[Image via Star Wars official webisite]