Get your spoilers out of my face, internet

The last line of defence against spoilers. ‘La la la can’t see you can’t hear you, la la la la la’.

I saw a Star Wars spoiler today. Well, some Star Wars conjecture at the least, but in a way that’s still a spoiler.

I never seek out spoilers. The clue is in the name. They spoil the narrative, and a lot of hard work on behalf of the writers, filmmakers and editors in crafting a story that is fresh and exciting until the end is wasted.

For the same reason, I don’t go in for the whole wildly speculating about a story thing that many fans do. For instance, if you look on YouTube, you can find videos half an hour long dissecting the latest movie trailers to explain all the Easter eggs, references, and the potential significance of certain aspects.

I like to go into the cinema, or watch an episode of a TV show, or open a book, without preconceptions. Sometimes I even find the blurbs on the back of books and Blu-Ray cases to be too much of a primer.

So, naturally, I was very annoyed to have unwittingly stumbled upon what may or may not turn out to be a spoiler for the new, new, Star Wars trilogy.

And how did this happen, I hear you ask. Had I typed ‘really big Star Wars spoilers’ into Google? Was I attending the Day 3 Frustrating Know-It-All panel at StaWaSpoilCon17? Had I snuck into the scriptwriter’s house disguised as a watercooler? No.

My only mistake was to be on a newspaper website. Yep, they put the spoiler right in the article headline. I wasn’t even looking at an article related to film, entertainment or culture, so spoiling a Star Wars film I won’t get to watch for another nine months was very far from being at the fore of my mind. In fact, it was behind ‘disprove Bigfoot’.

The spoiler was right in the article headline. It was just sat there in plain sight, as comfortable and confident as a flasher at a nudist beach.

It was hard enough to avoid spoilers when article headlines only hinted at the information they contained. I’ve long since given up trying to avoid prematurely learning of plot points in Game of Thrones: partly because I realised I’m just not that into it, but largely because it was getting impossible to do so.

Assuming for a minute that you were friends with decent, reasonable people, who knew not to post anything explicit about the latest developments on their social media, you still had to navigate a maze of news and blog headlines that became less vague and coy with every season.

Articles accompanying the first couple of seasons would usually have headlines like: ‘GoT fans are distraught after last night’s episode’.

But now they often run along the lines of: ‘From X to Y – we run down the most brutal deaths on Game of Thrones so far’.

At the beginning I said that the spoiler I saw was actually just conjecture. I didn’t read the article, because I don’t want to know what the evidence was either way. At least this way it remains unproven, but the problem is it put an idea in my head that I didn’t have there before (StarWarsCeption).

Regardless of whether or not it turns out to be true, I’m going to watch Episode VIII (say what you like about the franchise – the Star Wars films have done a fantastic job of keeping our Roman numeral game tight) with preconceived notions.

I’m going to be looking for clues either way, and if they start point towards the thing I’ve read being true, that’s going to change the way I experience the rest of the film.

It seems like we are rapidly losing respect for the sanctity of the stories we consume. People give little thought nowadays to pasting the latest film and television spoilers all over the internet.

For instance, I never went to see the film Passengers in the cinema because somebody posted a major spoiler of it on Facebook. They hadn’t intended to – it was just that they had shared a link to a review of it and explained in a status why they disagreed, mentioning their different take on the plot twist.

What particularly annoyed me about this instance was that this person wasn’t even a friend of mine. I’m not connected to them at all on Facebook but, due to the pushy, parent-of-an-introverted-child urging them to ‘go out and play with others’ mentality of social networks, their status appeared in my feed because one of my friends had commented on it – ironically – calling them out for giving away the spoiler.

I want to be a blank slate when consuming stories. Apparently that’s too much to ask.

Clearly I’m being unreasonable, demanding to go on the internet between the release of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Who the hell do I think I am, using newspaper websites to do my job; reading around my interests in my free time; finding tips and ideas to better myself?

Giving away spoilers seems to have become something of an art form these days. It’s like reverse clickbait. Unlike the tired practice of making something pedestrian and planned seem intriguing with the use of a few dire clichés (‘You’ll Never Believe What Rewan Did After Writing This’ – spoiler; went to bed), the art of slapping people in the face with information they don’t want to know is quickly gaining followers.

Sometimes people are going to type things without thinking, and that’s sort of okay. But when you’re writing the headline of an article about a spoiler, it’s bloody hard to not be aware that you are giving away a spoiler.

Is it really so difficult to keep the key information hidden? Would you really harm your rate of engagement if people had to actually read the article to find out what the spoiler was?

Surely not: the type of people you are aiming to attract to an article on Star Wars spoilers are people who are mad for Star Wars spoilers.

People who don’t want spoilers aren’t going to read articles about spoilers, because the information contained within is useless to them. Ergo, why put it in the headline at all?

People who want to know will read; people who don’t will not – nothing changes to the downside, and there are fewer pissed off Star Wars fans floating around the internet.

These sites need the clicks to pay for advertising, but they aren’t going to get clicks from the people who aren’t interested in the article content. So why are they giving that information away in the headline as though it’s a present? Of all the times to be philanthropic…

It’s like offering a lifetime supply of free bacon to vegans, kayaking lessons to a desert tribe, or great literature to fans of [insert author you hate here]*.

 

*Yeah, that’s right. We did a joke together. Squad goals.

Do you try to keep spoiler-free? Is it getting more difficult, or am I just imagining it? Let me know in the comments section.

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Stories that took over the world

It all started here. And it's not over yet. Image Source: Forbes.
It all started here. And it’s not over yet. Image Source: Forbes.

I was listening to the Star Wars theme the other day, courtesy of Amazon’s new free music service for Prime Members (the fact that they seem to be trying to gain a monopoly over entertaining me is a topic for another post).

As the iconic music soared through the air, I began marvelling at the vast scale of Star Wars as an idea. I don’t mean in terms of plot and the environments in the narrative, but the huge impression it has left on modern popular culture.

I wonder what George Lucas would have made of it, had he known when writing Episode IV (the first Star Wars film, in case you weren’t already aware that George Lucas shares a numerical system similar to that of Microsoft and Windows) just what it would become. It’s fair to say the sheer scope of Star Wars as an entity is impressive, regardless of whether or not you liked the movies.

Films, television series, games, cartoons, books, stickers, toys, collectables, fancy dress, spin-offs, spoofs, soundtracks, stationary, clothing; the opportunities that have grown from this one concept stand as testimony to the power of a single idea. Let’s put all anti-capitalistic notions aside for the time being. What we have here is something that has become ubiquitous and relevant to millions of people, and it all started as just the right firing of neurons in the brain of a beardy man in flares.

That one idea has created industry. It’s created jobs and companies, and spawned countless attempts to copy it (some successfully, others not so). Its growth is exponential. When George Lucas first held the finished script for A New Hope in his hands, he was holding something akin to an Atom Bomb – a vast potential, an objective of such enormous energy. Or, more positively, he held the seeds to an entire forest, one that would grow and spread and thrive and dominate.

They say each of us has one good book in them. (A quick look on Amazon suggests that’s not true). Imagine if, going further, each of us has one phenomenal idea in them. Imagine if, right now, the structure of your brain is just right to one day birth a story, concept, observation, or world, that could one day grow to be as influential and popular as Star Wars.

The thought gives me goose bumps.