I Made a Group of Stephen King Fans Mad By Having an Opinion on Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT: Not all people care about spoilers.
One hundred fifty-one comments and counting. That’s the result of sharing an opinion on spoiler warnings in a Stephen King fan group, that I guess is extremely controversial. What did I say? I dared to suggest that people should stop complaining about spoilers for books that have been out since the 1970’s.
My exact statement was as follows: “I’m a member of quite a few Stephen King groups on here, and it’s hilarious how often people complain about posts that “spoil” the endings of books like The Shining or The Stand.
Folks, those books came out in the 1970’s. I think they’re beyond their spoil dates.”
The responses to this are quite revealing about the prevailing attitudes of online fan culture. They amount to an expectation that the entirety of society, especially on social media, cater to the perceptions of the individual. This just isn’t a realistic expectation, and I’m afraid to say that if you are a young person thinking the world will conform to this notion, you are going to live a very disappointed life.
People love to discuss the creative work that inspires them. Naturally, it’s difficult to discuss these things without talking about the key details that moved you. With an increasingly high percentage of folks airing their opinions and thoughts on their social media feeds, this means more and more people are sharing the details of entertainment they’ve engaged with online. This means by simple logic, that “spoilers” for content are just going to be a frequent occurrence due to basic math.
I can understand the want to insulate yourself from spoiling the ending or the key twist of a novel or movie if it is brand new, and you know you intend to watch it/read it soon. But to expect all of the world to respect this thing that you want, when so many others are just as excited about the project as you, is kind of ridiculous. If you want to avoid spoilers, it’s much easier for you to stay offline for a few days until you’ve watched the movie/tv show, than it is to expect everyone else to keep their mouth shut about it.
As to the idea that this “spoiler alert” has to be carried back to novels that were released nearly half a century ago, this in my opinion, is taking the concept to extremism. The argument for it is “there are new fans of Stephen King born every minute of every day, and no one born today can be expected to know about novels from years ago.” While this is true, you can say this about literally ANYTHING. My response is, so what?
There are new sports fans born every day. Am I supposed to never mention who won the World Series in 1978? Just in case some sports nut wants to go find the final game on YouTube? There are new Alfred Hitchcock fans born every day. Am I supposed to never mention the final scene of Psycho, or do my Jimmy Stewart impression from Rear Window? There are new Star Wars fans born every day. Am I supposed to pretend that most the world doesn’t already know who Luke Skywalker’s dad is?
There are new literature readers every day. Am I supposed to never mention that Moby-Dick is a whale? Am I supposed to hide the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet? Am I supposed to hide my opinion on the ending of Don Quixote, or The Old Man and The Sea? The list goes on and on.
Certain works become iconic. They are so embedded in our culture that they’re just considered a given. Society seems to absorb the details of this iconography through osmosis. The most popular landmarks of pop culture become the structural foundations of many reference points in entertainment, repeated through countless degrees of homage and direct quotes, visual cues and audio callbacks. It becomes an almost subliminal layering of nostalgia.
This is why the expectation of a spoiler warning, no matter the age of the content, is unrealistic.
I get the idea that is merely a common courtesy, to want to protect another’s experience so they get the full level of enjoyment from the work. But I balk at the notion that this is to be expected from everyone. It’s just not possible.
If I am in a group that discusses the work of Stephen King, I want to be able to mention the hedge monsters of The Shining, without somebody yelling at me, “hey, spoiler!”. I would like to think that certain plot elements are beyond their protection limit to virgin eyes. After all, if you are a new reader of King books, and want to approach every novel fresh, why on Earth are you joining an online discussion forum for those books, where details are going to be shared?
I mean, if you have grown to young adulthood somehow without knowing that Carrie goes on a rampage at the prom, or that Jack Torrence tries to murder his family with an axe/croquet mallet, or that there are vampires in Salem’s Lot, or that Cujo is a rabid dog…CONGRATULATIONS on being so oblivious to these pop culture landmarks I guess?
The other thing is, how much does a spoiler actually ruin the experience of the content for you? Certain shared details of endings or plot points don’t really remove the emotional impact within the overall context. It’s impossible to expect to be kept in the dark on everything until YOU YOURSELF see it for the first time. This is like going through life an expecting to never find out (SPOILER ALERT) about the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny being a hoax. You are not going to be able to nurture this innocence forever.
I think my overall point here is what happened to the concept of personal responsibility? Sure, let’s all agree to be respectful of each other, but also, let’s understand that in reality, (SPOILER ALERT) the universe doesn’t revolve around me. Only children believe that.