OPINION: Spoiled Rotten
On March 31, Matt Singer, News Editor of The Dissolve, wrote an op-ed titled, “Do We Really Need All These Set Photos?” The piece nicely covers the incessant publication of leaked (or “leaked”) behind-the-scenes photos from the sets of most major blockbusters, citing how laughable some of them can be, and how the worst of them can take a little sparkle away from the magic of the finished film. He then pivots from the suppliers of such photos to the demanders of such photos, and questions why a community of people who rage when spoilers of television show details or film twists are posted to social media sites still flock to these photos, which he likens to those other spoilers.
I agree with a lot of Singer’s points, but I think his connection between posting on-set photos a year before a film’s release and posting who died in last night’s episode of The Walking Dead is thin and distant. I also think the problem of spoilers is far deeper than his piece delves. He addresses the general notion of spoilers, but I think the issue of who does the spoiling is where attention should be focused. I don’t mean studios that slow-drip endless bits of stuff; that’s all marketing. I mean the people who actually go online to Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or some other social media outlet and just spill all the beans about what happened in a film that is still in advanced screenings, or what happened in an episode of a TV show that ended so recently, the credits are still rolling. This is where the real problem exists – with these people.
Simply put: People who post spoilers online (without warning) are no better than people who use their cellphones in the middle of a film in a darkened theater. All they care about is what they want to do and when they want to do it, and they have no regard for how their actions patently ruin the experience for those around them. It’s a level of selfishness the likes of which I haven’t seen.
I’ve said for years that a Theater Cellphone User has no awareness of his surroundings – that he exists in a world so singularly populated with only himself, he doesn’t realize that the bright light that is shining in his face is also acting like a spotlight at a used car lot grand opening – but inside a dark room. I’ve also said, though, that he is so self-absorbed that he intentionally ignores the written rules of the theater, and the unwritten rules of proper behavior, that prohibit cellphone use during a film. He doesn’t care what the rules are because he wants what he wants when he wants it, and he’s used to getting what he wants when he wants it, and he will not be denied, because it’s his world, dammit, and who are you to make rules in his world. He checks his phone in bed, at work, behind the wheel of a car, at his kid’s soccer game, in the middle of a romantic dinner, on the toilet, wherever. Why should sitting in a movie theater be any different?
Which leads me to One Who Spoils.
One Who Spoils is like the Theater Cellphone User in that she exists in a bubble and has long ago abandoned regard for others. The difference is that the Theater Cellphone User reacts to the stimulus that occurs within his bubble but which spills out over the rest of us, while the One Who Spoils broadcasts what happens in her bubble for all the world to read. Proactively. And randomly. She is afflicted with TMI Syndrome borne of a habitual sharing of her every waking action on social media, to the point that filters are worn to nothing and even the most basic effort to participate with the rest of society turns into an indefensible Tweeting stream-of-consciousness.
If you think One Who Spoils isn’t self-involved and lacks regard for others, consider the Twitter exchange below between me and a fellow participant (identity redacted) in a recent MTOS (Movie Talk on Sunday) session – a weekly Twitter-based exchange where film lovers comment on 10 questions about one topic every Sunday, and do so as a collective using the #MTOS hashtag. The first question (and I’m paraphrasing here) centered on whether complaining about spoilers is legitimate or just whiny.
My argument was, “Be considerate to your fellow fans.” The One Who Spoils’ argument was, “If you don’t like it, go away. You’re the problem.” I might have been a little harsh in my language when making the dog comparison, but my point was a valid one. My position is in the best interest of the many, while hers is in the best interest of the few. Yet I’m the one who should move along. This opinion of hers is not hers alone.
Common courtesy among film and TV fans – in theaters and on the Internet – seems to be dwindling. We’ve seen it with Theater Cellphone Users, we’ve certainly seen it with Anonymous Comment Trolls, and now we are seeing it, and regularly, with Ones Who Spoil. I don’t know what’s next, and I don’t know how to solve it, but I’d gladly suffer a thousand leaked photos in exchange for a community that can revel in the creative process without ruining it for others.