Breaking Bad news; the era of the spoiler

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A couple of weeks ago I was at a pub quiz. The questions were over, and the hosts were reading out the team names, slowly approaching the top three, when they read out a simple sentence. The booing was instantaneous and ferocious. It was a Sunday night; in fact, the Sunday night that the last ever episode of TV juggernaut Breaking Bad was aired, and yes, the hosts had just read out the ending.

Unsurprisingly, no one owned up, but a lot of people – students are the show’s main demographic – left looking pretty dejected. I was on Season 1, Episode 7. As I write this, I’m desperately trying to avoid finding out what happens in the Dexter season finale.

So here we are, the era of the spoiler. Game of Thrones fans will remember shocker episode ‘The Red Wedding’. They might also remember the slew of angry letters The Metro received when it splashed stills from the episode accompanied by a spoiler heavy article on page three the next morning. And this phenomenon isn’t restricted to the screen. I first heard about Helen Fielding’s much anticipated third Bridget Jones novel Mad About the Boy by way of an article written specifically to reveal that Mark Darcy has been killed off. At least this one would be spoiled relatively quickly anyway; he’s dead by the beginning of the novel.

Is this indicative of our undeniable culture of over-sharing, fuelled largely by the internet in the form of Twitter and comments sections? Discussion is healthy; a relentless desire to share our opinions on social media about everything we take in – with absolutely anyone – is not. A competitive desire to have done things first doesn’t help. We’ve all heard the term ‘hipster’, the running joke being that hipsters liked everything before it was cool, or mainstream. But with entertainment, we are all trying to get there first, scrambling over others so we can turn round and tell them what happened. In our quest for originality, we achieve quite the opposite.

An alternate view might praise the effect that entertainment has on us; shouldn’t we celebrate that we have these television shows – from Breaking Bad to Broadchurch, Downton Abbey to Dexter – that provoke such passion in viewers, that they cannot help but tell others about them? It’s true that television appears to be having a ‘moment’. But the mirror image of this is that special kind of disappointment when someone spoils the ending of something you just made your way through eight series of.

We all like to blame social networking, but this is not a new phenomenon, particularly for the film world. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is often cited as the original Spoilergate. Darth Vader’s famous revelation that he is, in fact, Luke Skywalker’s father – I apologise if this is a surprise for you – is the original shocker, and spread like wildfire, spoiling the film for 1980 cinema goers everywhere.

When was the last time you watched a thriller without having heard at least a peep about the climax? I can name endless films that I know the plot of, without having seen them, and I bet everyone else can too. I envy those who were able to watch Hitchcock thrillers without an inkling of what was about to happen. And even the film industry itself is keen to reveal all; modern cinema’s intense marketing and adaption-heavy cinema means that we all know what’s going to happen before it does. And in that, we have lost something.

Film trailers are more candid than ever, functioning as a heavily edited version of the film itself instead of picking out key moments which will excite the audience. Adverts for romantic comedies include ‘the kiss’. Trailers for sci-fi films will show the ‘monster’, and probably in full. Teaser trailers are often the most effective, and anecdotely appear to generate more hype. So take a moment before you tell, tweet or text your friend that Bruce Willis is actually a ghost. Sorry.

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