Why do some people crave spoilers, and others hate them? What drives spoiler junkies and spoiler phobes, and where are you on the continuum? Welcome to a very personal psychological case study of spoiler schizophrenia at
Spoilers on television reveal information about upcoming episodes. They can be minor – what I would call teasers rather than true spoilers, such as the typical brief run-downs in TV Guide listing the episode title and describing something about the plot, or comments made in interviews by careful actors and writers to attract interest without giving any answers away – or they can truly spoil what would otherwise come as a surprise or even an outright shock to a watcher (“Luke – I am your father!”).
Until last year, I never understood the lure of spoilers at all. I would have guessed that spoiler junkies were simply the same people who would open a book to read the end of the story before working their way through the chapters in order, or who thought they knew characters and what should happen to them better than their writers and creators did, or who wanted to be one-up on everyone else walking into a story, or see if they could validate their intelligence and understanding of the show by anticipating correctly where it would go.
Since I always colored within the lines when it came to reading stories and watching television, and since I – especially being a bit of a writer myself – appreciate how stories unfold and characters gradually develop through them, jumping to the end never attracted me. I’ve always wanted to live the stories together with their characters, to experience what they know and feel in real time, so that I would share it with them. I don’t want to go into a story knowing in advance what will happen because the characters don’t know, and sharing the discovery with them brings me closer to them. It also means that my emotions are fresh, sometimes even raw, not rehearsed or blunted by the time a climactic moment arrives.
Mind you, I’ve never had a problem with judicious teasers. I’ll even confess to looking forward to them, especially to fill in lean times while waiting for new episodes. When you love characters and want desperately to spend time with them, it’s hard to wait until they show up in person, especially when you’re wondering what they’re going to face or how they feel. I’ve always loved well done promos and tried to understand the flashing images I saw in them, and only resented them when they crossed the line from teasing into spoiling. For example, the only Supernatural promo that really bothered me was the one for All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1. If it had stopped with Dean’s shout and him running forward, I would have been content, but going all the way to showing Dean kneeling, hugging Sam’s dead body, told me more than I wanted to know in advance about exactly how the episode would end.
With all that said, I must admit that last season, I crossed the line. I walked in spoiler country. I read episode sides (the scant handful of pages from each script made available to casting agents for actors to use in preparing to audition for guest roles). Unlike many spoiler junkies who obsess on the information in the company of others, I refused to discuss the sides or engage in interminable speculation, worry, and debate on them. I never assumed that I knew more about what would happen than the sides themselves revealed, and I avoided all spoiler discussion forums like the plague, but I read the sides themselves. I wrote my own anticipatory episode rundowns based on them, TV Guide-style, and told the episode names over in my mind like the beads on a rosary, wondering to myself what would happen in them. I’d never done that before for any show, but I simply couldn’t resist doing it for Supernatural.
When I dissected my uncharacteristic new spoiler addiction, the first basic reason that emerged for it was simply that I was starving for information. Since the show shoots in
But mere hunger for information wasn’t enough to explain my crossing the spoiler line. I’d never done spoilers before for any show, no matter how hungry I got. I really didn’t want to dilute the emotional punch of stories by knowing events before they happened and anticipating the effects they would have. Even discovering along the way last season – especially with Heart – that knowing the general gist of events didn’t mean knowing how Kripke and Company would actually deliver them didn’t fully offset the damage that spoilers did to in-show revelations for me. And yet, I sought out spoilers for Supernatural. It was like poking a sore tooth or scratching off scabs. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t help myself, even when it hurt.
It took me a while to look in the mirror and admit to this, but the primary reason turned out to be simple. What I really want isn’t spoilers; it’s to be a part of the show. And not just any show: this show, with this cast, this crew, this set of writers. I’ve loved shows before, but this one made me obsessive. My taste for spoilers – and, for that matter, even my decision to blog – was nothing more or less than the expression of my frustrated desire to be something more than just one of millions of anonymous, interchangeable Supernatural fans. I wanted to somehow become a part of the show itself. I wanted to see it happen, to help make it happen, and I wanted to be known as part of it to those who were a part of it already.
My spoiler curiosity wasn’t a desire to know in advance what would happen in the overall story, or to see if I could forecast events. Instead, it was just the desire to know what was happening in the writers’ room and on the set now, in real time, as if that knowledge could make me feel more a part of the experience. I found myself sometimes looking at my watch in D.C. and realizing what time it would be in L.A. and Vancouver, and wondering what was happening right then. Were they starting with a very early call, or still finishing off a late one? What story were they shooting? What would that mean for the mood on the set? How were the boys approaching intense scenes? What sort of new characters were being cast, and how would they interact with the boys? What kinds of locations might they be using? What kind of daily schedule were they likely to be running on – would those exterior locations be daytime or nighttime shoots? What would I be seeing, if I were there? What must the discussion in the writers’ room have been like to produce this one? Who came up with that idea, and who added that piece on to it? What ideas were the writers kicking around for unveiling the next piece of the puzzle? How they heck were they going to shoot to get that effect? What kind of a read will that line get?
What fun or emotion was I missing, that would never make it into an interview story or onto a gag reel?
I’ve concluded that my spoiler fixation fell into the “mid-life crisis” category of wishful thinking experience. The depressing reality is that my chances of actually participating in the production of the show in any way are basically on a par with my chances of winning the lottery without buying a ticket. I mean, really – I’m a career federal civil servant in D.C. with a law degree and almost eighteen years in public service, and with no film or television courses or experience apart from having survived a few on-camera news interviews. All I have to offer are passion, intelligence, and the irresistible urge to write, commodities readily available from professionals in the industry and spread liberally throughout the fandom. Eric Kripke is not going to swoop down, snatch me from the faceless crowd, and offer me a job. And I’m not going to chuck a responsible career in pursuit of a figment of imagination, either. I might, if I’m very, very lucky, get the chance, as other fans have done, to find a location set and even view some filming someday while on a vacation trip to
The most I could hope for is that someone from the production might fall over my blog, enjoy it, share it, and possibly remember my online name. Given the plethora of blogs and fansites, however, that’s only marginally more likely than that hypothetically winning lottery ticket. All I am ever likely to be is part of the herd. That’s reality.
Having realized this, however, I think I now have the sack to give up spoilers. Becoming a part of the production, or at least having some of the people whose work I adore – especially including Kripke, Robert Singer, Sera Gamble, Phil Sgriccia, Kim Manners, Jensen Ackles, and Jared Padalecki – know my name, will still be my absolute favorite wish fulfillment daydream, but I’ve decided that acknowledging the fantasy is enough to let me return to spoiler innocence and the joy (and grief) of sharing what the Winchester brothers experience in story-time, rather than in actor-shooting-time.
I’m happy that we’ll finally be getting more information about the production process with the publication of the season one and two companion books, and with the creation of the show magazine. That should help tide me over and assuage my data hunger. I’ll hope for more coverage of the show by the
Mind you, I’ll still sniff out and enjoy every teaser I can find, and I’ll still glory in every discovery of information on the story design and filming process that fleshes out the vicarious adventure of imagining myself there, but I’ll leave the stories alone until I see them complete. Simply because doing it delights me, I will still analyze things to death after they air and speculate in my ignorance about potential futures, and I’ll write episode commentary whether anyone out there reads and comments on it or not. I’ll never broadcast any spoilers that I do accidentally uncover, but I’ll do everything I can to promote the show and express my joy in it. It’s enough for me to have it there to watch. Knowing I’ll be seeing new episodes soon is all the anti-depressant medication I need. And if I get the chance to observe some filming on set, you can bet that I will store up every word, image, and nuance in order to be able to share them with others – after the episode I saw filming actually airs.
Oh, by the way – if that winning Supernatural lottery ticket ever should come up with my number, Mr. Kripke, you’ll find me right here, ready and waiting. I’m at your service.
Someone else can use the couch now. This personal case study is closed.