Making A Spoiler


Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’ has set the internet ablaze with the story of Wisconsin resident Steven A. Avery, Stuart Buchanan looks into why it’s a prime example of a changing conversation culture.

“If you don’t want to know the scores, look away now…”

A sentence that struck fear into the hearts of thousands of football fans for decades as the clock struck ‘two-minutes-to-Match-of-the-Day’. It still does, here and there, but the vast majority of us have become acclimatised to the idea that they’ll know the footie scores before Gary Lineker introduces Alan Shearer and Jermain Jenas.

It is, of course, no secret or landscape-altering news that the manner in which we consumer all types of media has, is and will continue to drastically change – and along with it, the behavioural patterns of how we interact with one another when we’re discussing the things we’ve watched.

Personally, I think the most drastic change we’ve all become abhorrently embroiled in is the idea of ‘spoilers’.

I’ve lost count of the amount of conversations I’ve been involved in that have been curtailed by a third-party bursting in to maniacally tell us they ‘haven’t seen House of Cards yet, so keep it quiet, yeah?’

Netflix has recently announced it is now streaming to practically the entire globe (excluding China, North Korea, Crimea and Syria) with over 125 million hours streamed every day. Thanks to this and an array of other steaming and on-demand services, we’re now all privy to a previously unheard of wealth of content to consume.

The problem is, everyone’s out of sync: your workmates have only seen the first three series of Game of Thrones, you’re still only halfway through season one of Serial and none of you have even started Mad Men yet (but you’ve heard good things, haven’t you?).

Even the sanest of people will react like a psychopath when you tell them [REDACTED] from [REDACTED] killed [REDACTED]. Didn’t see that one coming myself, to be fair.

The manner in which people have to adapt to these mid-range social conversations, be they face-to-face or online, has irrevocably changed and anyone looking to engage in the process needs to tread carefully.

Hard news seems to be the last bastion of content we aren’t bothered about being ruined, but are we really that far away from: “Don’t tell me the how much more VAT I’m going to pay this year, I haven’t watched the budget announcement and want to wait until I’ve caught up on BBC Tax Player.”

It used to be the case that you’d go into your place of work the day after the one big drama was on and everyone would freely discuss it, simply because if you missed it, you missed it (maybe you had a VHS recorder?).

Now, it’s become somewhat of a self-effacing punishment to rush through one of these series as soon as you can and with a new breed of programming beginning to blur the line between dramatic spoilers and news content, we’re in danger of tipping the balance.

Recently Netflix added its original episodic documentary series, ‘Making a Murderer’ with all ten hour-long instalments released at once. It follows the real-life decades-long, judiciary-wrangling of Wisconsin resident Steven A. Avery.

Remember, everything that happened in this story was real, these are real people, detailing events that actually happened, down to their minutest of details. We’re talking about a real person’s life – multiple lives of the people of Manitowoc county, in fact; this isn’t some comic book hero story re-adapted for the medium-screen. These people are being reduced to nothing more than plot points for our continued enjoyment, the decisions they make played out in front of us and often used as chilling mysteries to keep us coming back for more.

And yet, as I’ve still not finished ‘Making a Murderer’, if ANY of you tell me the true ending to Steven Avery’s story – I will ruin every TV show you’ve ever loved. On purpose.

However, I do think we need to start thinking about a spoiler amnesty date. For instance, if you’re one of those people who claims to be a massive Star Wars fan and hasn’t seen ‘The Force Awakens’ yet, your time complaining about your mates talking about it is over. It’s been nearly a month. (By the way, Bruce Willis was a ghost in ‘The Sixth Sense’.)

Have we become so conditioned to the idea of shock-value, cliff-hangers and overly-convoluted storylines that sooner or later David Cameron will be signing off PMQs every Wednesday by threatening to murder one of Jeremy Corbyn’s back-benchers as the screen fades to black and the credits roll?

An extreme example, maybe, but the very nature of clickbait being everywhere on the internet speaks volumes about how we, as a species, cannot draw ourselves away from titillation and suspense. While the rate we’re being allowed to indulge in these vices is increasing constantly, there’s bound to be more tidal changes in content-related conversation on the horizon.

It’s vital that anyone who wants to be involved in that story knows the dangers of what they might be stepping into. One false move, one accidental spoiler and you’ve made an enemy for life. It’s about ensuring the importance of your message and making it something people both need and want to know rather than something that’s simply quite nice to know.

No spoilers, now.

By Stuart Buchanan.

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