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Spoiling a spoiler manifesto

Spoiling a spoiler manifesto (photo)

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I’m in a weird position here. I’m publicly on record as someone who doesn’t mind spoilers. And generally, I really don’t. I have no problem with someone telling me the end of a movie I’m not planning on seeing (“No, please! Don’t spoil the end of “Hide and Seek!” I might casually flip past it on basic cable someday!”). To me, twelve years is enough time to talk freely about the major twist in the film whose image appears above (“He sees dead people. He sees dead people.”). And I believe strongly that writers should be able to write seriously and thoroughly about films and television shows; if that means they have to write about important elements of the plot, then so be it. If you are sensitive to these matters, then avoid articles by and conversations with people who are not.

And yet! An article I read yesterday infuriated me by revealing a spoiler of a show I’m currently watching. Either I’m a hypocrite (possible) or the writer of this piece crossed a line (also possible). Maybe it’s both. I’ll let you decide.

The article is entitled “Spoiler Alerts: A Manifesto” by Gawker‘s Brian Moylan. As someone with a fairly strong point of view on the subject of spoilers, I was curious when I saw the link pass through my Twitter feed. Here is how the piece begins:

“America loves having its movies and television shows recapped, reviewed, and regurgitated back to them, but the one thing that it hates more and more is having the events of those things spoiled by reviewers. It’s time for a guide on what constitutes a spoiler and what does not.”

I agree completely with that premise, and I’m fully on board with a manifesto. I love manifestos. They’re intense, hyperbolic, and full of utterly pointless outrage (kind of like the article you’re reading right now). So I continued, until I was slapped in the face by this whopper:

“The final straw for me was reading this review of the second season of [[SHOW REDACTED]] by Emily Nussbaum. She gives a spoiler alert to the [[SPOILER REDACTED]] at the end of season one. Yes, she spoiler-alerted something that happened more than a year ago, in a piece about the show’s almost-finished second season.”

Again, I agree with Moylan’s fundamental point: it’s sort of ridiculous that the author of a piece about the second season of a television show should have to go through the trouble to warn readers that they’re going to discuss plot details from that television show’s first season. To me, talking about something that happens at the end of season one of a TV show in an article about season four of that same TV show is not a spoiler.

But here’s the problem: Moylan himself wasn’t writing a piece about season four of a TV show, he was writing a general blog post about the concept of spoilers. In the process, he brazenly and intentionally ruined a major chunk of a series — that I have helpfully and rather exaggeratedly redacted — that I and others, I imagine, are currently catching up with on DVD.

He didn’t unleash this spoiler to further a complex argument about a work of art, either. He did it for shock value and to reinforce his larger point that there should be a statute of limitations on TV spoilers. According to him “Just like the TV networks get credit for everyone who watches a show on DVR a week after its initial airing, that is how long you should keep the details of a scripted television show a secret. One week.” Movies, he thinks, deserve longer and larger cones of silence. “Other than basic outlines of what happens in [a] movie,” Moylan says, “details of the ending shouldn’t be openly discussed until the movie is out on DVD.”

Here’s where we really disagree. And here’s why. Television shows are a much bigger time commitment than any one movie. A movie is ninety minutes. If you really think you’ve had a movie spoiled, just don’t watch it. Unless someone leans over to you twenty minutes into “The Usual Suspects” and tells you who Keyser Soze is, there’s no way to spoil “The Usual Suspects” once you’ve committed the time to watching it.

A television show, on the other hand, can be spoiled in the middle of a season. You can decide to watch something, invest hours upon hours of your life in it, and then have the very end of the experience ruined by, say, a dude suddenly and without warning telling you what’s coming three episodes down the road. Moylan says that “reviews of [a] movie should also avoid mentioning that there’s a surprise ending because knowing a shock is coming is like going up the hill on a roller coaster: You may not know how steep the hill is, but you’re waiting for it the whole time.” Exactly right, but it’s so much worse for television shows, where you can wait for that hill for six or eight or twelve hours. If you’ve put that much time into something, you deserve the full experience.

If I’d been stupid enough to click on an episode or season recap, that would be my own damn fault. But I didn’t. And for my curiosity, I learned a valuable lesson, though perhaps not the one I was supposed to learn. In the process of trying to prove why spoiler warnings are pointless and stupid, Moylan has reinforced the very reason why they can be important.

Do you care about spoilers? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…