Buffy The Vampire SlayerGuess what happens next ?
By Nikki Stafford
Tuesday 13 May 2003, by Webmaster
It is a classic moment on The Simpsons. In a flashback to 1983, we see Homer Simpson walking out of a movie theatre with a friend. As he passes a line of people waiting to see the next showing, he bellows, "Wow, what an ending! Who would have thought that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father!" much to the chagrin of the movie patrons for whom the movie has been spoiled. It’s a hilarious scene, but contains something most of us have had to deal with at some point: the spoiler.
Before the Internet, the only way viewers of movies and television shows could find out what was going to happen was if one of the writers or actors gave away tidbits of information in interviews. Now the Net has added a whole new dimension of fascination for the sort of person who always reads the last page of an Agatha Christie novel, the fan who needs to know what is going to happen before it has happened.
If you are an avid viewer of a show and don’t want to know what’s going to occur, beware of Internet chatrooms, mailing lists, and newsgroups, for spoilers are everywhere these days. While several Internet sites exist only to give away plots of films, the majority of spoiler fandom is made up of television viewers. Fans of 24, Alias, Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, CSI, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, and practically every other show on television are divided into two groups: those who want to be "spoiled" — aka the "spoiler whores" — and those who do not.
But why would anyone want to ruin the surprise? For most spoiler seekers, it is like finding out where their parents are hiding their Christmas presents: They simply cannot resist the temptation to seek them out.
Spoilers can range from vague plot summaries to complete shooting scripts being posted on-line. The spoilers themselves come from insiders, or trusted "spoiler sources" who know someone who works on the show, and work their sources for coming plot points or entire scripts.
"Alexxof," a spoiler source for Forever Knight, Buffy, and X-Files fans (he cannot use his real name because of the nature of what he does), explains that knowing what is going to happen gives fan discussions a whole new angle. "First, I get the excitement of having advance knowledge, which is a rush," he says. "Then, I get to analyze and discuss the spoilers and debate their possible ramifications with other spoiler-loving friends. Finally, I get to see the episode, and discuss it all over again, and also analyze what has changed from the early spoilers, and why it might have been changed."
"Jana," from British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, runs a spoiler mailing list, and says the reason she began reading spoilers was to prepare herself for particularly difficult things that would happen on her favourite shows. "I have to admit that there have been times where I’ve wondered if my enjoyment is being compromised by being so spoiled, but my need to know and not be unpleasantly surprised outweighs those concerns."
David Fury, co-executive producer and writer/director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, finds spoilers infuriating. "I despise them with the passion of a thousand suns," he said from his office in Los Angeles. "I think it’s really unfortunate because we work really hard to surprise and delight our audiences, and for spoilers to be out there is just annoying." He explained his frustration when writing a recent episode of Buffy that contained a major turning point for a character. He wrote the outline in three days and handed it in, and began working on the script. The next day the outline appeared on the Internet and fans were already dissecting it. "There were things in the outline that I decided to change in the script, and then I saw on-line people discussing the outline with the old information that I’d only just handed in the day before," he says. "There’s something really upsetting about seeing that while you’re writing the script [and you can’t help but think], ’Well, maybe I should change it,’ and I don’t understand the people who perpetuate it."
The production companies feel the same, and many have shut down fan sites that post entire transcripts of as-yet-unseen episodes.
For overseas fans, the reason is simple: the episode won’t be airing for months after it has aired in the United States, and spoilers are unavoidable. A spoiler seeker from Perth, Australia, recalls her mother buying a soap-opera magazine that listed plot developments six years before they would air there. "I remember her saying, ’So that is what is going to happen’ all the time. If that’s not being a spoiler whore, I don’t know what is."
These days, spoilers are practically unavoidable, whether on the Internet, in a film trailer, or on the cover of a magazine, even though the majority of people try to avoid them. Suzanne Kingshott of London, Ont., shuns spoilers at every turn, but cannot steer clear of them. "For months, General Hospital viewers didn’t know the connection between Rick Lansing and Sonny Corinthos, and then one night at the grocery store I looked up and blew all my months of guessing by seeing the headline, ’Rick is Sonny’s Brother’ sprawled right across the cover of one of the magazines. It was revealed the next day on the show, but all of the surprise was gone."
Kirsten Edwards of Chicago, a spoiler source for Buffy and Angel, disagrees.