There is no element of modern entertainment more hated than the dreaded spoiler.
With the advent of the internet, and the opportunity for large groups of anonymous people to discuss the media, comes the danger that, either by accident or design, someone who’s seen a particular movie or TV show will ruin someone else’s fun by discussing key plot points.
The challenge gets more fraught when one considers the joys of fan theory and speculation. It’s entirely possible for someone (or a group of someones) to watch a show like, say, “Game of Thrones”, and figure out where the story is going based on clues within the narrative.
This makes setting up any kind of plot development very difficult for writers – they’re aware that their work will be disseminated by fans, as every line of dialogue or visual is picked apart so that nothing can be hidden in advance of a big reveal.
“Westworld” showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have a somewhat controversial solution to this problem.
What if they allowed the show’s internet fan community know all of the show’s upcoming secrets? That way, it’d make the job of pruning away all spoilers and accurate fan theories that much easier, as fans could protect each other from spoilers.
According to Nolan, as part of a recent Reddit AMA:
“It creates a larger problem for us, though, in terms of the way your guesswork is reported online. ‘Theories’ can actually be spoilers, and the line between the two is confusing. It’s something we’ve been thinking about since last season. The fans of Game of Thrones, for instance, rallied around and protected the secrets of the narrative in part because they already knew those secrets (through season 5).
“We thought about this long and hard, and came to a difficult (and potentially highly controversial) decision. If you guys agree, we’re going to post a video that lays out the plot (and twists and turns) of season 2. Everything. The whole sordid thing. Up front. That way the members of the community here who want the season spoiled for them can watch ahead, and then protect the rest of the community, and help to distinguish between what’s ‘theory’ and what’s spoiler.
“It’s a new age, and a new world in terms of the relationship between the folks making shows and the community watching them. And trust is a big part of that. We’ve made our cast part of this decision, and they’re fully supportive. We’re so excited to be in this with you guys together. So if this post reaches a 1000 upvotes we’ll deliver the goods.”
The post has already cleared 1000 upvotes, so this seems like a pretty solid certainty. In advance of “Westworld” returning to the air, fans are going to be provided with a full list of spoilers for the show. Whether they choose to read them or not is up to them individually.
Except, it’s not. People are going to be spoiled whether they like it or not. Such is the way of the internet.
We’ve all seen a tweet or a Facebook post that reveals something about a show we haven’t yet caught up with. People can’t help but share their thoughts, and it’s impossible to bury these posts when social media is run by algorithms that helpfully broadcast posts that look interesting to other people.
Heck, sometimes I’ve been spoiled not by someone that I follow on Twitter, but by someone that is followed by someone that I follow, if that makes sense.
I’ll follow Persona X, and every now and then, Twitter will show me a post that says “Person X follows Person Y” at the top. Then, boom, I’ve seen what Person Y is saying about movies they’ve seen, whether I like it or not.
Releasing spoilers into the wild will have a negative effect on a lot of viewers of the show, as they’re subjected to plot twists before they’ve even aired.
This is to say nothing of the difficult process of curating fan theories.
Imagine if someone comes up with a plausible fan theory, and posts it on the “Westworld” Reddit. Then, not long after, the post disappears entirely. They’re now vindicated – they know that their theory is correct, but this somewhat takes the fun out of the whole process.
Now, fans will only be able to discuss incorrect fan theories, as anything they might get right will be instantly removed from the internet. So what’s the point of discussing fan theories in the first place?
I’m not on board with this method for gatekeeping “Westworld” spoilers. I hope it doesn’t work out as badly as I anticipate, but honestly, I’m not holding my breath.