Since Sherlock’s third series is about to be released in the UK next week but won’t be available to American viewers until mid-January, Pinterest is trying to figure out how to handle the spoilers question. Specifically, people are taking it upon themselves to post things like this:
For my non-fannish friends, a spoiler is a detail about a movie, book, TV show, etc. that people wouldn’t want to encounter before they’ve had the chance to see it themselves. It’s important when people discuss these things because no one wants to be the person who told a kid that Santa doesn’t really exist before they discover it themselves. So it’s customary, when you’re discussing something that’s just been released (or e.g. the later parts of a book that’s still having its movie version released serially like with The Hobbit or The Hunger Games) and when you want to discuss specifics, you put in a spoiler warning. Usually you type something like
or just put the spoiler-containing text behind what’s called a cut, where someone must click a link to read the rest of the entry. The point is to give people who don’t want to read such things a chance to close their eyes and scroll past what you’re about to say.
I don’t have any problem with this. It’s basic courtesy, I think. I actively sought them out for Sherlock’s series three myself since it gave me something to speculate about and helped me anticipate the show a little bit more. But I can completely understand why someone who’d waited TWO WHOLE YEARS and had a Brit give away the episode endings before it was even available in your country. I’d be rightly frustrated. I’d be a little less rightly frustrated (but still understandably so) if I was American and so was used to being the first to get this kind of thing. Add to that the fact that Pinterest, the site these images are appearing on, really doesn’t give you a way to insert spoiler warnings. It’s just a set of images with text at the bottom. No way to warn someone about spoilers that I can see, until they’ve already seen it.
So I have a lot of sympathy for American Sherlock fans worried about spoilers on Pinterest. I understand why they’d urge their UK counterparts (and those clever American fans who exploit viewing options of a dubious legal nature) to do what they can to hide spoilers. I can’t promise I won’t be one of those clever Americans, so I plan on taking some steps to mark my spoilers as well as I can. Posting a notice that the board may contain spoilers come January 1, changing the board name to reflect that, etc. Like I said, I’m on board with letting people choose whether they want to see spoilers or not. This meme, though, does something rather different. It tells people not to post spoilers at all – that doing that makes them a jerk.
And that’s just not cool.
It’s telling people how they’re allowed to use a public site, which strikes me as chutzpah in the extreme. It’s calling them a jerk, and name-calling of any sort just doesn’t sit well with me. And it’s doing a somewhat milder version of what those “jerks” who post about episodes before other people have had a chance to see them are doing. If anything, it’s crueller or at least cruel in a different way: if you think waiting three more weeks is tough, imagine having seen the episodes and not being allowed to react to them publicly.
I suppose on the scale of global atrocities, this is small potatoes. Still, it really does bother me because it’s some people telling others how they can use a public board. That seems really very manipulative, getting close to bullying to me. But then I sometimes think we bend over a bit backwards to accommodate spoiler-warnings. It makes sense to do that a bit because it really can be a huge letdown to look forward to something and in most contexts (not Pinterest, but other sites) it’s not so hard to slap up a warning.
Still, if you’re really that concerned about being spoiled there is a way to avoid that: unplug from the site for the three-week window when some people will have been exposed to the new series and will be (we can only hope justifiably) so over-the-moon excited that it’s physically painful not to share the wonderfulness. It’s realistic to ask for as much accommodation as the technology allows; it’s not to call people jerks for not using it in a way that works well with your situation.