Dispatches From The Couch: When Does a Spoiler Stop Being a Spoiler?

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I Tweet a lot — and mostly about television.

Whether it’s live-tweeting GENERAL HOSPITAL every day (at @soapsindepthabc) or pledging my undying loyalty to GAME OF THORNES’ Tyrion Lannister (on @DispatchesFTC), I rarely have an unexpressed thought regarding the endless hours of programming that I consume during any given week. And because of the nature of Twitter, that means that on any given day, I wind up spoiling things for people who haven’t yet watched whatever I happen to be talking about.

Which raises the question… when does a spoiler stop being a spoiler?

Obviously, when I live-tweet the East Coast broadcast of GENERAL HOSPITAL, anybody following me from the West Coast will have details of that episode, which is why I issue a daily warning before the show begins.

But recently, I was taken to task for tweeting about an episode of SUPERNATURAL… which had aired five days earlier. And a friend complained upon reading an article which gave away the unexpected death of a character on TOUCH that had aired four days prior.

Being someone who rarely watches anything live — probably saving approximately 1.2 gazillion hours a year by fast-forwarding through commercials — I have to work hard at avoiding having big plot twists spoiled. When my schedule kept me from watching REVENGE, I stayed off the internet for two solid days (which damn near killed me) so as to prevent myself from stumbling upon the identity of the beached body. And I was so diligent about not finding out who won TOP CHEF that, thanks to a program-eating DVR mishap, I still don’t know and am waiting for the season (or at least its finale) to be rerun.

Clearly, there are two types of people in this world: those who seek out spoilers and want to be the first to know even the most well-guarded of secrets, and those who enjoy letting the story unfold as it was meant to. Being the executive editor of a soap opera magazine — and thus, privy to advance information — it’s rather difficult for one of the few remaining (sob!) sudsers to surprise me. And yet, GENERAL HOSPITAL — whose new headwriter, Ron Carlivati, and executive producer, Frank Valentini have become a secret-spiller’s nightmare by doing everything in their power to keep story points under wraps — have knocked my socks off several times since taking over earlier this year.

Personally, I’m a big believer in living as spoiler-free a life as possible. For me, finding out about the destination before you’ve gone on the journey feels like cheating. Which is why when GENERAL HOSPITAL revealed that recently-killed heroine Robin was actually alive, the tweet I sent out two seconds later read simply, “Holy shocker!” offering no details that would ruin the thrill for my West Coast brethren.

The next day, however, I was joining right in with the rest of the soap universe in discussing the twist and its fallout upon the residents of Port Charles, New York. And that means that for anyone who was a few episodes behind but diving into my tweetstream, the cat was outta the bag.

But hey, a secret can only be kept for so long, right? You’ll have to discuss this amongst yourselves now, however, because it’s time for GENERAL HOSPITAL, and I need to get my tweet on!

Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine, the author of Crimes Against Civility, and has so many Twitter handles that rumor has it he is responsible for 25 percent of all traffic on the social media site.

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  • Atropos22

    A spoiler stops being a spoiler once the show airs.  After that?  I think it’s the viewer’s responsibility to avoid reading about episodes or going places where they may be “spoiled” if they haven’t viewed yet.  

  • Totally agree with Atropos22!!  Maybe, since there is so many people who DVR, waiting a day or two AT MOST would be a good practice but not necessary.  I do know that when I haven’t watched a show yet and I do not want to be spoiled, I stay away from twitter and scroll really fast on FB if I see a post that even mentions the show.  I love that you live tweet GH, and if I didn’t .. I wouldn’t follow you.  People just look for a reason to be pissed …  

  • Once a show airs on the West coast it’s fair game.  I try and give people a until the following morning but live tweeting major plot points is not good.  I have unfollowed people for tweeting spoilers from an east coast airing of a finale.