From Bravo to MTV: Psychologist Explains Why Fans Can’t Get Enough of Spoilers and Leaks

Social media was abuzz when Abbi Murphy quit Below Deck last season. Who would replace the deckhand and did chief stew Kate Chastain really quit the show?

As titillating as reality television storylines can be, fans’ voracious appetite for knowing what is about to happen before it airs can be just as consuming as the show itself. After massive speculation, viewers soon learned deckhand Rhylee Gerber would replace Murphy. Gerber told Showbiz Cheat Sheet that spoilers and leaks are the nature of the beast.

Brian de Saint Pern, Kate Chastain from 'Below Deck'
Brian de Saint Pern, Kate Chastain |Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“I think the word we are searching for is insatiable,” she says about fans’ thirst for uncovering secret tea. “Which, by definition describes the majority of our viewers. If we can’t expect viewers to be satiated by the drama the cast members bring to the show, like the hookups, fights, and emotions, how can we expect them to be satiated as it pertains to practicing patience for upcoming episodes and seasons?”

Why do fans love to spill the tea?

From podcasts to private social media groups dedicated to networks or shows, fans love to spill the tea. Why? “Having or knowing insider information gives a person a sense of power; they have something others don’t have or something others may desire,” Dr. Lisa Pinder, a psychologist from Florida explains.

“Having this information also allows for connections to be made,” she continues. “Look at social media, Twitter for example. There are people on there who have never met who consider themselves friends because they may share common interests and information with each other.  So, imagine being on the set of these popular TV shows and knowing how it all turns out.” 

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“Then you go on Twitter and see thousands of people talking about the show where you work,” she points out. “It would be very tempting to jump in and share a secret. People would want to talk to you about it and you may even gain followers and we know how powerful likes or followers are these days.”

Spoilers are commonplace in reality television

Pinder says that unlike scripted content, the reality space seems to lean more in favor of uncovering hidden gems. “Does it spoil the season or bring you in even more?  It could even pique someone’s interest to find out how the characters were fired or replaced so this may increase their likelihood to watch,” she observes.   

“I really think it is going to become more and more difficult to keep these shows’ spoilers out of the headlines,” she admits. “Social media is such a lightning fast medium which puts information ‘out there’ for everyone to see sometimes even before the season airs. Look at Jersey Shore and the whole Angelina’s wedding — that was out the moment it happened and the season didn’t air until five or six months later.” 

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Pinder notes that editors know how to pivot when spoilers leak. “What was interesting is they addressed it in the opening shot of the very first episode. They were like, ‘This is already out there but you don’t know everything.’  It honestly was great.”

Reality television, and yes spoilers create community

Pinder says reality television fans are seriously invested. “You’ve got to love diehard fans! Social media allows people to be ‘experts’ and ‘in the know’ without really knowing anything,” she remarks. “People who claim they have this insider information can post it like it is gospel when really it is just something they may want to believe is true. Again, this sharing of information brings about connections between people.”

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As a viewer, Gerber would prefer to watch shows unfold in real-time. “I’d much prefer to hold out until it’s time,” she says. “Producers know what they are doing here. They are far more skilled at creating a show than the bumpkins sitting on their a** watching the show and offering their criticisms too easily. Besides ruining the surprise for yourself, you’ve now just ruined it for others who are less inclined to take the easy route and are keen to try to enjoy the ride.”

Pinder turns to the fallout on Vandrepump Rules. Cast members were fired for racists actions that occurred in their past. “Reality TV allows for the everyday person to become a celebrity; something many people would love to have happen to them,” Pinder observes. “What many forget is the high price of that fame such as the inability to have secrets. Look at the headlines today. People’s tweets or posts from 10 years ago are coming back to haunt them.  So… are there really any secrets at all today?”