The Bizarre Spoiler Culture of ‘Game of Thrones’

Source: HBO

There’s an unspoken rule within entertainment to not divulge key plot details of movies and TV shows to people who have yet to watch them. In recent years, TV shows have leaned on huge twists and massively exciting endings more than ever, making the need to keep them quiet all that more important. The Internet has only served to exacerbate this as a medium for spoiling any and everything if you possess the right means of distribution. But nowhere is this problem most prevalent than with Game of Thrones.

The HBO sensation is a unique case, and one we’ve quite possibly never seen it to this extent. There are very few (if any) successful TV shows out there that have a whole series of novels behind it that lay out most every major plot point before it happens on air. Despite the fact that George R.R. Martin has yet to finish writing his Song of Fire and Ice series, up until this season, devoted readers have known about the biggest deaths and events in advance of those who only watch the show. This strange dynamic of people waiting for a character they know is doomed versus those who have no clue has birthed the most aggressive anti-spoiler movement the Internet has ever seen.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the Subreddit community for the show, r/GameofThrones. This online oasis for fans of both the book and show is a place where non-readers and readers alike can come to discuss the latest episodes, as well as the happenings of the novels. Of course, this amalgam of both groups of people makes spoilers almost an inevitability. Enter r/GameofThrones’ expansive 4,000-plus word guide to spoilers, showing us firsthand just how much this culture has escalated.

It’s not just on Reddit where we see this taking shape. A news story circulated a while back told of a teacher in Belgium who punished unruly students by writing the names of doomed characters who have yet to die on Game of Thrones. Needless to say, it was an effective method of quieting them down thanks to the critical mass spoilers have reached for this show. Leak even the smallest of details to an unknowing friend, and you could find yourself the target of a whole lot of anger and vitriol.

That’s not to say there’s not some inherent logic within some of the madness. This is a problem a popular TV show has never been presented with. Imagine Lost fans dealing with the complex world of that show but also having half the audience know the ending in advance. Or even a more recent example: If Breaking Bad had a companion book series, you can bet that fans would have been a constant uproar surrounding the series finale. As it is, Game of Thrones exists alone as the one show that can be spoiled before it ever even debuts.

Of course, all this is quickly changing this season. For the first time, Game of Thrones is taking sizable liberties in diverting away from the novels. Meanwhile, next season could see the show getting ahead of the books in a big way, especially if Martin continues to write at his current speed. By the time the series finale hits, HBO will have left any spoilers in the dust (odds are, the final book won’t be anything close to finished by then). While we wait though, remember: Watch out for spoilers.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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