Spoilers: threat or menace? March 12, 2007 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Should major plot developments in serialized works of fiction be considered FPP-worthy? If so, when? (Consider: 1, 2, 3)
posted by Prospero to Etiquette/Policy at 2:03 PM (26 comments total)

The three FPPs I’ve linked center primarily around recent events in three different serialized works: Battlestar Galactica, Marvel Comics, and Heroes.

It seems to me that readers of these FPPs would fall into one of three categories:

--people who don’t follow these works, for whom the FPP is meaningless;
--people who follow these works, but not up to the minute, for whom the FPP is a spoiler before the thread is even entered;
--people who do follow these works up to the minute, and who therefore already have this information: for them, the FPP isn’t telling them anything they don’t already know.

Now arguably, the BSG post has some thin mitigating circumstances, due to the story surrounding the filming of the episode. And the Marvel Comics post is more Newsfilter than anything else (though why all the major news organs devoted ink and pixels to Captain America’s death is beyond me, and I’m pretty sure I read this at MeFi first). But the Heroes post apparently spoils a plot point that hasn’t even been televised yet, and spoils it for no clear reason. (By the way, I follow BSG on DVD, but don’t read Marvel Comics, and haven’t seen a single episode of Heroes. THOUGH I GUESS I DON’T NEED TO WATCH HEROES NOW.)

So when should these posts be permissible? Always? Never? What determines when such an event is worth discussing in the blue?
posted by Prospero at 2:04 PM on March 12, 2007


Clearly, posting about shows with a large nerd fanbase is allowed. I have a feeling if I tried to post about my favorite show, Engaged and Underage on MTV, it wouldn't go so well. But that's fine; I have my peeps at TWOP for discussions on whether Jessica and Frank ("shotgun" wedding episode) are going to make it. (In fact, for anyone looking to discuss a TV show, TWOP has really great forums).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:19 PM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I already made a post about the Heroes FPP right before this, so I won't rehash.

As to the Captain America point, I'm not in favor of publicizing major-figure comic book deaths at all; it's always a PR trick. Always. Would you approve of an FPP on the Superman-Doomsday fight? Gag.

In general, I think the answer to the question is "no," and it practically answers itself. TV shows especially have forums, as do comic books. It's wrong for a whole host of reasons, not least of all because of the Pepsi-Blue-ness of the whole thing, but mostly since it's by definition not a topic of general interest, despite the flailing attempts of the Heroes post to make it the case.
posted by spiderwire at 2:35 PM on March 12, 2007


So when should these posts be permissible? Always? Never?

Judging by what's gone down in the past on the blue, the answer seems to be somewhere in between. A lot of this stuff gets posted, and a lot of it stands; pop-culture seems to be part of the great big mefi machine, and some people like it more than others.

What determines when such an event is worth discussing in the blue?

When someone decides to post it and it doesn't get deleted. I'm not sure there's anything firmer than that to work with; it seems like a post is likely to get canned in proportion to how incredibly weak it is and how many posts like it have been cropping up. Obviously, tracking TV on scale with the number of shows on in a given season would be way, way out of scale—spiderwire is right, there are fan forums, and places like TWOP are great for this sort of thing—but a bit of bleedthrough now and then is a different story altogether.

For Capt. America, it's sort of a bizarrely high-profile character. Up there with Superman and Batman, but arguably even more accessible to older generations and non-comics readers because of his emblematic ties to US military history and the whole notion of an America personified. Likewise, the Edward James Olmos post was more about the incident and the actor than Battlestar Galactica, it seemed like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2007


NERDS!
posted by klangklangston at 3:25 PM on March 12, 2007


There's this thing that will always be abstract and kind of meaningless, but for some strange reason there is a tendency to try to make it concrete and injected with poignancy. Perhaps it's the self longing for actualization. Meanwhile that which has meaning and use is trod upon, forgotten, or taken for granted and ultimately will testify against the individual's inability to recognize it. Then you'll really have something.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:31 PM on March 12, 2007


What makes a good thread post to MetaFilter?

A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others.


In the Heroes FPP: 1) yes; 3) maybe.

But 2) no way. I'm have not problem with single-link FPP's (which this basically is), but that link had better be good, which the link in the Heroes FPP is definitely not.
posted by joshuaconner at 3:48 PM on March 12, 2007


if I ran mefi (and this should be ample evidence for why it's a good thing I don't) I'd kill anything that's primarily a NEWS FLASH about another medium that doesn't have some really interesting web component. call it slavish adherence to a strict constructionist idea of "best of the web," i guess. but considering that nerd stuff gets a free pass most of the time, but is only different from what TPS would like to post about in terms of subject genre, I'm starting to think that maybe what we need is a greater leniency towards stuff like this PROVIDED IT'S A WELL CRAFTED FPP. I think that anything that amounts to "OMG CAP IS DEAD. DISCUSS!" should be canned. again, only my opinion. mefi is about links, not discussion, and any fpp that bothered to research web originated discussion and debate about the topic could easily be a veritable feast of mefi goodness. but anything that's just a thrown in link to discuss your favorite nerd tragedy is precisely the kind of thing that I don't think we need. one last time, for the sake of averting fire, this is just my opinion, and most importantly not a comment on the quality of any of the linked fpps.
posted by shmegegge at 3:50 PM on March 12, 2007


I feel that your three examples each fall into a different place on the Continuity of Spoilerity.

1) The BSG post wasn't about the episode at all, it was about an amusing behind-the-scenes anecdote. The discussion could have occurred without any spoilers whatsoever. Anyone who's got any braincells at all knows that that's unlikely, so they would have stayed away from it if they were afraid of them. I give this a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
2) The Heroes post warned about spoilers, but it arguably spoiled it non-directly if you've got a strong comics background. That's probably more likely if you're a Heroes fan than if you're not. I give this an 8.
3) The entire content of the Captain America post was a spoiler. By the time you realized it was spoiling something, it was spoiled. It was a shitty thing to do to anyone who follows Marvel, since it was the very day the comic hit newsstands. With comics, unlike television, the audience doesn't (almost) all receive the content on the same day. (And no, I don't care that this was all over every nerd news site that day. If everyone else was punching Stan Lee, would you run over and give it a whack, because, well, "everyone else was doing it"?) This one goes to 11.

FPP worthy? Yes, all of them. Even though I personally only care about #1. Well-constructed posts that respected (or even stopped for a moment to consider) the wishes of individual Mefites? Not really.
posted by Plutor at 3:54 PM on March 12, 2007


What shmegegge said. I thought all these posts were... unworthy, let's say. But I don't run MeFi either.
posted by languagehat at 3:55 PM on March 12, 2007


Likewise, the Edward James Olmos post was more about the incident and the actor than Battlestar Galactica, it seemed like.

That's exactly what I was thinking. ;-)

As the poster of this particular FPP, the post came about not because of the episode of BSG per se, but solely because I had actually seen Edward James Olmos in a cable re-run of Zoot Suit, a role I saw him in the original stage presentation, and was reading about him on Wikipedia.

One thing led to another, and I was on the Wikipedia article for the BSG episode itself, which mentioned the incident with the prop in passing, so I downloaded the podcast.

The idea intrigued me that podcasts as a medium are becoming rather passe, IMO, but here was one that had an actual gem hidden in it. I couldn't find anything on the Web about the museum piece itself (which would've made for a far better post) but thought I'd roll with it anyway because here's a totally underrated actor that improv'd a great scene and ... well ... oops.

I bring this all up to show that posts are made for wildly different reasons than any one person's interpretation, and the reactions to it are beyond the control of the original poster. I like BSG, but I'm not a big enough fanboy to actually discuss it online. I was thinking more along the lines of "hey cool this great actor did this totally crazy thing and you can hear about it in this podcast thing." But then the responses turned out rather fanboy-ish, admittedly.

When someone decides to post it and it doesn't get deleted.

And that's about how I think it should be.
posted by frogan at 3:58 PM on March 12, 2007


I fall into all three options for each of the threads cited (Heroes:1, Cap: 2, BSG: 3) and did not mind any of them. Spoilers are a state of mind, and if some story can't survive when spoiled, I wonder why people would be paying attention to it in the first place.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:10 PM on March 12, 2007


Spoilers are a state of mind, and if some story can't survive when spoiled, I wonder why people would be paying attention to it in the first place.

I take issue with that viewpoint. I have friends that won't watch movie trailers because they don't want to spoil the actual movie, and while I don't do that myself, I think that's perfectly respectable.

w/r/t the Heroes post -- and I apologize that I keep hammering on this -- this is a specifically bad situation. This may be difficult to explain out-of-context... Both the show and Watchmen are/were commentaries on the cultural institution of the "superhero," and there are a lot of stylistic similarities between the two (to say the least). Watchmen features a plot twist that's fairly unique in some respects (at least with respect to the genre, character motivations, etc), so even referencing it in relation to the show is borderline at best.
posted by spiderwire at 7:22 PM on March 12, 2007


Now arguably, the BSG post has some thin mitigating circumstances, due to the story surrounding the filming of the episode.

And the fact that most people of taste have given up on season three by this point.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:23 PM on March 12, 2007


robocop is bleeding writes "Spoilers are a state of mind, and if some story can't survive when spoiled, I wonder why people would be paying attention to it in the first place."

Likewise, I don't understand why people eat cauliflower, but I don't piss on the cauliflower at the supermarket, because even though I don't understand why they like it, and I don't particularly think it warrants liking in the first place, I'm not a dick.
posted by Bugbread at 8:55 PM on March 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that was posted hastily. I don't mean to say you're a dick. To my knowledge, you've never posted a spoiler. And I don't mean to say that the writers of the respective FPPs are dicks (well, maybe the Captain America one, because that was a pretty clear and intentional spoiler). It was more an argument about folks who spoil things because since they don't mind spoilers, they don't think anyone else should mind either. Which, admittedly, isn't a voice that's come up here yet, but it is a voice that inevitably comes up in any medium-to-long discussion of spoilers. So I kinda jumped the gun.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 PM on March 12, 2007


if some story can't survive when spoiled...

This clumsy logic always appears during spoiler discussions, and I'd love it if that stopped. It's a bankrupt response to a straw-man argument. Nobody ever claims that a good story "can't survive" being spoiled, only that it's better when it isn't.
posted by cribcage at 11:09 PM on March 12, 2007


robocop is bleeding writes "if some story can't survive when spoiled, I wonder why people would be paying attention to it in the first place."

cribcage writes "Nobody ever claims that a good story 'can't survive' being spoiled, only that it's better when it isn't."

I'll go one step further: it is a straw man, because it's almost always used in cases where nobody is making that argument, but I'll be the exception to that rule: I'm claiming it. There are stories where a good story can't survive being spoiled, because the twist is what makes it a good story. Saying "a story can't be good if a spoiler ruins it" is like saying "a food can't be good if it relies on sugar or other sweetener". Sure, there are foods where a lack of sugar doesn't make them bad; pad thai can be good sweet or unsweet. But there are cakes, which are good, and which wouldn't be good without being sweet. Likewise, there are movies with twist endings which would be good movies even without the twist. However, there are movies with twist endings which are good because of the twist.
posted by Bugbread at 2:47 AM on March 13, 2007


Points taken!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:23 AM on March 13, 2007


You know what, I don't mind spoilers myself, and I spoil things all the time as a result of that disposition. I also think that no one else should mind spoilers either; after all, if a story can't survive being spoiled, why should I pay attention in the first place? It's a bit like this: a food can't be good if it relies on sugar, right? I've never heard any good arguments to the contrary--least of all in this thread--so I'm going to keep on spoiling away.
posted by Kwine at 7:28 AM on March 13, 2007


A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others.

That's broad enough to include comics threads with spoilers, advances in computer technology, myths about personal flotation devices, and all sorts of other shit. Unless some particular respondent is setting themselves up as the arbiter of what is interesting for all, which is world-class douchebaggery.

As long as it says "spoiler" on the front page, folks who don't like spoilers have no reason to go inside, and no reason to complain, other than to hear themselves gripe. Ah, vanity.
posted by breezeway at 8:11 AM on March 13, 2007


um, i think people are complaining that the spoiler is IN THE TEXT OF THE FPP, not that it's inside the thread.
posted by shmegegge at 8:37 AM on March 13, 2007


Oh, well, I'll pretend I knew that and was just making a general observation. Spoilers are like NSFW stuff, there should be a warning.
posted by breezeway at 8:43 AM on March 13, 2007


And they should be inside the thread.
posted by breezeway at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2007


um, i think people are complaining that the spoiler is IN THE TEXT OF THE FPP, not that it's inside the thread.

Yes--I should have made that clearer in my original post.
posted by Prospero at 10:02 AM on March 13, 2007


Also, for the record, I actually have nearly no problem with frogan's post, as I think I said in the thread itself. (I posted in frogan's thread after skimming it with one eye open, for fear of spoilers, duh. And I don't want to go back to look at it again.)

And I certainly don't have a problem with threads on popular culture at MeFi--I've made at least two pop culture FPPs myself (1, 2) (though in both those cases I wanted to link to a particular website that I thought was well-made, rather than a specific piece of information).

But what the Heroes and Captain America posts have in common, as shmegegge, Plutor and others note, is that there isn't any substantial information in the posts themselves other than the spoiler. That points to a poor trend. I'd like to be able to read the front page of the blue without inadvertently finding out that Jack Bauer is going to die (again) on tonight's episode of 24, or something similar.
posted by Prospero at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2007


« Older Or just put it on AskMe.   |   AskMe: The Quicker Meeter-Upper Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments