Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Redefining Spoilers

Warning: This post contains a mild speculative spoiler for the TV show Lost. By "speculative" I mean it isn't a true reveal based on a leaked source, but it turns into a discussion on how a show like Lost may be "redefining" the concept of a spoiler. I think it's relatively tame, but read on at your own risk.

As many of you know, I'm spoiler averse when it comes to TV shows. I don't even watch the "Next week on..." upcoming episode trailers as I feel they give too much away. I can't even count the number of times I've gone running from a room with my ears covered when a commercial for an upcoming episode appears during a sporting event.

This is especially true when it comes to Lost. The show is so deeply layered that part of the fun is putting the pieces together and speculating as to where they are going with it, but actually "knowing" is a whole different story. There was a big controversy last year when the plot twists of the season finale were revealed online prematurely, and it's starting up again with alleged spoilers of this season's finale starting to crop up online as well.

One of my favorite spoiler-free Lost sites recently entered the controversy. Lostpedia is a wiki dedicated exclusively to the characters, episodes, and situations of Lost. An absolutely brilliant idea to help people keep track of the overlaps and connections between characters. It wouldn't make sense to do this for a lot of shows, but with so many overlapping flashbacks, flashforwards, and parallel storylines the site becomes invaluable.

The admins of the site do an excellent job of setting spoiler free ground rules. The actual articles can only include factual accounts of episodes that have aired. Spoilers are relegated to separate "theory" and "discussion" tabs on the Wiki, keeping the articles themselves clean for anyone who wants to catch up and/or refresh their memory.

Of course, with any community driven wiki project the site is primarily self policed. There was a recent situation where one bad apple posted finale spoilers right in the middle of an unrelated article without warning, triggering a big debate on spoilers. I respect the right of a curious public to post and seek out spoilers to their favorite shows, but only if they are in their proper place. Warnings and hidden text ensure people know what they are getting into; an ambush in a site that is supposed to be "clean" is another thing altogether.

On the main page of Lostpedia, they also post Lost-related news articles. Updates on the writers strike, interviews with the cast and creators, a synopsis of the video game, etc. All well and good since the blurbs are pretty neutral and there is a clear warning if the outgoing link to the article may contain spoilers.

Which is why I was slightly annoyed at the most recent article posted to the main page:

(This ends my preamble, and I'm now moving on to the "What is a spoiler?" question promised above. Turn back now if you want to be kept completely pure.)
Matthew Fox keeps quiet on 'Lost' ending
Matthew Fox has claimed that he is the only actor on Lost to know how the show will end. Fox confirmed the news to the Daily Mirror and revealed that fellow cast members probe him for answers: "Yes, it’s true. They understand I can't talk about it, but sometimes they’ll ask, just hoping I’ll blurt it out."

As I said I truly appreciate the job the Lostpedia folks do in trying to keep a clean environment to the best of their ability. It's a fairly well known fact that the cast doesn't know how the show is going to end. So the reveal that one actor does know begs the question of "Why does he know?," which leads me to believe it must be important to the plot and how he's playing his character NOW to set up how it will end. And since Lost is starting to introduce time travel fairly heavily into the plot, I think I know where this is heading. Awesome, but less awesome than if I were surprised by it.

But is this defined as a "spoiler" by traditional definitions? Not really, but extending the umbrella to include "information not learned from the show itself" would place it in this category. Maybe it's just how my mind works. Technically I suppose the fact that I learned that nobody knows the ending paired with the correction that one actor does is what did me in. But in today's day and age you'd really need a full on media blackout to ensure a totally pure experience. And that would mean turning off the Internet :(

Hopefully I'm wrong and this will be little more than a red herring caused by my overactive synapses. But regardless, it's interesting how a show like Lost can redefine television and redefine the definition of "spoiler" at the same time.

PS: This post is loosely based on a ranty comment I submitted to the Lostpedia Blog shortly after reading the above linked article. The admins seem to have chosen not to publish my comment (probably wise of them in hindsight if what I'm guessing does prove to be spoiler-esque), but I felt it was a thought provoking enough situation to repurpose here.

1 comment:

Jake of All Trades said...

In hindsight, this was not a spoiler at all outside of "Jack is still alive for the start of the final episode..."