Tag Archives: Television

How Social Media Is Changing the Rules About Spoilers

Those of you who have been following me for years might remember my post from 2014 about hating spoilers.

Since then I’ve been paying attention to how social media – especially Twitter – has been changing the rules about if, whether, and when it’s okay to share spoilers.

It was especially interesting to see how people reacted to The Handmaid’s Tale a few months ago because of how much faster that show was released in the U.S. than it was in other parts of the world.

Canada was always one or two episodes behind the United States depending on which day of the week you were on. Other countries were even further behind us.

People in the States were sharing spoilers before or right after the latest episode there ended. Even mainstream news sites were leaking plot twists as they discussed what had currently happened and what was going to happen next. I had to mute the hashtags for that show and avoid reading all news articles about it until I’d finished the whole series.

While I still believe that it’s rude to share spoilers for a show that has just aired, not everyone agrees with me and not everyone who does agree with me has the same rules about how to go about sharing them after a certain amount of time has passed.

The Old Rules

This varied according to which parts of the Internet you spent time in, of course, but I remember the old rules being as follows:

  • Always put a spoiler warning before sharing anything that mentioned even mild plot twists.
  • Don’t discuss the latest episode of your favourite show with people who haven’t seen it yet unless they tell you they don’t mind.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

I do not remember the mainstream media releasing spoilers back then the way they do now. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s because I watched fewer shows at that point or if the rules have since changed for the media as well.

The Controversy

If cats knew what spoilers were, they’d disapprove of them.

I’m going to be doing some generalizing and simplifying here for the sake of brevity, but people who have an opinion on this issue seem to fall into one of two camps.

The first camp believes that everything is up for discussion the second a show has finished airing in their time zone. While some of them do warn everyone about their discussion of spoilers ahead of time, many others don’t bother to mention it at all.

Interestingly enough, my own mother belongs in this group. If I read a book or watch a movie that she hasn’t tried yet, she genuinely doesn’t mind hearing spoilers about it. This blows my mind sometimes, but I’m much less cautious about discussing how stories end with her than I am with almost everyone else I know.

The second camp is against all spoilers. We want to be warned of potential spoilers well in advance so we can avoid them. We often also want everyone to use the official hashtags for that show or movie so that we can mute them before any of the plot twists are revealed.

The New Rules

  • Always use the appropriate hashtags when discussing your favourite shows on social media.
  • Give people fair warning if you will be sharing spoilers.
  • Find likeminded people to discuss (or avoid) spoilers with.
  • Respect the rights of others to make different decisions.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

From what I’ve seen, the Internet hasn’t yet come to a conclusion about how long everyone should wait before spoiler tags are no longer necessary.

I take a conservative approach and add spoiler tags to almost everything. Just because a book was released a few decades ago doesn’t mean that everyone has read it. While I do occasionally share spoilers about old movies, TV shows, and books, I warn people first in case they don’t want to know what happened.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few years.  Is giving spoiler warnings for everything no matter when it was released the best way to handle it? I honestly don’t know. This is something I do as a courtesy for others, but I don’t think it’s currently realistic to expect everyone to follow this rule given how unwilling they are to wait even a few days to dissect current shows.

With that being said, I would like to see people become more aware of the fact that their favourite shows have global audiences and that not every country or time zone gets the latest episode simultaneously.

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Introducing Offred’s World

This post includes spoilers for “Offred” (Season 1, Episode 1) and “Birth Day” (Season 1, Episode 2 )of The Handmaid’s Tale.

As I mentioned last month, I’ll be blogging my thoughts about this show. New episodes air on iTunes five days after they do on Hulu, so this series will be published about a week after each episode is released unless or until iTunes changes this schedule.

The first link above provides excellent plot summaries, so I’m going to use this post to focus on my analysis and reaction to what has happened to Offred so far.

“Offred” 

The opening scene of the first episode made me blink back tears. June – the woman we now know as Offred who is wearing the white bonnet in the image above-  attempted to escape what was formerly known as the United States with her husband and their young daughter. There was so much emotion packed into that scene: terror; love; hope; fear. I was so pleased with how it was put together. It was the best possible introduction to the characters and the totalitarian regime that had suddenly taken over that country.

What I found most interesting about this episode was how smooth the transitions were between Offred’s attempt to flee the country, the time she spent being brainwashed in the Red Center, and her repetitive but still frightening days as a handmaiden who has just moved onto her second placement.

Every setting was terrifying for a different reason. Watching her scream as her daughter was ripped out of her arms was heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but to wonder if the TV show would mirror what happened in the book when it came to the daughter’s fate. This is one of the biggest questions I carried with me through the first two episodes. I really hope it is at least somewhat answered in this season, although I won’t say anything else about it until I know where this storyline leads.

What stuck out to me the most about the Red Center was how effective The Aunts were at forcing the handmaidens to obey. Let me put it to you this way:  there are plenty of ways to hurt someone that will in no way affect their chances of getting pregnant in the future. As Offred and the other handmaidens are only prized for their reproductive capabilities, everything else doesn’t matter so much. I am very glad that these scenes weren’t shown to the audience outright. Seeing the characters react to the aftermath of them was more than enough.

The Ceremony was brutal as well. The book described it in much fuzzier terms, but what happened to the handmaidens each week was rape. This had been something that bothered me about the original plot, so I was glad to see it clarified for the small screen.

“Birth Day”

While both of these episodes do have independent story arcs, I strongly recommend watching them as closely together as possible because of how well they introduce the audience to the most important parts of this world. Gilead has a beautiful and mostly peaceful facade, but the things that happen behind closed doors in it are sickening.

For example: what do you do with all of the repressed anger that handmaidens carry with them? All of them were and are being abused. They are not allowed to defend themselves or protect themselves from future harm.

The Salvaging itself was shot nicely, but I would have loved to see more character and plot development happening before Offred and the other handmaids were told that the bound man before them had raped a pregnant handmaid and caused her to miscarry her child. The audience knew why they were viciously beating him, but they knew nothing else about what was going on there.

This scene happened much later in the book. It’s the only thing I’d change about the beginning of this show because new fans won’t know why it’s so significant to the plot. I can’t say anything else without possibly giving away spoilers if the show decides to follow the same plot as the original story.

With that being said, “Birth Day” also contained my favourite scene in this series. As I mentioned earlier, June/Offred gave birth to a daughter several years before the Republic of Gilead was formed. At the time, newborns were being diagnosed with serious birth defects at an alarming rate…if they were born alive at all. Out of all of the women giving birth in the hospital ward that day, June was the only person whose baby was perfectly healthy.

The nurse’s response to the birth was a strange one. Was the fact that she said “Praise Be!” a hint that she was a supporter of the religious movement that eventually brought about this dystopia? I doubt June noticed that phrase at the time, but once she was indoctrinated into using it that memory must have haunted her.

I am hoping to see more hints like this in future episodes. It was tantalizing to say the least.

How about you? What did you think of the first two episodes of this series? Are you excited that it’s already been renewed for season 2? Come let me know on Twitter.

We Need Smarter Characters

One of the things that bothers me the most about modern fiction – especially when it comes to the horror and science fiction genres – is how little common sense and intelligence many characters seem to have in these stories.

Those of you who have known me for a few years might have heard me comment on this problem before, especially when The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead are currently airing. I’m an intermittent fan of both of those shows. While I love their premises, the characters in them sure do make a lot of questionable decisions about who to trust and how to behave when they’re in immediate danger. At times that makes them extremely difficult to watch.

No, I don’t expect perfection from fictional characters anymore than I would from living, breathing people. There is definitely something to be said for showing exactly what happens to people when they make the wrong decision. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they react to things going horribly wrong in their lives.

There does come a point, though, when it’s hard to emotionally connect to someone who keeps making nonsensical choices. If there is a herd of zombies wandering around in the woods outside of your home, you really shouldn’t be going for a nature walk alone. If that new person you just met makes your skin crawl,  don’t ignore that feeling and tell him where you live when he asks.

These are the kinds of things that pull me out of the plot. If the protagonists were children or had unusual backstories to explain their naiveté, I’d completely understand. When seemingly normal adult characters do it over and over again in a violent and unpredictable setting, I start losing sympathy for them.

I’ve learned valuable lessons from my mistakes. Why don’t these characters apply the things the experienced in previous seasons to what’s currently going on with them?

What originally attracted me to these genres were the questions they asked about life. A good horror story peels back all of the social niceties to expose the grey underbelly of what frightened people the most in a specific era. Who do they trust? Who or what keeps popping up as the villain? You can learn a lot about a society based on who and what it fears!

Well-written science fiction asks questions that many people don’t otherwise think about. What does it mean to be human? How do we know if we can trust our governments? What kind of life might exist on other planets? What would happen if….?

These questions only work, though, if the characters that could ask them are aware enough to actually bring them to the audience’s mind.

Have you noticed this problem in the books you read or the shows you watch? Who are some of the smartest characters you’ve found recently?

Why I’m Giving Up on The Walking Dead

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Warning: this post contains mild spoilers for season three of The Walking Dead.

When I first heard the announcement that The Walking Dead comics were going to be made into a TV show I was thrilled. Zombie movies always end just as the story begins to grapple with how one survives psychologically and physically in such a terrifying environment over the long term and this franchise was created specifically to answer that question. While I’d recently given up on the comics when they crossed the gore line I assumed the TV show would tone down the gross out factor and concentrate on the lives of the (un?)lucky survivors.

Growing up my church taught us to be selective about the types of media we consumed. My youth group leaders warned that some images are tough to get out of your mind. They were thinking of sexually explicit content, of course, but rarely violent video games or movies would be trotted out as examples as well.

As I slowly deconverted from Christianity I started testing all of the things I’d been taught about human nature and the world. Some assumptions turned out to be true, others didn’t.

It came as a surprise to learn that, at least for me, violent, gory content matters. Without giving away spoilers for fans of this show, seeing people tortured and killed every week – even if it’s obviously a situation that could never happen in real life – raises my adrenaline levels and provides fodder for vivid nightmares. Rather than marvelling at the special effects, makeup or stunt work that went into making that scene possible I imagine myself rushing to help the victim and watching them either die or recover slowly over several gruelling months. The ability to jump into what is in this case such a bloody narrative changes the way I interact with the world…and not for the better.

Incidentally I have no problem watching graphic sex scenes on shows but the despair these characters feel after months of ceaseless violence isn’t entertaining to this viewer.

So I will stop watching The Walking Dead this spring. They have a few more episodes to change my mind as I prepaid for the entire season but given the dark places the comic books have gone I don’t think the TV show is going to stray far from that path.