Cultural Musings · Reflections

How Netflix is Destroying the “Spoiler Window”

With the modern invention of streaming services, a new layer on top of binging developed: The exponential shortening of the spoiler window.

The “spoiler window” is a window of time following the release of films or other media where it is understood that many people have not seen the media yet, and wish to remain spoiler free. This can be in person or online. The following conversation has happened around me many times in one form or another.

Friend A: “Hey do you watch [insert current popular show here]?”

Friend B: “Oh yeah, it’s really good.”

Friend A: “How awesome was that [insert spoiler filled statement here]?”

Friend B: “Dude I’ve only watched half of the show, you just ruined the ending!”

Friend A: “It’s been a week man. What’s taking you so long?”

In the past, people still binged content. But the fact that we can all binge the same stuff as long as we subscribe to the same service is a new phenomenon. Because the vast majority of my friends subscribe to Netflix, most are able to watch the same things at the same time. It is the default mindset before a conversation starts that the other person A) Has Netflix and B) Is at least marginally aware of all of the newly released content. When combined with binging behavior, this becomes incredibly dangerous to those of us who want to avoid spoilers.

If I went to a Chicago AMC Theater and bought a $12 ticket to see Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 (in theaters May 5th), it is expected by any decent member of society that I shouldn’t be speaking loudly in front of others about the film in the week or possibly even month after the release. It is understood that people may not have seen the film yet because of the time commitment, the transportation, or the cost.

But for shows on streaming services, this no longer considered a valid excuse.

Content has never been as cheap and as accessible. If someone knows you have Netflix (because for $9.99/month why wouldn’t you), they know that you have 100% access to all of the content they do right at home. The day the new season of Stranger Things or A Series of Unfortunate Events comes out, you know that the other person could have watched the entire season between when they got home and before going to work in the morning if they really binged it. I could get home at 5:30 PM on Monday night, watch all 6 hours and 40 minutes of Stranger Things by 12:10 AM, and go to work at 9:00 AM the next morning. I might then assume that all of my coworkers did the same thing, and try to engage them in discussing every minute detail of the show.

This might sound extreme, but it happens. Most people would probably agree that If I acted the way I described above, my coworkers would still consider me an asshole. Almost no one is expected to watch something the second that it is released on Netflix, but in my experience the Spoilers Window of Netflix shows has now been shortened to around a week. If this month’s BIG release comes out Monday, by the next Monday spoilers will be EVERYWHERE, and no one cares about the slowpokes left behind.

And I don’t know about you, but I think this is crap.

Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to spoilers. I get that. Even if 99% of people don’t care if you spoil something, you need to respect that 1% that does care. There will ALWAYS be someone out there who wants to hear NOTHING about the show before they watch it, and there will ALWAYS be people who are still unable to watch it. I know it doesn’t seem possible to my generation, me included, but there are clearly people who don’t own their own Netflix accounts. Some people can’t afford it, or aren’t lucky enough to have parents that are willing to pay for it (thanks mom and dad). Some people were in a coma the day it came out (don’t laugh, it could happen).

My point is that it doesn’t matter how easy, how cheap, or how “important” it is to see a piece of media, you need to respect other people’s wishes, and just wait to talk about it. If you can wait a month to talk in public about Guardians of the Galaxy, you can wait a month to talk about Stranger Things. The world will still be there.

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