(Author’s note: This article ironically contains a spoiler about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)
Apparently, having the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” ruined for me before I got to watch it was my fault. Apparently, we’re supposed to avoid social media and put our fingers in our ears when we start to overhear a conversation about our favorite show.
A common opinion in this day and age is that “if you don’t want it spoiled, don’t go online.” It seems the only people who are safe from spoilers are the people who have the luxury of watching shows while they actually air. The concept of having my free time line up with the live airing of a show I like to watch is nothing short of a dream. And being in college makes watching live TV that much more difficult; my apartment doesn’t have cable. Instead, my roommates and I subscribe to things like Netflix and Hulu Plus. I’m one of the lucky ones who can access my parents’ Comcast account via the internet.
Because college students absorb our television this way, we have grown accustomed to being cautious while on social media, despite the fact that, in all seriousness, people should just stop spoiling TV shows. No one cares that you watched the last episode of “Glee.” Don’t ruin it for everybody else with your live tweets.
But the worst part about potential spoilers is that they are no longer limited to just social media or word of mouth. Recently, viewers have needed to exercise extra caution even when watching the very shows we don’t want spoiled. Because of automated commercial breaks, companies like Comcast and Hulu have let spoilers slip about the most current seasons of their shows in the worst possible location: during earlier episodes of that very show.
For example, I had never watched the popular Showtime television series “Dexter” until this past summer. Hours upon hours were spent watching that show, but let’s fast forward to about halfway through season five. For those of you who are fans of the show, we can all agree that season five was disappointing, but as I was watching, I was looking forward to better times – I had heard good things about seasons six and seven and was excited to eventually get there.
So there I am: transitioning from episode seven to eight, when Comcast’s On Demand decides to toss me a 30-second commercial before the episode even begins.
“That’s fine,” I think to myself, “commercials are taking over everything from YouTube to iPhone apps, why would I expect Comcast to be any different?”
Little did I know that the commercial was not only a Showtime commercial, but an actual promo for Dexter … specifically, Dexter’s seventh season.
Before I had a chance to mute – and being without the ability to fast forward – some of the most important plot twists and reveals were laid before my very eyes.
“NOOOOOO!” I yelled at the screen, but it was futile. I couldn’t unsee it.
This experience left me absolutely baffled. Why would Comcast place a commercial with spoilers for a show during that same show? I had grown careful of Facebook and Twitter, and learned to trust the “CONTAINS SPOILERS” tags on Reddit and other websites, but I had been blindsided by Comcast. And apparently, Comcast is not the only culprit.
Hulu has been doing the same thing, according to a Gizmodo article written by Casey Chan. The way Chan phrased it was that “basically, if you watch Hulu, it’s like being chained down to a chair for Spoiler Russian Roulette.” Chan had been watching the popular show New Girl at the time of his spoiler experience. He writes that after the spoiler had occurred, “Hulu decided to tell me that the following program was brought to you by … NEW GIRL. The show I was watching was sponsoring the show I was watching. The episode preview I was watching was spoiling the current freaking episode I was watching.”
It goes even deeper than the host websites – Hulu and Comcast – ruining the shows they have available. The shows are spoiling themselves in a mind-baffling meta-spoiler whirlwind of advertising that you can’t skip.
Chan does note that there is a difference between spoiling comedies and spoiling more plot-driven shows like “Dexter” or “Breaking Bad,” but the point is still the same. Why are these automated commercials not monitored more closely? And to go even further, what is the point of advertising a show that the audience is obviously already watching? Putting a spoiler-containing commercial for “New Girl” during an episode of “New Girl” will only upset the audience.
Hopefully in the future, Comcast and Hulu will control their advertisements with a little more sensitivity. This problem is like if Scholastic had printed advertisements for The Order of the Phoenix in the middle of The Prisoner of Azkaban. “Read book five to realize Harry’s godfather dies! You didn’t know he was his godfather because you’re only in the middle of book three! But now when you find out you’ll already know he dies! Sorry. Enjoy the rest of book three.”
It’s pure evil.
Emily Mias is a Collegian contributor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.