the take

Academic Blogger Takes Vulture’s Spoiler Policy to Task, Condemns Us to Hell

We were pleased that yesterday’s twin salvo of posts about spoilers engendered some debate — both in the comments sections of the posts and on other sites. The folks at Whedonesque, of course, took us to task for getting some of the details in our Buffy joke wrong. (We agree this was unforgivable.) Some commenters reminded us that Web readers live places other than the U.S., where shows might air years after they do here. Others complained that the numbers in our statutes of limitations were a little low for a readership whose job wasn’t to keep up with pop culture.

The most well-thought-out, and extreme, response came from Michael Newman, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the proud alma mater of a Vulture brother and a Vulture dad. On his blog, Zigzigger, Newman calls us “really, really wrong,” and says our position is “embarrassingly self-serving.” He seems to suggest that our position stems from a disrespect of our readers and a desire to flaunt our superiority over them:

It is the discourse of media fandom that has popularized the idea of the spoiler as a token of knowledge-power. The one with the spoiler has the potential to influence someone else’s experience of a narrative. Thus the warning of a spoiler to come is a courtesy, a gesture of respect.

We’d argue that we feel inferior to our readers, not superior, especially the ones who can write like that, but we guess that’s neither here nor there. More alarming is Newman’s claiming that our new spoilers policy is just an example of our being a tool of the networks in their fear of the current paradigm shifts in TV viewing. That’s right: Vulture’s in the pocket of Big TV!

It would probably be better for commercial blogging — blogging that is trying to sell the largest desirable audience to advertisers — if TV would stay the way it was. This would also please the media industries, from whose ads culture blogs like Vulture would love to profit. The networks and cable outlets would prefer if everyone would stop TiVoing their shows, stop downloading them, stop streaming them, stop waiting for them to come out on video, and just fucking watch them when they’re on, with all the ads, like everyone used to in the good old days. They’re terrified of their analog dollars becoming digital cents.

We would debate this point pretty strenuously. (But respectfully!) We don’t think anyone could read Vulture’s music coverage, for example, without noticing that we are loudly dismissive of corporate media’s unwillingness to embrace new technology. (Aside from our daily embrace of piracy, we also recently wondered if any record companies still, in fact, exist.) And we’ll go right on the record here and say that anyone who watches commercials is a sucker. We haven’t watched a commercial on a TV drama or sitcom in maybe a year. Just DVR Lost, start watching it at 9:30, and skip through all the ads!

That’s a facile response, of course, but our feelings on spoilers aren’t based on the networks’ struggle to stay relevant. They’re based on wanting to be able to write about The Wire and talk about it with our friends. We do appreciate, though, that Newman took the time to write such a thoughtful response to our posts, especially the part where he said we would burn in hell in the great beyond. That was awesome.

Spoilers [Zigzigger]

Earlier: Spoilers: In Defense of the American Watercooler
Spoilers: The Official Vulture Statutes of Limitations

Academic Blogger Takes Vulture’s Spoiler Policy to Task, Condemns Us to Hell