Spoiler Alert: It’s On You To Avoid Spoilers – Even For ‘The Walking Dead’

What self-hating part of me repeatedly doesn't understand that this show is going to ruin me over and over again?

What self-hating part of myself doesn’t understand that this show is going to ruin me over and over again!?

Joanna Schroeder was chastised for posting Walking Dead spoilers on Twitter after the show aired… And she’s none too pleased about it. 

Spoilers for The Walking Dead’s episode 408 below, and for some random old movies. 

I’m an annoying TV watcher. Even though I don’t try to be, I’m very interactive with my visual media. I stand up and clap when good things happen, I get glazey-eyed and rosy-cheeked in romances, and I tend to scream, shake, peer around the corner from the kitchen, or get up and run across the house to hide in my bed when things get terrifying.

So of course I completely freaked out during last night’s The Walking Dead‘s horrifically traumatic cliffhanger episode, when The Governor hacked off Herschel’s head with Michonne’s katana.

It was horrible. I was angry, like REALLY angry, at the show and angry at myself for watching it when I know I’m probably just too sensitive to handle the endless brutality. Robert Kirkman said later, on The Talking Dead after-show, that he feels the more important the character is to the audience, the more brutal his or her death needs to be. Think of Shane killed by Rick, then again by Carl. Or of Carl having to shoot his own mother in the head after she’d just given birth. That seems like a totally horrific combination, but is a testament to the ways in which that show pulls no punches. If a character who was larger-than-life and central to our experience in that setting had a lovely and peaceful passing, it just wouldn’t feel post-apocalyptic enough.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

And I wasn’t alone in my trauma. Predictably, Twitter lit up like a freaking christmas tree with people expressing outrage and horror at the death of the most beloved character in the history of the show. It also lit up with people complaining about the fact that people had the gall to talk about it before everyone in the world had a chance to see the episode.

For those people, I have one singular message:

If you haven’t seen an episode of a wildly popular television show that is built upon suspense and shock value, don’t log onto Twitter right after the episode airs.

Those of us on the West Coast already have this mastered. I literally never open Twitter when Scandal is airing on the East Coast because I know whatever my favorite gladiators are getting themselves into is going to be splashed across my timeline, and that’s one show I absolutely relish being surprised by.

But apparently not everyone knows this rule. Last night, after irritating my husband by talking about Herschel and baby Judith over and over again, I turned to Twitter to vent. Almost immediately, tweets started rolling in from people who couldn’t believe I would give away a spoiler like that. Some people had a sense of humor about it, but most did not. One particularly dramatic fellow said, “You’ve lost a follower!”

Here’s why that’s ridiculous:

1. Twitter’s top trends at that moment included things like #Herschel and #RIPHerschel and #TheWalkingDead. So, you know, deal with it.

2. Twitter is about breaking news. Things happen on Twitter faster than anywhere else. #BindersFullofWomen popped up literally moments after former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney used the phrase in a debate. You barely have to turn on a TV to follow play-by-play action of the most popular football and basketball games. Just open Twitter and you’ll see trends like #Interception or #UCLAWins pop up.

3. There’s no way to “SPOILER ALERT: WALKING DEAD” on a tweet. You only get 140 characters. Are you going to waste 27 of them warning people about something that’s going to happen literally one line later in a two-sentence tweet? No.

4. How long are we supposed to wait before we can use spoilers? A day? Two weeks? I’m sure there are people who are three weeks behind, do we need to be careful of those folks? Other than not spoiling it before it’s aired, any other time frame set forth for a TV show on Twitter is ridiculous.

5. Turns out, spoilers may not even ruin people’s enjoyment of stories! From Wired’s excellent 2011 piece  Spoilers Don’t Spoil Anything, Jonah Lehrer explains:

…spoilers don’t spoil anything. In fact, a new study suggests that spoilers can actually increase our enjoyment of literature. Although we’ve long assumed that the suspense makes the story — we keep on reading because we don’t know what happens next — this new research suggests that the tension actually detracts from our enjoyment.

It’s hard to fully wrap my brain around the data in this study because I’m not sure I can pull apart exactly what “enjoyment” means when it comes to consuming arts. I was one of the lucky ones who saw The Sixth Sense in theaters on opening night, so I had no idea there even was a twist, let alone that Bruce Willis was dead the whole dang time. I was shocked, and will admit that I was pretty traumatized by it all. Would I have enjoyed it more had I known? Hard to say. I wouldn’t have had that incredibly visceral moment of realizing what was going on when the ring rolled out of his wife’s hand, then turned to my friend Carolyn, tears streaming down my face to say “HE’S DEAD!” and watching her face crumple up as she realized it too. But maybe I also wouldn’t have had a month of nightmares. As I said above, I’m sort of a baby about this stuff.

Spoiler alert: He was totally dead the entire time.

Spoiler alert: He was totally dead the entire time.

So to all of you who are freaking out about TV spoilers on Twitter – take some responsibility for your own viewing enjoyment. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, avoid Twitter until the fervor dies down, and understand the harsh reality that someone will, probably, spoil the ending of something for you if you take too long to watch a show like TWD or Scandal. Sorry for the cold hard truth, but someone’s gotta break it to you.

After all, once you watch the episode, you’ll probably want to talk about it on Twitter too, and if everyone’s so afraid of ruining the surprise for that inevitable group who hasn’t seen the episode, you’ll never get the chance!

And if someone spoils something for you, remember that it’s not the end of the world. After all, you may even enjoy it more knowing what’s going to happen. I sure wish someone had warned me!


Oh, and PS – Judith’s totally alive. You know how I know? The clasps on her carseat were open, and if Walkers can’t even figure out how to turn a doorknob, they’re not unbuckling a five-point harness!

I may go back to this being my only Andrew Lincoln visual.

I may go back to this being my only Andrew Lincoln visual. (From Love, Actually)








About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, TIME.com, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. The fact that people legitimately get yelled at or harassed about TV show spoilers, is seriously mind blowing. You people out there are so entitled, oh my gosh. IT’S TELEVISION. THE WORLD ISN’T GOING TO EXPLODE IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU THE ENDING OF A SHOW BEFORE YOU’VE SEEN IT.

    I don’t want to sound mean, but GET OVER IT.

  2. John K. Anderson says:

    I can’t agree more. I once got yelled for “spoiling” a main plot point of “The Wire” two years, I kid you not, after it originally aired. I get that if someone tells you they are finally getting around to watching something, and asks you not to spoil it then you should respect that. But there has to be a cut off for general consumption.

  3. Allan Mott says:

    100% spot on, Joanna. The Internet is a big place and it’s unfair to expect it to stop because we’re PVRing something everyone wants to talk about.

  4. Say whatever you have to say to justify ruining it for others. Just because “everyone else” is doing it doesn’t make it excusable. Then you say that you’re just a reactive type and don’t feel that it’s your responsibility to filter yourself. Okay, fine. And now you’re upset because so many people are mad? Please! You’re starting to sound like a spoiled princess(and I mean that in the nicest way possible).

    Years ago, someone spoiled the ending of the last Harry Potter book, three days after it came out, on a morning radio talk show. The talk show host issued a public apology in an attempt to stem the phone calls from angry listeners.

    You can post your reactions to movies, tv shows, and books without spoiling them, just choose your words more carefully.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think a national TV show with a major event is different than the end of a book or even a movie spoiler. First, if it’s already a massive trend on Twitter, and it’s not racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise harmful to people, you’re probably okay.

      I honestly think that you need to be reasonable with your expectations of the world. In this case, expecting Twitter to be something other than a giant room where people talk about their reactions to pop culture and the media is expecting too much.

      And, I’d like for you to answer the question of when it becomes okay to talk about something like Herschel’s death. I know people who just started watching LOST. Should we not talk about the fact that everyone was always dead on the island, even though it’s been 3 years? Just in case some random person on Twitter is in Season 2 of LOST?

      I wouldn’t say it TO them, but I’m not going to NOT make commentary about LOST because I’m afraid a random reader doesn’t know.

      I mean, I haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet, but I know what happens in Red Wedding or whatever that episode is. Because it exploded on Twitter and I saw it. That’s life.

      • Well damn. I’ve always wanted to watch LOST and haven’t yet. Now I know the twist. Thanks a lot.

        But really, I actually haven’t seen LOST, but I don’t care that I just read a spoiler. I’ll still watch it and most likely enjoy it. It is to be expected. The Walking Dead always explodes in social media as it airs and people should know better.

        Let’s not forget the show The Talking Dead which encourages viewers to tweet comments and questions about the new episode literally right after the episode is done.

      • (Not aimed at anyone, just a general message)

        Put a spoiler warning on it and try to make sure that it won’t be seen by accident. I nearly had it spoiled on facebook when I am a season behind, letting it catch up because I watch shows in bulk.

        If someone posted the spoilers to the big marvel movies, especially Wolverine 2’s ending I would have flipped at them. It’s an asshole move to do without fair warning, it’s pathetic and annoying to have something ruined because someone is too lazy to protect the spoiler. Doesn’t matter if others are doing it, show respect to people that haven’t seen it by linking off to a blog or something with plenty of spoiler warnings.

        “spoilers don’t spoil anything. In fact, a new study suggests that spoilers can actually increase our enjoyment of literature.”

        Not for me, I love anticipating what happens. When I know what happens, it pisses me off bigtime because I like to be surprised.

        I was watching something last night and I won’t say what show it is, they drive along and BOOM the vehicle explodes…totally did not see that coming and it added even more to the suspense of that show. Now if some arrogant person decided to spoil this episode for me they would have had some words from me over it. Facebook will post up status’s of people and you have no way to know what they’re going to say, one person said OMG OMG at walking dead but they were kind enough to not say anymore about it. There were people going OMG OMG at the wedding in GoT but most were decent enough to not spoil it.

        “I think a national TV show with a major event is different than the end of a book or even a movie spoiler.”
        No, Tv shows have progressed so far now that they are rivalling movies. Game of Thrones pulls in more cash and costs more to produce per season than many movies to.

        Your article is sounding like your entitlement to say what you want, damned be to whoever reads. All I ask is just put spoiler warnings on stuff, as soon as I see them I look away fast and find something else. I like to go into movies without knowing what goes on. For Transformers I looked away from the screen during previews for another movie at the cinema, blocked my ears and went la la la. A lot of trailers LOVE TO SHOW THE GOD DAMN ENDING and major plot points in the trailer, like Wolverine 2 with the MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR spoiler that happens to Wolverine that I purposely told my brother to not watch any trailers for days of future past to avoid spoiling the movie. The ads on pay per view TV show that scene happen and I was pretty surprised when it happened during the movie, and that surprise was good.

        tl;dr, don’t be an ass online, put spoiler warnings over posts. People who spoil stuff are nothing but arrogant assholes in my view trying to ruin fun for others. People with a sense of decency label their posts with spoiler warnings, and many forums even have special ways to block it out and only people that click on a button see it.

      • The end of a book or a movie is exactly the same as a popular tv show. Just the time needed before the spoiling is different. Some people are slow readers, and it takes them a few weeks to get through the book. It may take an extra week before some people get to see a new movie. I’m not suggesting that you never talk about it, but posting specifics right after a show has aired just isn’t cool. I would think that 2-3 days is a decent amount of time for most people to catch up on a tv show. When in doubt though, a spoiler warning is really helpful.

        And Sarah, the Talking Dead is meant for people who just watched the new episode. I seriously doubt anybody is watching that before they watch the episode it follows. You do bring up a good point though.
        My whole argument depends on how and where spoilers are given. There is a huge difference between people talking about a show on a show specific twitter or tumbler page where people go to express their feelings about what they just saw and you positing “OMG, Herschel dies!” on your personal fb page.

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