Spoiler alert: you are an overgrown child if you need a spoiler alert. Are you heartbroken to have read about which character Negan killed in The Walking Dead? Still want to avoid reading about the Titanic because you haven’t got round to seeing the James Cameron film, and don’t want to know what happens to the boat at the end? Yes – the struggle is real.
There was widespread devastation across the internet last week when an episode of Game of Thrones was leaked early. One fan summed up the mood by tweeting: “Get these Game of Thrones spoilers off my timeline!”
But great telly, or great narrative in any medium, isn’t just a ghost train where things pop out and make you jump. Film and TV is about amazing writing, performances, set design, atmosphere, cinematography. You know: creativity. It’s pretty crass to fixate on the A/B/C of what happens next. Yet this obsession with plots details is all-consuming. Last year a headline read: “Fans left feeling shocked, betrayed after Emmys montage reveals spoilers.” Shocked. Betrayed. All because of some TV clips from that year, most from shows that had already ended?
No-one’s trying to downplay the importance of art and entertainment. Art is important because it makes us have fuller lives, through sheer escapism or by allowing us into each other’s heads to gain a different perspective. But if accidentally hearing about a plot development makes you to take to the comments section, banging your fists into your keyboard like a baby pounding mashed potato into its high chair, let me gently suggest you get some perspective.
We are grown adults. We have work in the morning. And we’re still desperately trying to insulate ourselves from finding out what happened at the end of Narcos? Your parents probably had kids at your age. We, meanwhile, are infantilised. Perhaps that’s part of the problem: we’re a generation of people who’ll never experience young adulthood as our parents did. Mortgage? Forget it – you’ll be lucky if you can claw out of your overdraft.
Across the UK, rent prices have increased by 27% since 2007, while income has gone up 16%. (In London it’s way worse, with rents up 48% in the same time period, compared with just an 11% increase in wages.) It might not even be so bad if the shared houses we lived in were decent, but this month the housing charity Shelter declared that 43% do not meet basic levels of acceptability. Our parents had access to 100% mortgages at our age. Instead we spend all our money on living in other people’s houses, then take out a loan to reach the end of the month – 40% of millennials have used payday loans or pawn shops in the last five years.
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So, in our endless adolescence, we turn to escapism. We go to cereal cafes and binge-watch whole series of The Walking Dead, then tweet GIFs of Mary Berry eating a fucking cupcake. Well, whatever works. But let’s not get outraged when someone reveals a development in a TV show, as if it mattered at all. Repeat after me: it is only a TV show. It is not life, and it won’t change anything.