The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In defense of spoilers, from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘House of Cards’

Snape, killing Dumbledore. (Macall B. Polay)

“Some say the world will end in fire,” wrote Robert Frost, “some say in ice.” Um, spoiler much?

Every time a new TV series hits the airwaves or the Netflix space-between-spaces, the loud wailing begins. “NO SPOILERS, PLEASE!”

The keening rises into the sky and echoes from house to house, down the corridors of Twitter and the long halls of Facebook. Woe be unto the man who accidentally lets a plot point slip. Not to spoil the outcome, but he is vilified, spurned and hounded from the Purple Wedding watch parties.

Well, spoiler-haters: You’re wrong. You have been wrong for a long time. Not only was there a study from the University of California at San Diego that found that the people who read the twists of classic stories in advance enjoyed them more than those who did not (to be frank, though, how much were you ever going to enjoy “A Dark Brown Dog”?) but — well, it’s the principle of the thing.

Stop doing this to yourselves. Stop doing this to us. Let’s have a discussion like normal people. Leave the La-La-La-Can’t-Hear-You’s out.

People who insist on not having spoilers pushed on them are like people who insist on being kept away from evidence that Santa is not real. It is a lovely thought — really — but it’s no way to live.

Embrace the spoiler. I have.

I actively seek out spoilers. The legendary socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth reportedly had a cushion embroidered with “If you don’t have anything nice to say, sit right here by me.” I should get an updated version of the same cushion, with “If you want to speak freely about major plot points of a series, sit right here by me” in bold cross-stitched letters.

I know spoilers for series I haven’t even watched at all. It just makes sense. Mainly, I like to be reassured that there won’t be a giant spider. There is no point in sitting down and committing yourself to years of “The Sopranos” if there’s going to be a giant spider in the middle of Season Four.

Is this is because I hate surprises? Maybe. My dream surprise party is the kind that happens to someone else. (Or, failing that, one that you are told about several weeks in advance so you can make certain you’ve gotten enough sleep, brushed your teeth, are wearing an outfit that doesn’t make you resemble a rueful coat rack, and aren’t nervous and irritable so that you greet everyone’s joyous shouts of “Happy Birthday!” as they pour from your closets by screaming and beating them violently with your umbrella.)

But we don’t want to know what’s going to happen, spoiler-haters say.

Why? One of the rare delights of fiction is that you do know what is going to happen, well in advance of the characters. In life, you never have any more information than the other characters about the future. You can only spoil the broadest outlines of things. You can’t even forecast the weather. Why not take the chance when you have it? The spoiler is the monster that has been released into the end of the labyrinth. And how much more exciting the labyrinth is when you know you’re going to run into a Minotaur!

But maybe this anger at spoiling isn’t such a recent innovation after all. After all, Cassandra went around Troy telling people critical plot points that they weren’t going to reach until next week. And how they hated her!

The trouble with spoilers is that it is impossible to prove that your attitude about them is correct. You can only have the one experience, and the one you did not have will always loom in the distance as the Perfect Unattainable Outcome. The Unspoiled Wonder of that episode, you tell yourself, would have been a thing of beauty. Yes! So we must flag, flag, flag every possible discussion of the plot so as not to ruin the virgin bloom of ignorance for others!

Hogwash. The magic is in getting there.

I know how this started. It used to be that you could reasonably assume that people would watch a thing when it aired. Now the Netflix queue stretches to infinity, and just because you haven’t watched it doesn’t mean you don’t INTEND to. How dare people try to talk about that milestone episode? What do they think this is, the finale of “M*A*S*H”? No, never talk about anything! You’ll ruin it.

The only good thing that this terror of spoilers has bred is a period of several hours or days when people abstain from social media, out of sheer terror.

But it’s no way to live. Trying to walk through the Internet without stepping on a spoiler is as impossible as going through life getting upset every time someone reminds you that microscopic life forms are nested in your eyebrows. They’re just there, and you can’t let them ruin things for you.

Whether it’s “House of Cards,” “Breaking Bad” (spoiler alert: the show ended) or “Game of Thrones,” every story can be reduced to a spoiler formula. The dog dies. The boat sinks. The king perishes.

There’s no escaping it. You might as well live. Unlike Joffrey.