Crossposted comment on an article by Jonathan Gray over at the online television journal ‘Flow‘.

Some of Jonathan’s points cross over with some of my research interests. I am interested in what happens in fan or enthusiast communities in the period between ‘fan-events’. My original thinking was focused on film, but now I have shift gears to focus on car enthusiasts. I thought about the rituals of expectations and anticipation that fan/enthusiasts participate in. Both expectation and anticipation involve relations of futurity. The two terms I used were defined as follows: Anticipation is a modulation of an affective tension with a future event, and thus relates to a (temporally present) affective intensity. Expectation is a calculus of futurity, an extrapolation of narrativised past events into the future.

“Spoiling is all about knowing.”

Well, at the minimum, I would insist on a caveat. The knowledge in itself does not necessarily mean a thing. I could have knowledge of Johnathan’s favourite TV show and it wouldn’t necessarily matter to me. The knowledge has to matter and has to relate to an ‘interest’ (in the Silvan Tompkins sense of the ‘interest-excitement’ affect). I would know that the knowledge probably means something to someone else, but only because I am familiar with the social conventions of ‘spoiling’.

I would rather suggest that, firstly, ‘spoiling’ is an action that disrupts the normative distribution of the screening-event (for want of a better term!) and produces an illicit convergence in the affective tension experienced by fans. It is a particular qualitative intervention that displaces ‘author-produced’ (ie PR company produced) expectations and anticipations. Production companies and the like are very well aware of this capacity of fan communities to intervene in the passage and circulation of the screening-events. Examples include The Lord of the Rings where information was ‘leaked’ to fans and various limited-participation ‘beta’ testing of computer games.

The ‘spoiler’ also has a secondary function, which I would argue is actually its primary function, in the sense of a spoiler being a piece of affectively charged knowledge. That is, spoiling is about belonging. Here I am drawing on the work of Brian Massumi (_Parables of the Virtual_ “Political Economy of Belonging” chapter). The screening-event is not just a screening, but a fan-event, too. Fan-events do not nominally involve only fans, but anyone who has an ‘interest’ (again in the Tompkins sense of ‘affect’). There is a ‘becoming-together’ of fans that occurs over the season of a TV series (or between sequels in a film series, or between cruises or racing events for car enthusiasts).

It does not surprise me that in the case of Old Scooter Dude was expelled for his ‘false’ spoilers (were they not, then, ‘spoilers’ in a real sense?!), he wasn’t merely expelled from the boards, but from participation in the togetherness of belonging. His ‘false’ spoilers produced a convergence of a corrupt set of expectations and a traitorous feeling of anticipation. Ironically, however, his actions may have actually served as another singularity in the fan community and produced a stronger becoming-together of other fans who all felt (in different ways) resentful and cheated.