Crossposted comment on an article by Jonathan Gray over at the online television journal ‘Flow‘.
Some of Jonathanâ€™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 â€˜fan-eventsâ€™. 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.
â€œSpoiling is all about knowing.â€
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 Johnathanâ€™s favourite TV show and it wouldnâ€™t necessarily matter to me. The knowledge has to matter and has to relate to an â€˜interestâ€™ (in the Silvan Tompkins sense of the â€˜interest-excitementâ€™ affect). I would know that the knowledge probably means something to someone else, but only because I am familiar with the social conventions of â€˜spoilingâ€™.
I would rather suggest that, firstly, â€˜spoilingâ€™ 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 â€˜author-producedâ€™ (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 â€˜leakedâ€™ to fans and various limited-participation â€˜betaâ€™ testing of computer games.
The â€˜spoilerâ€™ 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_ â€œPolitical Economy of Belongingâ€ 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 â€˜interestâ€™ (again in the Tompkins sense of â€˜affectâ€™). There is a â€˜becoming-togetherâ€™ 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 â€˜falseâ€™ spoilers (were they not, then, â€˜spoilersâ€™ in a real sense?!), he wasnâ€™t merely expelled from the boards, but from participation in the togetherness of belonging. His â€˜falseâ€™ 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.