One Intersectional Argument for Spoiler Warnings

man in old-timey black&white looks annoyed and says "Hey, c'mon, no Star Wars spoilers!", then, in the next panel, angrily says "Trigger warnings? Suck it up!"

Benny wrote a companion piece to this one about the positing of spoiler warnings against trigger warnings, too, but from a class perspective. I highly recommend you read it first, as the Geonosis — I mean genesis — of this post lies in his thoughts on this.

Isn’t it obnoxious when cis het white able male fans of a Certain Movie Franchise whine on and on about spoiler warnings, to the point where they take pledges and create browser extensions to avoid spoilers? Those same people, when they encounter anyone using something like a trigger warning or content notice, screech about their Freeze Peach. What hypocrites, am I right? Especially since studies say that being spoiled is no big deal, so anyone who cares isn’t being rational.

Well, sure, hypocrisy is annoying, and in this case, very much exists among the more privileged fanboys. But is characterizing every fan who would prefer to not be spoiled as an irrational, hypocritical cis het white able male at all helpful in a world that is already hell-bent on erasing fans who fall outside of those lines? Disdain towards spoiler warnings is frustrating to me for reasons that have to do with my background as a Muslim and my reality as the sort of fan who often gets overlooked.

As a kid born both a nerd and into a Muslim family, I had a fraught relationship with pop culture. I gravitated towards interests along the lines of anime, Magic cards (which, I kid you not, I thought I wasn’t cool enough for), Pokemon, and high fantasy, but always felt guilty about my flirtations with geekdom. Shouldn’t I be dedicating my limited time on Earth towards further study of Islam rather than frivolity that wouldn’t help my soul in the afterlife? Wasn’t fiction considered suspect by more pious Muslims? Was the consumption of the graven images explicitly forbidden by Allah as bad as creating them?

Muslim though I may have been, I was still a teenager. After I discovered it, my love of Star Wars won out over faith with the help of ulterior and intrinsic motives to embracing the fandom. The fact that my crush loved Star Wars and my dad hated it (the latter actually walked out of a 1977 showing of A New Hope) may have driven me into young Obi-Wan/Han Solo’s arms, but I stayed there of my own volition, amassing a staggering collection, digital and physical, of Star Wars images, magazines, newspaper clippings, Pepsi cans, action figures, forum posts, fan fiction, and Expanded Universe — I’m sorry, Legends — books.

The guilt didn’t quite stop. I wondered if I was being led to sin by John Williams with his epic music and Ewan McGregor with his boyish handsomeness and Harrison Ford with his roguish charm (and, though at the time I neither knew her name nor would admit to it, the slinky grace of Femi Taylor). As a mild concession to that stricter side of my beliefs, I read and re-read the EU books far more than I re-watched the films, since reading didn’t mean hearing that iconic opening theme or staring at young Obi-Wan and Han Solo (and Oola).

Still, I had overcome a fear of hellfire to love what I loved. If that didn’t make me at least a valid fan of Star Wars, I don’t know what could have. Yet fans who aren’t cis het white boys and men are often overlooked in the very conversations about fandom where we stand to most benefit from being acknowledged. Like the conversations around the whiteness and maleness of visible atheism, those having the conversation might be more interested in talking about the problem than forging ahead towards a solution. I’m sympathetic with those who want to vent, but cannot help but feel myself bristle a bit when that venting erases me.

Aside from issues of erasure, my non-student self might care more about spoilers for a movie franchise I love than the college students in that one study (and yes, it was just one study) did about the big twists in assorted works of classic literature. Hearing that the judge or the butler or the snake did it in a mystery story you wouldn’t have sought out and read on your own is quite different from hearing details about the newest serial installment in an entire universe that is part of who and what you are.

Further, as someone who was mostly out of direct touch with much of Americana and pop culture, I rarely get to enjoy media unspoiled. For the past decade, I’ve been playing catch-up with movies and TV shows that others viewed passively, as part of their everyday lives. As a recovered fundie, I have had to actively seek out and deliberately watch them. I don’t expect anyone to refrain from conversing about them around me, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that people perhaps let me enjoy thrilling over something new in a way that is incredibly rare for me.

a vehicle's rear spoiler emblazoned with the Star Wars logo, i.e. a "Star Wars spoiler"

Getting spoiler-ed is not the worst thing in the world, of course, and certainly cannot compare in negative impact to being triggered. That is why, while I am not a fan of being spoiled without warning, I am not likely to publicly make a scene or take a strong stand about spoilers in the way I always will for content notices. I will, however, experience quiet frustration and disappointment that my desire to consume media as I would prefer has been, like so many other things, steamrolled over by backlash against privileged people who have poisoned the well against what would have otherwise been valid points.

And with that, I sign off from most of the Internet. I’m lucky enough, unlike Benny, to be catching an evening showing of The Force Awakens today.

Main image via

One Intersectional Argument for Spoiler Warnings

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