Star Wars: The Force Awakens… and so do the spoilers

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out this week. What, you didn’t know? You mustn’t spend much time on social media. Or outside. (note: ENTIRELY SPOILER FREE)
You can’t seriously have missed all the heavy hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I just won’t believe it. It’s been everywhere, from social media to TV to packets of oranges. Really — Star Wars Oranges. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. But I’m not here to bust out crazy Star Wars spoilers to speak of, because I don’t know any — and what’s more, I don’t want to know any. That’s problematic in the social media age, however.

I’ve written previously on the difficulty of having any kind of spoiler guidelines on social media, and had all sorts of interesting conversations with people around the topic, from those who reckon a blackout’s the only option, to those who try to be polite and not spoil things and even a few who figure it’s fun to ruin other people’s enjoyment on a deliberate basis. Although I’ve never met the latter group in the flesh; merely online where it’s a lot easier to be an anonymous troll.

Star Wars: The Spoilers Awaken

This week is going to be a fascinating experiment in social media and marketing, with the first public screenings of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. It’s no particular tough bet to say that The Force Awakens is going to do rather well at the box office. Probably to the extent of being in the top five films of the year, although I do wonder if a short December timeframe might not keep it from the number one slot for the strict calendar year.
A quick bit of research shows multiple cinemas having not only midnight screenings, but screenings starting every fifteen or so minutes from then. Seriously, there are screenings at 3:15am on early Thursday morning. Who’s going to that film? Who’s planning on heading to work after that? Inevitably, somebody will, which means that The Force Awakens’ impact on productivity is going to be more than shifting just a bit of Star Wars merchandise off store shelves. But I digress, really.
What’s going to be really fascinating is seeing how it’s handled on social media. Social media is, as a whole, lousy when it comes to spoilers, and for such a hotly anticipated property, spoilers are pretty much inevitable. Not just from the spoileriffic trolls who insist that they’ve every right to discuss it — and maybe they do, but some people are also arrogant about it (says the man writing about it; yes I’m aware of the irony) — but from people just plain excited about it.
Here’s the thing, though. When The Phantom Menace came out, there was wide anticipatory frenzy around the film, but little in the way of direct online social media. You could search out spoilers — Weird Al Yankovic famously did to write his parody version “The Saga Begins” before also paying to attend a premiere event to make sure he’d got it right… ah, heck with it, roll the video…

Undoubtedly the best thing to come out of the Phantom Menace by a long shot. Which Han did first.
Fast forward to 2015, and the frenzy is back (although hopefully a certain floppy eared alien isn’t), and so is social media, and people’s awareness of just how much it can spoil big plot twists. See for example the ending of Lost, or just about any celebratory event in Game Of Thrones (and yes, I’m being deliberately spoiler free in both cases). It only takes a few characters — far less than 140 — and somebody’s big night at the cinema is ruined.
What I think will be interesting to see is whether there’s a small scale dip in social media participation as The Force Awakens rolls out. With greater awareness, will people simply stay away to stay spoiler free, or risk it to find out that Yoda was secretly Grover all along*?
For my own part, I’m not likely to see it before the weekend, which means that I’ve got to be exceptionally careful with social media across Thursday and Friday. I’ve already threatened to shank people who spoil it for me, which means I’d better get to sharpening the end of my toothbrush if I want to be ready in time.
What’s your Star Wars spoiler strategy? Heading to the midnight show and sleeping it off at work the next day, or putting a blanket ban on all things Force-related until a more comfortable viewing time?
*Not a spoiler. Everybody already knew that, right?

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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