It's getting tougher and tougher to avoid spoilers nowadays. Faced with endless blogs, Twitter updates and overzealous talk show hosts, it's easy to have major parts of a movie or TV show ruined before you get to watch it. Hell, it's basically expected -- but what's surprising is when the network, studio or publisher itself is the one doing everything possible to give away the ending of the same thing they're trying to get people to watch. This happens more often than you think, like when ...
CAUTION: Major spoilers ahead, in case that needed to be any clearer.
#5. AMC Gives Away a Major Character Death in The Walking Dead
One of the biggest draws of AMC's apocalyptic zombie drama The Walking Dead is that no one is safe. Any character could die at any moment from causes ranging from "zombie bite" to "hillbilly with a crossbow," to the point where the show might as well be called The Walking De- oh, wait, we see what they did there.
Good one. Now kill Carl, please.
Anyway, there's no better example of that than the next to last episode of Season 2, where a major character bites the dust, and then bites the dust underneath that dust, making the drastic transition from living to undead to just plain dead within the span of a few minutes. Shane, a disgruntled ex-police officer played by Jon Bernthal, attempts to kill his former partner and "best friend," Rick (Andrew Lincoln), for reasons you would know if you'd just give in to your friends and watch the damn show already.
Rick is forced to stab Shane, who even in death continues being a douchebag and goes after his buddy again as a zombie. Finally, Rick's son, Carl, shows up and shoots Zombie Shane with a gun in the one instance in this show where the gross parental neglect actually helped anyone.
"Carl, if you shoot me, I'm going to significantly reduce your allowance!"
Shane was maybe the second most important character on the show -- his death was the equivalent of Jerry being forced to brutally kill Kramer, which is why it was saved for one of the final episodes of the season. As such, it came as a shock to many viewers ... unless, of course, they'd seen the following ad on AMC's site a couple of weeks before:
The screwdriver is for your ears during Lori's scenes.
Before the second season had even ended, AMC started promoting pre-orders for the Blu-ray box set of the same season on their website. Which is great and all, but take a closer look at the extras detailed in the description:
"And don't forget to Wikipedia 'Michonne'!"
Wait a minute, "Shane's last episode"?! That's right: With three episodes still to go before the end of the season, someone at AMC carelessly spoiled the fact that Shane wouldn't make it to the next one.
Now, it's true that Shane also died in the comic series the show is based on, but they'd already deviated from the story by making him survive way longer than he did there, so as far as fans knew, he could have stayed alive for the entire duration of the show. Obviously, the auto-spoiler was followed by fan outcry, and AMC even released a statement claiming that the ad was unauthorized and that "the matter is currently under investigation."
#4. NBC Tries Their Hardest to Ruin the Olympics
Look, it's not NBC's fault that the rotation of the Earth means that the day starts in London several hours before it does in America. But NBC's decision to time-delay their broadcast of the 2012 Summer Olympics turned millions of American viewers into that guy at the office who TiVo'd the last episode of Lost and had to spend all day avoiding human contact so that nobody spoiled the ending for him.
"Two dollars is your change, and they were like dead the whole time or something."
And it doesn't help when NBC does the spoiling all by itself.
For example, one of the most anticipated events for U.S. viewers was Michael Phelps' return to the swimming pool. To celebrate Phelps' distinguished career, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams opened the show immediately preceding the race by saying, "And while we try to be sensitive about spoiler alerts for our viewers, Michael Phelps got crushed in the pool today."
"We know you want to be surprised. Sadly, we possess less than half the shits necessary to make that happen."
Then there was the NBC affiliate that warned viewers to mute their TVs if they didn't want to be exposed to any spoilers ... and then showed them this:
The Daily Show
"Oh, and if you don't want to see this, look away. Probably should have mentioned that before we told you to mute it."
But the worst example involves 17-year-old Missy Franklin, who went on to win four gold medals in her Olympic debut. Let's say you spend the entire day locked away in a cabin in the middle of the woods with no Internet connection and no phone, just to make sure you avoid all spoilers -- you go through the entire day, then you turn on the TV to watch Missy compete in the women's 100-meter backstroke event. You tune in just in time to catch the presenter announcing that the race is coming up after some ads ...
"Normally I'd fast-forward the commercials, but something tells me I should watch these."
... and the first ad starts with the words "When you're 17 years old and win your first gold medal ..."
"And now we take you to Missy's race, where she came in first and won the first place gold medal!"
Yep, NBC decided to air a Today Show promo featuring Missy's victory right before the competition she went on to win, giving away the ending to one of the most dramatic personal stories the Olympics had to offer. But hey, at least they didn't replace the entire event with Ryan Seacrest's face (that's reserved for more trivial stuff, like tributes to victims of terrorism).
#3. Amazon.com Spoils The Hunger Games in a Billboard Ad
Promoting the last book in a trilogy can be a tricky thing, because you're supposed to build up excitement for existing fans while not spoiling the previous books for everyone else. The moment you announce that the sequel even exists, you're already telling fans that (for instance) the main character didn't die in the last one. But otherwise, you have to keep things vague, because part of the point of doing a sequel is making people go back and buy the original.
"I really wanted to bring the culmination of my artistic vision to life. Also, money."
And then you have what Amazon.com did with the Hunger Games series.
After the massive worldwide success of the first Hunger Games movie, Amazon decided to use Mockingjay (the final installment of the trilogy) as part of their advertisement for their new Kindle e-book reader: They plastered some billboards in Washington, D.C., with the first page of the book, shown within the screen of their big calculator-looking gadget. The problem? That page happens to give away the ending of the previous book, and the shocking twist ending of the upcoming movie, Catching Fire. Here it is:
Thanks to the E Ink display, spoilering has never been so energy-efficient!
For those of you not well-versed in YA literature, Catching Fire ends when the series' protagonist, Katniss, learns that her home "town," District 12, has been bombed to shit, partly because of her actions -- that's the ending twist, the "Luke, I am your father" of the book. Had anyone at Amazon bothered to so much as glance at the page they were about to use in their ads, they probably could have guessed that it was something important. This was either a deliberate ploy to get attention, or an act of supreme laziness.
"There's a lot of books back there ... are we supposed to read all of them before we plaster it on a billboard?"
While Catching Fire was originally published in late 2009 (meaning that fans had three years to catch up on the story), keep in mind that those fans multiplied many times over when the movie based on the first book came out in March of 2012, which was only about a month before this ad went up. Those who decided to watch the movies before reading the books (or just stick to the movies) knew they had to be on the lookout for spoilers, but they probably didn't know this involved "not looking out the window."