Spoiler Alert – Talking about Game of Thrones Without Being A Jerk

Homer the Spoiler

Come this wintery Australian Monday, torrent sites will go into meltdown, and a few valiant souls will try to make Foxtel Play work, as the final episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season drops. As the NBN lurches along like a one-legged White Walker, trying to keep up with the demand, the only thing moving quickly are the spoilers. Faster than a Dornish spear, harder to avoid than the Faceless Men, the spoilers are coming, and episode 10 is bound to be full of them.

We’re better with spoilers than we used to be. In the early days of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ run in theatres, people of the internet banded together to keep people from being spoiled. Even now, months later, the rare Force Awakens spoilers are sly and a little bit cheeky rather than the all-out I Am Your Father reveals of days gone by. 

The problem is, we’ve confused those same sly, cheeky jokes for subtlety. And maybe in isolation, they could be subtle, but nothing on the internet happens in a vacuum. Imagine you’ve just watched episode 5, and you share a Hold The Door meme that makes you chuckle. That won't mean anything to anyone who hasn’t seen it, you tell yourself, so it’s fiiiiiiiiine. SMASH CUT to the Facebook feed of someone who hasn’t seen it…

By themselves, sly jokes like these might not give anything away, or make much sense to the uninitiated. After a few memes, jokes and vaguebook status updates (“OMG Jon Snow NOOOOOOO”), though, you don’t need to be The World’s Greatest Detective to figure out what’s going on, and suddenly the next episode doesn’t have that same excitement about it. When your Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, Snapchat stories and, inexplicably, a ticket on a speaker at JB HiFi, are overflowing with in-jokes, references and outright spoilers, it can be a huge task to dodge them all. Self-preservation is hard work in the age of social media. 

Think of it like a backwards game of Cluedo: while you’re trying not to figure out who got killed, your friends are talking about the murder. One says something about Colonel Mustard, someone else mentions a candlestick, and, before you know it, you’ve figured out the whole story. The more details going around, the more likely your game night will end prematurely. 

But part of the fun of watching Game of Thrones (or Sherlock, or Mad Men, or basically any serialised drama) is talking about it with friends: guessing what the Lannisters will do next; speculating about Jon Snow’s mother; wondering whether the Night King’s horns ever melt and need to be re-done by some sort of ice-zombie hairdresser. So how do you talk about it without ruining it for your friends?

Save it for appropriate spaces

As tempting as it might be to share that no-doubt hilarious meme with Ser Davos looking confused, share it somewhere you can be certain that everyone has seen the episode it’s referencing. Private  Facebook groups set up specifically for Game of Thrones are a safe-haven for day-and-date viewers, though they still aren’t the Wild West: you’ll find yourself booted faster than you can say “Melisandre did WHAT??” if you post spoilers too soon. And if you feel the need to tweet about it (especially a live-tweet), FOR THE LOVE OF THE OLD GODS AND THE NEW, use a hashtag.

A quick look at iTunes will yield more GoT spoiler podcasts than there are Dothraki horsemen with terrible wigs, and most stink just as bad. Shows like A Cast of Kings, featuring hosts from the /Filmcast and Vanity Fair, or the Nerdette recaps, will help to scratch that spoilery itch, even if it’s a bit more one-sided.

And remember, in the era of social media, there are still options for spoilerific discussions that aren't on the internet. Your workplace may not have an actual water-cooler, but there’s bound to be a place to talk over the latest episode with your co-workers. Find a quiet spot, though, or you might accidentally drop an IRL spoiler, and you don’t want to piss off Roz in Accounts Payable again. 

Nothing stays secret forever, though. As considerate as you’ve been, dear reader, no Wall can keep the memes at bay forever. So, when in doubt…

Don’t be a jerk

Before you hit share on that hilarious Littlefinger meme, give everyone else a chance to catch up. Most people, if they’re able to, will watch the new episode within the first few days. Some prefer to wait until they can watch the series in full, while some are entire series behind. No one expects you to wait forever, but give it at least a few days before you post that joke about how Hodor only says “Hodor”.

Take into account the size of the spoiler you’re talking about, too. If, in the last episode, Daenerys announced that she wanted to be known as ‘Dani’ for short, share that meme; so long as it’s not significant to the plot, you’re not going to ruin anyone’s viewing by posting a picture of Dannii Minogue riding a dragon. If, on the other hand, Drogon flies into the Red Keep, eats the King whole and puts the thorny crown on his scaly head, a clumsily Photoshopped dragon sitting on the Iron Throne is a share too far. 

It may be six seasons old now, but we still tiptoe around the fate of Ned Stark out of consideration for those who haven’t seen it yet, because we are, ultimately, considerate. We want everyone to enjoy the show that we love so much, and that’s more important than any Dirtbag Ramsay meme ever could be.

This piece was originally published by SBS’s The Feed

Super serious superheroes that aren't for 10-year-old boys at all

In a piece for the Guardian this week, Rhymer Rigby implored us to put away childish things, and skip seeing Grim Costumed Punchathon 6 in favour of more literary fare. As Rigby says, Batman and Superman were created for ten year old boys in the 1930s, so no one could possibly enjoy them today.

But superheroes are big business, with Batman Vs Superman taking over $500m, and a further 64 comic book movies due in cinemas in the next six years. The studios won’t want to part with their money-printing machines easily, so we’ve put together a few ideas for more sophisticated superheroes that’ll bring maturity and depth back to the box office faster than you can say “franchise potential”.

View the full article on the The Feed’s website

'Carrie & Lowell' by Sufjan Stevens

Carrie & Lowell

This piece originally appeared on fasterlouder.com.au

Sad songs are Sufjan Stevens’ stock in trade. Like Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, Sufjan overlays loss and intimacy to find something more profound in both, so it seems natural that he’d work through the complicated feelings about his mother’s death on record. Carrie & Lowell’s quiet intensity is something altogether different from older tear-jerkers like ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’, though, marking an album no less challenging than the polarising Age of Adz.

Sufjan’s relationship with his mother is critical to Carrie & Lowell. Carrie left her family when Sufjan was 1, feeling unable to raise him and his siblings. A few years later, when Sufjan was 5, Carrie married Lowell Brams, and Sufjan went to live with them in Oregon. Carrie struggled all her life with depression, addiction and mental illness, though, and her marriage to Lowell ended just a few years later. After that, Carrie and Sufjan had only sporadic contact up until her death in 2012 from stomach cancer.

It’s obvious from the beginning that Sufjan is mourning his mother’s death and the lost possibility of their relationship in the same breath. Unlike the Notebook-sweetness of, say, ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’, he’s still struggling to process his very complex feelings. That irresolute headspace is a confusing and desperate place, and makes Carrie & Lowell a powerful, confronting album. In some ways, it feels too intimate, like you’re eavesdropping on an appointment with his psychiatrist. Looking for comfort in a turbulent time, Sufjan calls on his faith (begging Jesus to “bear near, come shield me” on ‘John My Beloved’), which has been a constant reference point through his career. In contrast, when he sings, “fuck me I’m falling apart” on ‘No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross’, it comes out of that same need for closeness, for security, but the directness with which he writes is striking from a songwriter more known for sensitivity than sexuality. That raw vulnerability is Carrie & Lowell in miniature, and it makes for uneasy listening.

Musically, Carrie & Lowell feels more familiar. The electronic frenzies and harsh processing of Adz have faded, replaced by delicate fingerpicking and soft coos that hark back to Seven Swans or Michigan. Though the tones are more like the Sufjan of old, he’s shed much of the warmth of those older albums, the guitars and banjos feeling brittle instead. It’s a sparse record, without much in the way of melody or deftly layered percussion to smooth things out. 

You won’t walk away humming the tunes, but Carrie & Lowell will stay with you. Sufjan has prettier albums, and sweeter albums, but none has the impact of Carrie & Lowell, though maybe that’s for the best. It’s not an everyday listen; it’s far too discomfiting to be the background to a train trip, or even in a film score. It is, however, a beautiful and sincere meditation on loss, grief and human connection, and sometimes that is exactly what you need.