Given the volatile outcry that accompanied the cliffhanger ending of The Walking Dead’s season six finale, it’s safe to say that the feelings of a sizable percentage of the show’s online fan base about AMC and the show’s top creators have been lukewarm at best. So it came as no surprise that when AMC decided to issue a cease and desist letter to The Spoiling Dead Fans, the show’s largest online spoiler site, rage almost instantaneously erupted. Fan outcry that AMC would want to shut down a site that has consistently and accurately spoiled key narrative developments is significant in what it suggests about fandom, ownership, and the way middle America consumes horror.
Before we discuss any of those things, though, let me be crystal clear. While I believe that AMC was within its rights to issue the cease and desist, I in no way excuse or support the harassment detailed by The Spoiling Dead Fans. If the abuse detailed in their post on that matter, which you should read here, is factually accurate, and I have no reason to believe that it is not, then AMC’s actions are a clear abuse of power and should be dealt with accordingly.
It’s also important that we define what actually constitutes a spoiler. A spoiler is not the same thing as conjecture. There is absolutely nothing stopping people from debating who is at the wrong end of Negan’s bat. Rather, the issue at hand, and the reason for AMC’s lawsuit, concerns confirmed intel that is derived either from copyright protected materials such as scripts or from revelations by people who have signed non-disclosure agreements. Given that The Spoiling Dead Fans has provided detailed episode synopses prior to episodes airing, it is more than likely that they have access to materials and/or credible accounts and that the knowledge they are sharing is no longer conjecture because it has been confirmed by a source.
With those caveats in mind, I think it is worthwhile to consider more broadly how spoilers ruin the horror experience. The Walking Dead is a curious pop culture juggernaut in that its pedigree is unabashedly horror while many of its viewers are not fans of the genre. And it may be this disconnect that is fueling a great deal of the Internet rage being hurled at AMC for deigning to protect its investment.