That title might not make a lot of sense, but it’s from Doctor Who. In Doctor Who, the Doctor keeps on crossing paths with River Song who is experiencing the Doctor’s life in a different order than the Doctor is, so she has a diary with information and she tries not to spoil what is coming in the future for him.
So besides the cute title, what am I getting at in an article about spoilers?
Part of me wants to try and define a set of rules for when something is still a spoiler or not. When has it been around long enough that it’s fair game and when should you talk in hushed tones about something.
This comes up with Avengers: Endgame coming out in a week basically and people, for good reason, not wanting to be spoiled on what happens. It also comes up right now because there have been massive spoilers posted on Twitter, including leaked footage at this point time, and it’s still just over a week away.
I’ve defined a little bit of what a spoiler is, but let’s nail down a definition.
A spoiler is an element of a disseminated summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot elements which threaten to give away important details. Typically, the details of the conclusion of the plot, including the climax and ending, are especially regarded as spoiler material. It can also be used to refer to any piece of information regarding any part of a given media that a potential consumer was not intended to know beforehand. Because enjoyment of fiction depends a great deal upon the suspense of revealing plot details through standard narrative progression, the prior revelation of how things will turn out can “spoil” the enjoyment that some consumers of the narrative would otherwise have experienced.
That’s a pretty long definition from Wikipedia there, but I think it covers it really well. To cut that down, it is spoiling anything related to the plot that is shared with the consumer of the plot by an outside point prior to the consumer getting to that point of the plot. Generally, I think that does spoil the anticipation for something knowing information about it head of time.
By that definition, technically any time someone is consuming that plot for the first time, no matter when the plot was created, you can spoil it for the person. However, in order for people to be able to converse and discuss the book, movie, show, audio drama, whatever it might be, you can’t worry indefinitely about spoiling the plot for people. I think that is where the tricky point in setting up rules around spoilers is, because, the joke of Bruce Willis seeing dead people in The Sixth Sense is actually a spoiler for me, but I don’t care, and probably a spoiler for some others, but because of how long ago that movie came out, that has to be fair game at some point in time to discuss.
Let’s talk about two upcoming/ongoing things and what sort of time frame they have on spoilers. The two things are Avengers: Endgame and then Game of Thrones. Both of these have a massive focus in the public eye, and because of that there will be spoilers but more so, there will be a ton of people wanting to talk about them. So how do you handle talking about things like that?
Firstly, I would always ask if everyone is caught up on Game of Thrones (or any sort of show) or has seen the movie before diving into the discussion. And this is talking about the immediate time frame. Especially close to when the episode or movie has come out, because some people aren’t able to see it immediately, even if they do really care about the story. And then respect that if people haven’t seen it or read it yet.
Next, I would set aside space and time when you can talk about it. You won’t be able to talk about it with everyone, but create a time, with people who have seen it at a mainly private location to talk about it. There’s always the temptation to go out after watching a movie and grab drinks and talk about it, you will spoil something for someone one. It is important to discuss and talk about pieces of media, but be considerate of where you do that, even if everyone in your group is up for talking about it, those around you might not be, and in that short time frame, it’s very possible that you will spoil something for someone else.
This one is especially true in movie theaters. I haven’t had it happen, but I have heard of it happening. Someone coming in for the next showing has the end of the movie spoiled by someone leaving. Wait until you are in your car before talking about it. If you can’t contain your excitement with the movie, talk about it generally. “That was amazing.” or “That was underwhelming” are fine, but saying that Captain America kissed Wonder Woman as they flew the Millennium Falcon into at the Reaver ship and just escaped the explosion by hopping into the TARDIS and going to Vulcan, just a bit too detailed. However, if I heard someone saying that when leaving Avengers: Endgame, that would be hilarious.
Finally, do give it some time before talking about it freely. Something like Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, I would say when the DVD/Blu-Ray’s come out for each of them respectively, then they are fair game to talk about. At that point in time, someone who couldn’t make it to the theater, for whatever reason, is going to have more options to watch it and less excuses for having not watched it. Even then, I would still be respectful and keep an eye out for people who might not have seen it yet, because there are plenty of reasons why someone might not have seen a movie yet.
What I didn’t talk about in here was social media and online. How do you deal with spoilers then? For social media, I’d say it’s simple, don’t post spoilers publicly for the movie/show until it’s after the DVD/Blu-Ray is out. There isn’t a good way to really tag them as spoilers so that people can avoid them. On forums, I know one that I’m on will have two threads. One for general thoughts on the movie, and another for spoiler filled thoughts. I even, in my review of Avengers: Infinity War, did a non-spoiler and spoiler review, and I’ll be doing the same for Avengers: Endgame. And one important thing will be for me to remember to put enough header section at the top so that in article blurbs, spoilers aren’t shown.
So how do you deal with spoilers? Do you have any additional rules that I haven’t talked about? Do you think you should always ask before spoiling something no matter how long ago it was?
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