It all started one day when I took some criticism for a bit of Doctor Who trivia I wrote about at my day job. I figured since the episode in question was over three years old, any fans of Doctor Who would clearly have already seen it. I was wrong and since hid the paragraph between spoiler tags with a warning for those who hadn’t finished watching Tennant’s run as the Doctor.
This made me wonder…
What *Is* A Spoiler, Anyway?
We can all agree on the broad definition that a spoiler is something that gives away a large plot point. In a sense, a spoiler “spoils” the fun/surprise/fright/etc of reacting to the thing in real time. To use the iconic example: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. I’m sure that to the audiences watching the movie when it was first in theaters, Vader’s line: “I am your father” was probably met with gasps of shock. (I was a baby when Empire came out, so I don’t have any first hand knowledge!)
Heck, in the case of George R.R. Martin, just knowing someone is ALIVE in the next book of A Song of Ice & Fire is a spoiler. (FYI, I’m halfway through book 2, so please be kind to me if you comment.)
But on the other hand, I’ve gotten flak for things that I don’t consider to be spoilers at all. In the first episode where the 11th Doctor appears, he eats fish fingers and custard. Someone told me that was a spoiler. I don’t see how it affects the plot or anything, but there you have it.
There are some that might argue that spoilers enhance your enjoyment of a book or movie. I’m torn. As a reader, I enjoy being surprised by something in a book that I didn’t see coming. But as a writer, knowing what’s coming allows me to see the breadcrumbs the author left for me to follow. I’ve re-read some books just for that reason; I knew there were signs that I had missed the first go-round.
Even though I knew how the Dresden Files novel Changes began and ended (both are huge spoilers), I still found the book to be an insanely good read.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Spoilers?
Of course, nobody’s suing anyone for spoiling that [REDACTED] is [REDACTED]‘s father, that [REDACTED] is really a [REDACTED], or that [REDACTED] kills [REDACTED]. But people sure will skewer you with their eye lasers. And pointed words. Remember the craziness that went down when the spoiler about Dumbledore’s fate got out in the world before folks had finished their new Harry Potter book?
But my question was… at what point is it okay to tweet that Snape killed Dumbledore? Or what happens to Rose at the end of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor? Or that Darth Vader is Luke’s father?
So I asked you all a while back, and here’s what you said:
I found the near even distribution pretty interesting. The smallest contingent are what I call the Early Adopter Assholes, aka the folks who figure you ought to steer clear of the internet until you’ve caught up to the rest of the world. I’d venture to guess that these folks are blessed with a schedule that allows them to prioritize their pop culture consumption. It must be a nice life, but not all of us can manage it, at least not with all of our fandoms.
In the middle are folks who believe you can discuss spoilers openly anywhere from a week later to several years later.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who will only discuss things privately with people who are on their same viewing schedule. The Super Respectful group. I admire these folks, but I think this one is a bit hard to maintain if you are living the fast and exciting Internet Lifestyle that many of us do.
How About You?
Where do you fit in on the spoilers pie chart?
Did you ever have something spoiled for you and it totally ruined your enjoyment of the book/movie/etc? Tell us about it (but hey, use some [REDACTED] to avoid passing your spoils on to another newbie).
Did you ever have something spoiled for you and it made the book/movie/etc more enjoyable? Tell us below (same rules apply!).