Darth Vader is Luke’s Father.
Oops. I ruined it. Should I have said “SPOILER ALERT“? Did revealing the worst kept secret in cinematic history (along with the fact that “Rosebud” is the sled and “Soylent Greens” are people) need a warning label?
Spoilers. When is it ok to write them? When do you have to warn people about them? And when can we say enough is enough and stop tiptoeing around things we really want to discuss? With the development of the internet and social media it has become harder and harder to avoid unwanted information, and yet with the development of PVRs and Netflix it becomes increasingly desirable to remain “unspoiled”. I think we, as a fangirl community, need to lay out some ground rules for spoilers. I’ll go first and you can tell me what you think…
* A note about when “You can discuss it without being a jerk”: Be kind to one another. If someone explicitly tells you they don’t want to hear any spoilers about any subject you are automatically a jerk for telling them, no matter if it is past the time limit or not. For example, if Justine is only halfway through Book 3 of Game of Thrones I’m not going to tell her what happens in Book 4, even though it’s been out for years.
Reality TV is a special case. It can’t just be lumped in with regular television. Winners, losers and catfights get so widely talked about that it is hard to avoid spoilers. And that’s the point! Reality TV is meant to be discussed immediately, before something that people actually care about happens and steals all focus.
- You can write about it without Spoilers: Never… talking about Reality TV without direct examples is boring.
- You can write about it with Spoiler Warnings: Unneeded. (See Below)
- You can write about it with Spoilers: Immediately. It’s happened. It’s out there. In reality. If someone isn’t caught up it’s their own fault. I am not going to start every Tuesday Walk of Shame post warning you that I will have spoilers from the night before. It’s implied.
- You can discuss it without being a jerk: The Next Day. Reality TV is meant to be the next day’s ‘water-cooler topic.’
TV is much trickier than it used to be. Before you watched a show when it aired or you were SOL. Now people PVR it to watch on the weekend. Or they wait until an entire season (or series) appears on Netflix; it is the age of binge-watching. But we can’t pause our lives for the stragglers. I just started an old-to-TV but new-to-Netflix series and, although I am currently spoiler-free, I would not fault any person or website that casually mentioned what happened in the series finale. I’m years behind. If I don’t want to know I shouldn’t be searching for/asking about it.
- You can write about it without Spoilers: Any Time. But I think those would be more general posts… not ones to celebrate especially juicy episodes.
- You can write about it with Spoiler Warnings: Immediately. Get discussing so others who also watched it on time can weigh in!
- You can write about it with Spoilers: 3 weeks or When the Next Episode Airs (whichever comes first). If it’s a general midseason episode, once the next episode has aired the last one is old news. In the case of season finales, give people a grace period to catch up.
- You can discuss it without being a jerk: 3 weeks or When the Next Episode Airs (whichever comes first). Ditto to Above.
Movies are sacred when they first come out… but as soon as they leave the theater they are fair game. No one who really wants to see something waits until it’s “on video”.
- You can write about it without Spoilers: Any Time. Before, After, During… any time you are inspired.
- You can write about it with Spoiler Warnings: The Monday after it comes out. By this point the die-hards have seen it and want to fangirl.
- You can write about it with Spoilers: 1 month. By this point it is ending its theater run. If someone really wanted to see it unspoiled they’d have seen it by now.
- You can discuss it without being a jerk: 3 weeks. Someone will let you know right away if they haven’t had a chance to see it yet. Otherwise you can assume people have either viewed it or are not going to.
Books take much more time than a TV episode or even a lengthy movie. They take attention and dedication. Because of this I consider spoiling a book the greatest Spoiler Offence. That being said we can’t be silent forever. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say HARRY POTTER SPOILER ALERT before stating that Snape kills Dumbledore… and yet my own sister (much to my disgrace) only started reading Harry Potter for the first time in 2014. But like I said before, we can’t let those who won’t listen to our heartfelt & totally awesome recommendations hold us back.
- You can write about it without Spoilers: Of course this is always fair game.
- You can write about it with Spoiler Warnings: 1 week. Give people time to read the book.
- You can write about it with Spoilers: 6 months. Keep your initial reviews spoiler free, then add a warning, then (after 6 month and having consumed the literature yourself) you can freely comment on the plot.
- You can discuss it without being a jerk: 6 months. Reading takes time; we all have individual reading paces and different demands on our time. Unless you know you are talking to a fellow bibliophile who has also already finished the book avoid letting the secrets out too soon.
But what about the special cases? Because there are exceptions to every rule. I have 3 case studies to help you develop the problem solving skills needed to work out what dates to use for any situation that should arise!
Case Study 1: The Hobbit
The Hobbit is an odd situation. We are MAYBE AT the point where this particular story is no longer an issue but it represents a category that is very popular right now: movies based on books. Does the storyline really need to stay the same level of ‘unspoiled’ when we are long past the grace period of the books? I mean, The Hobbit novel came out 76 years before the first film of the movie trilogy. It’s pretty easy to figure out what happens. “But the story is being exposed to a whole new generation,” you argue. Ok, that is true. Many people who are seeing the movie only know about Middle Earth through the Lord of the Rings movies and not the original novels. So we don’t ruin the ending for them. Movie rules apply. But what if the story is not new to today’s movie-goers? The Hunger Games books are currently popular. “But not everyone reads,” you say in defense of the general public. Good point reader.
My Recommendation: even if it is based on a book (new or old) Movie rules apply to Movies.
Case Study 2: Reign
If I thought the plot of The Hobbit was questionable in its availability then the TV show Reign has to be considered already spoiled. Of course there are plenty of plot points that are unique to the show (such as Sebastian, who did not exist in real life. Seriously, there is no mention of Bash the Bastard Son in history books). Those should follow the rules of Television Spoilers. But what of the major plot points that can be discovered by a quick glance at a history book (or Mary Queen of Scots’ Wikipedia page)? Was I shocked when, in Season 1, Mary chose to marry Francis instead of Sebastian? Of course not! (A) It was predictable… this is a CW show. (B) Mary & Francis are meant to be. And (C) Mary Stuart of Scotland & Francis II of France were married on April 24, 1558. History tells us so. So I could take a pretty good guess at what will happen at the end of this season… or the next… or whenever it comes to pass that the TV writers choose to play true to history. And why shouldn’t I lay it out here on this blog??? I guess because, unlike me, you do not necessarily care about European History, apart from how they portray it on television.
My Recommendation: TV rules apply to TV, no matter how much of a history nerd you are. (Same goes for Movies or Books based on history)
Case Study 3: Game of Thrones
And then there are some things that are sacred. I think as a general rule television shows based on books would be evaluated like book-based movies: Not everyone reads so even if it is based on a book (new or old) TV rules apply to TV. But Game of Thrones is a special case. Game of Thrones is so very special. I believe it exists in the world of unspoiled media. I don’t care if the first book came out 20 years ago and that the corresponding season of the show aired in 2011, I still don’t think it’s ok to mention the tragic death that epitomized the opening story (and sets the tone for all future content) without a Spoiler Alert. We can talk about the Red Wedding all we want, but I won’t actually state whose wedding it was or why it was so memorable. Sure we slip up here and there because, for some of us, it has been so long since we first made an important discovery… but for the most part let’s not ruin it for future generations of readers/viewers. Love no one because no one is safe…Valar Morghulis: All Men Must Die… and lets leave it at that.
My Recommendation: Some things are sacred. Game of Thrones is one of them. Add others in the comments below!