What Constitutes a “Spoiler”?

As I’ve mentioned here and on Facebook — I don’t mind spoilers.  In fact they add to my enjoyment of a movie or book because it enables to examine the structure and pacing as the writer moves toward the climax.  In fact there was a study that indicated spoilers actually added to people’s enjoyment.  You can read about the research here in an article in Wired magazine — Spoilers Don’t Spoil Anything.

I also think there is a point where accusing a person of spoilers is absurd and unfair.  The Harry Potter books have been out for years and there have been movies.  If someone doesn’t know that Dumbledore dies they have been living in a closet or under a rock.  In the case of GONE GIRL the novel was published in the summer of 2012.  It was a New York Times best seller.  The details of the book have been available for two years  and millions of people have read the book.

The situation is obviously different if the book has just been published or a movie that has an original screenplay has just been released.  In those cases you stay silent for some period of time so that others can get caught up.  The question is what is an appropriate time period that has to pass before you can discuss a book or a film?  A month?  Six months?  I think by the time a year has elapsed it’s open season on discussing a literary or cinematic work.

It’s also very difficult in this age of instant communication to avoid hearing about a piece of popular culture, and the more popular the event the more conversation it will generate.  Bottom line, I think everybody ought to take a deep breath, read the article and stop Spoiler Shaming their friends and relatives.

2 Responses to What Constitutes a “Spoiler”?

  • wolflahti says:

    It’s hard to disagree with you more on this topic. *You* may not mind spoilers, but I greatly prefer to experience a book, movie, or television show in the manner the author intended, revealed step by step. People who expose key elements of a storyline without warning are either inept or sadistic. They call them spoilers for a reason—they spoil the experience. I can’t imagine how badly Citizen Kane, Casbalanca, or The Sixth Sense—to give just three examples—would have been ruined for me had someone told me the endings ahead of time.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      But when has sufficient time elapsed that people don’t get attacked for inadvertently letting something slip in a conversation? If forever then you can never have a conversation about a book or a movie for fear you will “spoil” it for someone. The only movie I’d agree with you on is The Sixth Sense, and people did keep the secret for a number of weeks, but now — it would be silly to accuse someone of spoilers. And I can think of one other film that had a really big twist — The Crying Game.

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