Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not To Spoil…

Spoilers are everywhere, even in this article. Some people avoid spoilers at all cost, while some people actively seek them out and try to spoil things for as many people as possible. Even science says knowing a spoiler helps you enjoy a story more. But do spoilers have a time limit? After all, everyone knows Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father. What actually counts as a spoiler? In the age of the internet, is it actually possible to remain spoiler free?

Loose lips sink Starships

Captain America reminding people not to spread spoilers (Disney/Marvel- 2014)

Anticipation for the next big franchise instalment can be a double edged sword, on one hand, there’s always lots of attention and excitement, but on the other, everyone wants to know what happens. Leaked footage and photos are constantly making their way onto the internet, sometimes even because of the stars of the films themselves. The Russo Brothers put out letters to the fans before the release of their “Avengers” films, warning fans that “Thanos demands your silence” and urging them “Don’t spoil the Endgame” after leaked footage was uploaded online. Creators obviously want moviegoers to enjoy their work on the big screen as intended, not recorded on a phone with people getting up for the toilet halfway through.

As such, they often go to some extreme lengths to prevent potential leaks. Even Quentin Tarantino asked for a spoiler ban when his latest film “Once upon a time in Hollywood” premiered at Cannes ahead of its official release. Avengers: Endgame crew gave cast incomplete scripts containing only their scenes and filmed against green screens, so the cast could not give anything away. The new series of Star Wars films even stage out toy and merchandise releases, so as not to reveal any surprises. Game of Thrones famously claimed to film multiple endings to throw people off, after previous episodes were leaked, including the final episode.

Cursed with Knowledge

Kylo Ren hates spoilers (Disney/ Lucasfilm- 2015)

Despite all these leaks, it is possible to go spoiler free, although the internet does make it more difficult. Muting keywords, and avoiding certain websites are key, but that won’t stop someone posting a spoiler on the comments of something entirely unrelated. Obviously, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to avoid spoilers (“Empire Strikes Back” came out in 1980, almost 40 years ago), seeing the film or episode as soon as possible is ideal. The Russo brothers’ ban on spoilers lasted two weeks, although they admitted they would have liked it be longer stating “we can’t control the internet”.

Staying off the internet is the most effective way of avoiding spoilers, but even then you might not be safe, some trailers can give away important story beats in an effort to get people excited. Even actors can give away important plot points in interviews, making many interviews potentially unsafe for spoiler-phobes. Many reviews and previews can detail particular scenes even if they are not major plot points, so avoid those too.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Fan theories can seem crazy, but they do occasionally get some things right (FX, 2008)

With spoilers literally everywhere, and the extremes both creators and audiences go to avoid them, not to mention the consequences for those who do spoil things, some are beginning to wonder if it’s going too far. Even if isn’t going too far, who’s responsibility is it to keep audiences safe from spoilers? Filmmakers? The Audience? Critics? The trailers for “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” all but confirmed the death of a major character, but the director insisted it wasn’t a spoiler. Many people would likely argue that the death of a major character is indeed a spoiler, no matter where in the film it takes place. Fan theories can tread a fine line between outlandish and spoiler, with countless theories posted online, some closer than others.

Ultimately, unless one decides to live under a rock, it is almost impossible to go into something completely spoiler free. With behind the scenes information such as actors contracts regularly reported, and constant rumours and leaks, not to mention fan theories, audiences will never go in completely blind. How much this bothers someone is entirely up to them, after all, while knowing a twist might help the audience pick up on subtle clues and foreshadowing, you only get one chance to experience the twist the first time.

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