When Should TV & Movie Spoilers 'Expire?'

This is a spoiler free article!

Over the last month, it's come to my attention that my idea and Screen Rant's readers' idea of a spoiler may differ by just a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot of bit!

In my mind, what I wrote were not spoilers because to me and most of the world, it was old news. Yet to others, it was a no-no beyond all disrepair and I've been shunned by some who think I was callous in my reporting.

My first reaction was "What ever. Go back in your cave and quit griping. It's your choice and hence, your own fault." To me, getting snapped at about being spoiled about something that has been in the mainstream news for weeks and even months is akin to a vegetarian going into a steak house and bitching about the menu... Or those who buy houses next to a major airport, then months later looking up and going, "Whoa! Where'd that come from?"

For some, you will probably charge right into the comments section and fillet me right here and now. Fine... have at. For those of you who stuck around, that was my sarcasm sequencer * going off and I can't help it! Trust me, I've never talked my way out of traffic tickets because of that personality flaw! "Do you know how fast you were going?" "Dude, I'm not filling in the blanks for you!"

*Anyone catch what that reference is to?

After my initial reaction to the spoiler thing, I started to ponder this issue because I've seen other sites where readers got their feathers ruffled about being spoiled. The incident I saw was a lot more blatant than mine, but nonetheless, I reflected.

This brought me to ponder the following:

  • What is a spoiler?
  • How long should the media warn people of spoilers?
  • Should the media even care?
  • Whose responsibility is it to not sow spoilers unto the mind?

What Is a Spoiler?

The first question is pretty easy. A spoiler is a piece of information that ruins someone's anticipation or surprise of a plot point or character/actor reveal before they are ready.

I get that and as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty easy to do.

A New Kind Of ViewerWith the advent of the digital age and time-shifted viewing, our busy lifestyles (or disgust at the deluge of advertising on TV) creates different reactions in folks.

Some may record a show, or search it out online to view later that week. Then there are others that can't stand the onslaught of advertising, and instead wait for the DVDs and watch an entire season on without interruption.

It's this new type of viewer that is creating a new kind of perspective on what a spoiler is. And much to my chagrin, this sort of viewer is easy to alienate if one is not careful.

Viewer CategoriesFrom what I see, mainly speaking, there are 3 distinct kinds of fans out there:

1. The spoiler-fan is the one who looks for the insights and behind-the-scenes info like movie spoilers. It's a "seller" to be able put this information up and it can generate a ton of traffic for the site that does. The spoiler fan wants to know something about a show before their friends do. They want to be able to talk about these things.

2. Then there's the non-spoiler fan. They want to be surprised by either the twists and turns of a plot, or who may show up and play a part.

3. Then there's the contradiction-fan. He's the fan who doesn't want to hear anything about upcoming episodes, but claims that they like preview snippets in the opening of an episode so there's a sense of anticipation of something to look forward to. [Crickets]

When Does The Media Label A Spoiler?

When does the media stamp a spoiler warning on an article? Different forms of media distribute a lot of different kinds of information that could be considered a spoiler every day and that's that. But when do you think a website should stop calling something a spoiler?

With movies, I can see it being a spoiler when unknown details are given up before you see it. Heck, just seeing the pictures from a soon to be released movie can be considered a spoiler because now we know that scene is coming up. But then, how long do we use the term spoiler when talking about a movie after it's opened? Do we wait until a few weeks until after its release? It would seem reasonable that after a film's second weekend, all bets are off.

With TV, I can respect someone needing a week or two to view a show. The standard time frame seems to be within a week of an episode for recorded programming. Does it seem unreasonable to not label something a spoiler after it's been released in the wild after a month or two?

Different Worlds

I recognize that we live in different paced worlds. I see, hear and am told things long before anyone else knows about them. I have a friend at FOX who mentions he's seen call lists for some movie that's only been rumored to be in the pipe, and another bud who sent me pics of Battlestar Galactica props that I COULD NOT PUBLISH (which I find to be cruel and unusual punishment). Heck, a couple of years ago I had the list of which "Survivor" was leaving the show, and in what week.

When do I use discretion? Should I keep it to myself that I know who Luke's father is? There are still folks out there who haven't seen this yet! Or should I keep it to myself that I know the Titanic sinks at the end of the movie? It's a judgment call on everyone's part!

The different worlds we live in became apparent when I had blurted out that ????? was the ???? ????? on ???! Or that ???? was going to play ????? on ????????? (NOPE, NOT GONNA BLURT IT OUT HERE!). To me, this was old news. All major outlets had reported the first one. On the second bit of info, the actor/actress put their news on their website. Heck, I even had these bits a few weeks prior with nary a snag! So my presumption was that everyone knew.

A very nice reader reminded me (thanks, Sherry) that not everyone goes to all the other sites, but just visit Screen Rant and a few select others, and don't necessarily see this info. Meanwhile other readers verbally scorned me for the error of my ways, stating they'll never take me seriously ever again. When someone goes all out on me, it makes me want to say "Bite me! I'm in the middle of a learning curve. Have some frakking patience."

Whose Responsibility Is It?

On whose shoulders does the onus lay? I think it's a team effort and there's a really big gray line running down the middle of the road we need to recognize. A two sided coin.

On the shiny side of the coin, writers need to be aware of certain bits that need to be handled as spoilers.

I also don't want to alienate our readers, if you are indeed trying to hide from spoilers. I know you come here because we are a great avenue of information and opinion. I feel you also want to be able to trust us if we're not going to blurt out that Old Yeller dies... oh crap... sorry.


This is where teamwork between you and the writers will come in handy. A GENTLE, POLITE reminder would be appreciated, because (for the most part) we are human. Sometimes our snarky attitude might shine through when we're roughed up, but we mean well. Don't worry - I'm getting help for that part of my personality... NOT! That's my fun side. I can't help myself and I blame society!

On the dark side of this coin are time limits. How long before we stop labeling things as spoilers? I'm not going to label my post about E.T. getting home as a DVD spoiler. And I'm not going to worry about telling you that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Actually, who is Batman these days?

For Some, Get Real!

It does irk me that there are those who choose to not view a show in real time, or in a responsible time-shifted fashion because, believe it or not, they also ruin it for others.

I'm part of a film club that meets on Fridays and we can't chat about anything relevant or the hottest issues because we have a few folk that come to the get-togethers and say "Whoa, don't talk about that! I haven't seen the entire season yet!"

Great, we get to lumber into film club and sit in zombie-like fashion and talk about the weather because we can't spoil it for a few folk who choose to live in a cave! (I'm about to find out who, from my film club, reads Screen Rant !)

Time to Chime In

Finally... I'm done ranting. There you have it. I asked my film club members for their take on the idea of spoilers. I discovered that we have some smart asses in the club because I got a rather large number of links to Wikipedia. DON'T DO THAT!!! For them, I suggested some Sarcasma pills!

The club, as a whole, was of the same opinion and I'd like your take on the issue. I want to do a non-scientific statistical sampling here and extrapolate the numbers into a result for a later update. Hmmm... I just tossed out some terms from my day job. dOh! Didn't mean to do that!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for chiming in!

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