Iron Man 3 comes out today and I won’t be able to see it until Sunday. I feel like this is a perfect time to discuss spoiler etiquette.
According to Wikipedia:
A spoiler is an element of a disseminated summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot elements, which threaten to give away important details concerning the turn of events of a dramatic episode.
Telling someone that Darth Vader is Luke’s father is a spoiler.
Telling someone that Spock dies at the end of The Wrath of Khan is a spoiler.
Telling someone that Jesus comes back to life is a spoiler.
No one gets upset over those spoilers, though. We all know that they happened unless you live under a giant, non-nerdy rock or were born yesterday.
But what about spoilers for the new season of Doctor Who? What about spoilers for the most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series? What about spoilers for Iron Man 3?
We need some guidelines and etiquette for spoilers. Here they are.
Statute of Limitations
It’s difficult to place time limits on spoilers. While everyone agrees that if you don’t know that Vader is Luke’s father by now, that’s really your problem. The situation gets a little murkier today, though, especially with so many people watching shows once they’re on Netflix. I didn’t start watching Doctor Who until last year. I was seasons behind and didn’t know anything about Bad Wolf, The Master, Amy, Rory or River Song. In fact I just recently found out who River Song really is. But I was also two years behind on that information and couldn’t have gotten mad if someone had spoiled it. We should give most television shows a one-year statute of limitations, just in case someone is trying to catch up. Movies should get at least a three-month statute of limitations, especially for a blockbuster. If you don’t care enough to see Iron Man 3 in the theater, then you probably don’t care too much if it gets spoiled.
The simplest way to avoid spoiling something is to ask whether or not the people to whom you’re speaking have seen it. “Have you seen The Prestige? No. Then I won’t spoil it for you,” is way better than, “Don’t you think it’s crazy in The Prestige how there were always two Christian Bales?” Not only is it better and more considerate, but it could also keep from spoiling a friendship (if you haven’t seen The Prestige, I’m sorry, but it did come out seven years ago). Instead of just assuming that everyone sees movies on the opening weekend and keeps up with everything in pop culture, we just need to ask. By simply pausing before blurting out spoilers we can help preserve a friendship and the magic moment of learning about a spoiler at the correct moment.
Watch Where You Share
What if I had titled this post “Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, Makes Cameo in Iron Man 3?” I don’t know if Dr. Strange is in Iron Man 3; if he is, that is an amazing coincidence. The problem with sharing that as a headline, though, is it doesn’t give the reader the opportunity to look away. I appreciate when websites place their spoilers below the cut, then it’s up to me to decide if I want to see them. When we post spoilers on Twitter and Facebook for everyone to see, we’re not letting others choose the spoilers for themselves. Last year a friend (with whom I’ve addressed this issue) spoiled the Thanos reveal in The Avengers; he posted it on Facebook the same day the movie came out and spoiled that moment for me. Some people want spoilers and some people don’t; it’s not up to use to choose for them.
I hate spoilers and I do everything I can to avoid them. Spoilers take what should be a great moment in a movie, book or show and…well…spoil it. We shouldn’t take those moments away from others; we should do our best not to spoil. Really, we’re just following Philippians 2, which tells us to think of others before we think of ourselves. There are probably more God-honoring ways to think of others before we think of ourselves, but spoilers are a good place to start.
What is your spoiler etiquette?