Question for Today: Spoilers


BooksI love to read, and to watch television and movies. Because I'm busy, and because I often don't see movies in the theater due to problems with loud noises and crowds, I am often “spoiled” – that is, someone tells me the ending of a book or movie, or a vital plot point, before I've read or watched it. And, of course, I add to that problem myself sometimes by researching a book or movie before I read or watch it. (Minor spoilers in body of post). 

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, Day of the Doctor, just happened, and the general consensus among Whovians was that it was wonderful. It also contained many spoilers about the lore of the Doctor. When I posted on my Facebook that I loved the episode, it wasn't long before a commenter on my thread revealed a plot point that might be better seen in the movie than in a comment thread.

I am pretty easy going for the most part about being “spoiled”, but there are some plots that clearly turn on surprise. A certain movie from the 1990s revealed that a main character was a ghost in the last few minutes. Many books, especially books in series, have multiple twists and plot developments that might upset those who have not read them if they find out ahead of time (George RR Martin and Mira Grant, I'm looking at you!).

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Red Wedding, for example, was something that readers of Game of Thrones knew about ahead of time, and people who only watched the series didn't see coming. How did knowing or not knowing about it beforehand affect the experience of watching the show?

So here's the question (or, rather, questions, as I find a bunch of questions gets things more interesting): When is okay to reveal spoilers? At what point does the ending of a story stop being a secret and start being part of the lore that 'everybody knows'? Do you enjoy reading books or watching movies for second and third times that, if you'd known the ending the first time, you might not have finished?

Are there some types of books and television shows or movies for which “spoilers” are more maddening, and others for which they are less so? Have you ever “spoiled” a book or movie for someone else deliberately? If so, why? Do you ever read ahead, or fast forward, or Google something in order to find out the ending before you finish? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Please feel free to answer questions in the comments, and add your own. Now, off to write “the novel”, or possibly “the awesome non-fiction book for therapists”. In any case, see you all soon.

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About odanu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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  • Ryk Spoor

    Spoilers vary in context, as you note. There are some things I think are clearly beyond spoilers in terms of worrying about them; really, if you don't know that Darth Vader is Luke's Father or that Rosebud is the name of Citizen Kane's sled, hey, you really can't expect people to not spoiler you on things that are decades old.

    My general rule of thumb is that for a widely- known property you should wait a year before spoilering; that's long enough for anyone with real interest to have seen the thing in question. For spoilers that *SERIOUSLY* ruin the experience for a first-timer, it's nice to try to avoid mentioning them at all unless you verify your audience all either knows, or doesn't care about spoilers for it.

  • https://www.facebook.com/sashbyreay Suzanne Ashby-Reay

    Hope karma comes and gives them a papercut

  • https://www.facebook.com/katrina.dalrymple Katrina Dalrymple

    Thankfully, knowing the ending doesn't spoil the story for me. I enjoy it just as much as if I didn't know.

  • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.golightly Bruce Golightly

    This may qualify as justifiable homicide. Although, like Katrina Dalrymple, it may not spoil things too much. Generally I read as much or more for the nuances of the story as the plot.

  • Andreas Schaefer

    Some endings are obvious. Talking about them can't seriously spoil the fun.

    Frodo will destroy the ring.
    Aragorn will be King
    Harry Potter will win in the end. ( the question there is who else will still be alive by then )
    Eragon will overcome the evil dragonlord.
    Green Lantern will win
    Bruce Waine will become Batman
    the Joker will NOT destroy ALL of Gotham.
    Odysseus will get back to Ithaca. ( we might not find him having a long happy life AFTER that )

    Neither can endings in 'histories' be too much different from actual History.

    A movie or book about Henry viii will have the right number of wives.
    Elisabeth I will nor marry.
    Caesar will die on the Ides of March.
    Unless we are talking about alternate history.
    ( imagine Karl Marx instead of picking up Socialism , communism and working class going to America and becoming a priest - he might have founded the Curck of Christ the carpenter and propmoted rights for people from that end. )

    There is a claim that the number of basic plots is limited. ( some say 8 ), if that is so some of the outcomes of any given story can be predicted. The fun then is in the telling and what unexpected sideeffects might result from a small variation.

    I have not intentionally used spoilers to spoil someones fun . I can't remember my fun ever having been spoiled either.

    I do remember that occasionally the existence of a movie spoils the fun of the book somewhat - the contrast between my the image my immagination drew up of Harry Potter or Gimli or Legolas or Frodo or Gulliver or Inigo Montoya or William of Baskerville and the face of the actor who played him may jar. For some values of that difference I am annoyed at the movies. They destroyed ma cocreation of the character. ( and if it was limited to that I can get why Islam forbids images )

    On the other hand some characters have been made by actors. Rick Blaine can't be anything but Humphrey Bogart, Ninotchka must be Garbo,

    • http://amnottheonlyone.com/ Maureen O’Danu

      For me, an ending of a movie that is *different* from the book can be jarring. The largest objection to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Ring trilogy that I agree with is that he should have ended with the scouring of the Shire -- but sharing spoilers deliberately to keep someone from enjoying a book or movie is just mean.

  • https://www.facebook.com/lolleeroberts Linda Roberts

    Kill them and hide the body. Luckily this doesn't happen very often.

  • https://www.facebook.com/j3nny3lf Jenn Elfi Thomas

    I PREFER spoilers, but I don't thrust them onto those who don't. What drives me nuts are people who WON'T tell me!

  • https://www.facebook.com/christopher.jahn Christopher Jahn

    It depends. Often, it doesn't matter, I'm enjoying a well-told tale. But when it does matter, well, let's just say that people have many frailties they'd rather were not exploited.