- Information about the plot of a movie, TV show, book, video game, or any other form of media that ruins the viewer/reader/gamer’s enjoyment of the media in question.
- The kind of person you don’t want to be.
Chances are, we’ve all been spoiled at some point in our lives – and no, it’s not the kind of spoiled that happens when your grandparents give you all the chocolate chip cookies you want. Perhaps someone once told you about how Harry Potter ends, or you know what happens in that particular episode of Sherlock, or maybe you know Sheik’s true identity despite having never played Ocarina of Time. Sometimes, spoilers are okay – you probably don’t care about how Harry Potter ends if you don’t plan on ever reading or watching it – but other times, they ruin things we would’ve otherwise enjoyed.
But that begs the question, what makes a spoiler spoil-y? When is it okay to discuss potential spoilers in public? How do I avoid them?
There isn’t a one-size-fits all formula for every single creative media ever made, but I have put together a few of my personal guidelines to give everyone a safe and spoiler-free existence (hopefully).
Because I need examples, there will be a few common spoilers mentioned below, but I’ll be blocking them out in white text and brackets [like this], so if you want to see them, highlight it with your cursor.
For the Potential Spoilee
Typically, spoilers are blamed on the people who spoil them, but there are a few precautions you can take if you’re worried about being spoiled.
1) Don’t read things tagged with spoilers
Most mindful spoilers will warn you appropriately – e.g. “SPOILERS FOR [insert media here] BELOW.” If you see that, and you don’t want to be spoiled, do not continue. You might think you can scroll past the spoilers quickly, but chances are, you’re about to have that upcoming movie ruined for you. This also goes for things like video game walkthroughs, since they tend to have spoilers in them. Tread with caution.
2) Don’t search for fanart, fanfiction, or anything else until AFTER you’ve finished the thing
Let’s say your read The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. You love it. You decide you want a picture of Percy as your iPhone wallpaper. You google “Percy Jackson fanart.” You have made a terrible mistake – though seemingly innocuous, fanart and fanfiction can often reveal spoilers, so if that’s something that concerns you, wait until AFTER you’ve finished the series to look for wallpaper.
3) Block stuff
The “mute words/accounts” feature on Twitter is your best friend. If you don’t want to be spoiled for Infinity War, find key terms related to it and mute them (e.g. The Avengers, #infinitywar, Marvel, etc.) If you don’t use Twitter, there’s still hope! There are plenty of browser extensions that serve the same purpose, and they can be used all over the internet.
Just make wise decisions, everyone.
For the Careless Spoiler
If someone else gets spoiled, chances are, you’re the one to blame. Be considerate of your fellow fans and try to follow these guidelines.
There’s an important distinction between public and private conversations. A public conversation typically takes place on the internet (i.e. social media, blog posts, or a forum). Private conversations are one-on-one conversations.
1) Tag things with spoilers!
If there’s even a chance that you’re going to spoil something in a public forum, announce it. Make sure people know are aware that there will be spoilers, and please clarify what the spoilers are for! And finally, if you’re not sure whether it’s a spoiler or not, tag it anyway – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
SPOILERS FOR THE HUNGER GAMES BELOW
[Katniss wins the Hunger Games]
See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
2) NEVER spoil things in private conversations
If I’m talking to my roommate about Warcross by Marie Lu, and I know she hasn’t read it yet but intends to, I’m not going to tell her any details of the plot. Just don’t do it, readers. Don’t be that person.
There’s one exception to this rule, and that is that if you’ve been given explicit permission by your friend to spoil the thing, then you can. To use a similar example, say I’m telling my roommate about Baby Driver, and I ask her if it’s okay if I spoil something for her. If she says yes, then I’m free to spoil it.
Note for spoilees: If you’ve given permission, you can’t get mad at the person who spoiled it. They asked, and you said it was okay. You brought this on yourself.
3) If it’s common knowledge, you can (usually) talk freely about it in public
An example of common knowledge would be (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith spoilers) [Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father]. Most people, even those who haven’t seen Star Wars probably know this, so in general, it’s okay to discuss it online (I’m just treading carefully for the purposes of this blog post). Again, if it’s a private conversation, DON’T DO IT.
What makes it common knowledge? It really depends on how long the media has been publicly available and how popular it is, so there can’t be a set rule. However, there is the Game Show Guideline (which I just made up) – if it’s going to be a question on a trivia gameshow (or Trivial Pursuit), then it’s probably common knowledge.
4) Content/Information in trailers, previews, or synopses are generally okay
This is a spot where you want to be especially careful, however, because there are some people (myself included) who don’t typically watch movie trailers. When the first Infinity War trailers were released, I refused to watch them because I was already planning on seeing the movie, and I wanted to be completely surprised.
Basically, this is a good guideline for public conversation, but be extra careful in private conversations.
5) Wait before publicly spoiling things
The “time horizon” for spoilers also varies depending on the media, so you’ll have to give this one some thought yourself. If it helps though, here are my personal guidelines for public discussion:
Books: Wait 3-4 months until after the book has been released
Movies: Wait until at least a month after it has been released on DVD/Blu-Ray/Netflix
Video Games: Wait a year or so until after the game has been released – games vary in length more than movies or books.
TV Shows: Wait at least a week after the episode has aired.
Again, rules 1 and 2 trump this, so remember to tag your spoilers and never spoil things in private conversation.