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When Is It Okay To Spoil A Movie or TV Show?

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Apr 29, 2019
Categories: Entertainment
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When Is It Okay To Spoil A Movie or TV Show?

It's been a week since I watched an advanced press screening for Avengers: Endgame and while I was surrounded by members of the media who are used to keeping plot details under wraps, Marvel was steadily promoting their #DontSpoilTheEndgame message regarding the over three-hour film. And why wouldn't they? With the proliferation of social media updates on any and every piece of content available for public consumption, along with the annoying trend of people illegally recording footage on their mobile devices, spoilers have become a huge problem -- not just for the fans unable to watch on opening weekend, but for the studios producing said entertainment, to begin with.

So when is it okay to post a spoiler? Is it even okay at all?

Just how bad has it gotten out there? If you take into consideration the Hong Kong news story about a man allegedly being assaulted for sharing plot points from the movie, right outside of the theater where it was playing (See the Asia One story here: https://www.asiaone.com/asia/man-hong-kong-reportedly-beaten-outside-cinema-leaking-avengers-endgame-spoilers), one would assume it's gotten pretty bad. The strength of fandoms, such as the Marvel Comics variety, led to record-breaking box office returns for the final installment in the Infinity Saga. With $1.2 Billion in revenue raked in globally just in its first weekend alone (Check out the CNN story for all the mind-boggling details: https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/28/media/avengers-endgame-box-office-record/index.html), it's pretty easy to see the demand for stories such as these. But with high demand comes even higher excitement and at the end of the day, if a piece of entertainment strikes the right chord, people will want to celebrate the experience by revisiting the integral story arcs and character moments that made the movie so engaging. 

It's understandable why people spoil things. There's a component to this process which finds audiences reacting to the thing they just watched, the thing that just caused them to truly feel something. And for many, to process these feelings, they need to share with others. That's a relatable aspect of human nature and the ways in which we communicate. It's elementary. But with the popularity of social media, and the even more popular trend of YouTube channels and Twitch streams breaking down the easter eggs and genre tidbits from a movie like the new Avengers, people not completely dialed in can get left by the wayside. And this is where the rage regarding spoilers can come into play. 

What's interesting about all of this is the disconnect between how we view spoilers for tentpole movies and TV shows. As people were up-in-arms over any sort of Avengers spoilers hitting their social media radar, fans were live-tweeting Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, titled "The Long Night," like it was no big deal. The third episode in the final season of HBO's groundbreaking series lasted almost an hour and a half, making it worthy of being considered its own mini-movie. And yet, the number of details specific to the episode that were shared across Twitter and Facebook was a bit mind-blowing. What makes Avengers: Endgame off-limits, or worthy of a beatdown if you let story details slip? And why does a show like Game of Thrones get a pass?

Is it because one is a highly anticipated big budget movie and another is simply one episode from a much larger, eight-seasons-long, story? Is it due to the communal nature that has developed over the years which finds fans tapping into Twitter's second screen experience to unpack the moments, as they watch in real time, from their favorite TV show, with the hopes of interacting with like-minded fans to find some sense of catharsis? It's definitely a part of it. 

I think the other aspect of what makes TV spoilers more acceptable nowadays is the growing practice of said show's talent live-tweeting the episodes they are involved with. More and more, big name talent can be found tweeting along with their respective show because they're contractually obligated to do so. Orlando Jones does it every Sunday night, as he's not just one of the stars of American Gods, he's also a writer and producer on the program. So, when viewers see the stars of their favorite show opening up a dialogue on social media about the emotional experiences their characters are going through on-screen, the message that comes across to fans is: It's okay to post this spoiler because we're sharing in the bigger experience.

At the end of the day, as the content landscape continues to expand, it's clear that the concern over spoilers won't diminish. Personally, I'm not that affected by people ruining plot points from movies or TV shows -- it's probably from all the years I've worked in entertainment journalism. But, jadedness aside, what do you think? Is it ever okay to spoil something? Can we fix this problem? Let me know what the rules should be surrounding this ever-present issue.

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