How Do You Figure Out the Expiration Date for Spoiler Alerts?

Entertainment Geek Culture Movies
So who’s this guy then?

Have you seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet? Considering the box office records it’s broken worldwide, it’s hard to imagine that you haven’t. Unless you’ve recently gone off-world recently, if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an argument to say that you’re probably not that bothered.

Which brings us to that very recent cultural phenomenon, the spoiler. At the best of times spoilers are a thorny issue. Some people actively court as much information as they can before seeing a film. They pore over the trailers, scanning the background for hints. They look at toy catalogs reveling in what’s to come, hoping to garner some clue as to what might happen. Other people cry foul if you inadvertently reveal the color of Captain Phasma’s wallpaper. Everybody has their own spoiler threshold.

When the film in question is one of the most awaited cinematic events in history, sensitivities are heightened, even to the point where physical violence is threatened.

In my last post, about storytelling aids, I initially included a joke that centered around Star Wars lead character Rey. Then I deleted it. Why? Because I was worried that somebody would call “Spoiler!” Three weeks after the film’s release, this is perhaps a ridiculous state of affairs.

Here at GeekDad we have assiduously avoided giving spoilers for the film, and up to a point, so we should. As a parenting blog, we should hold back longer than other outlets; we all have kids, we know how difficult it can be to get to the movies, especially if you have very small children, but there comes a point where we say, “OK, this film is a global event that is of direct interest to huge numbers of our readers and we want to discuss it with them.”

We think one month is long enough and so after 1/18/2016, we’re going to stop prefacing every reference to the film with “SPOILER ALERT!” (or at least we’re not going to feel bad if we don’t).

Tie Fighters were scrambled when somebody threatened to tell Kylo Ren the twist in ‘The Usual Suspects’.

Obviously, we’re not going to suddenly start spamming our readers with vital plot points, such as the amazing, saga-changing, end-credit scene where Hayden Christensen steps out of the broom closet*, but we may want to talk about what Finn’s parents might think about their son, or pontificate as to why Rey is so tech-savvy. Everybody else on the internet is already doing this, and trust me, from the discussions that go on in the GeekDad backroom, our contributors have lots to say on a whole host of Star Wars-related matters!

So there it is, a spoiler policy of sorts, but is it reasonable? Should all information of a spoiling nature be branded as such in perpetuity? How long is a reasonable length of time for keeping something secret? Does it depend on the medium? Are films more sacrosanct than TV series? With entire series being released all in one go, what difference does that make? What about books? What about films of books? Where does live TV fit in? Contest Shows? Sports? How do we stop Google Now telling us how Tottenham Hotspur have fared on a Saturday afternoon (Oh… apparently that one’s just me).

In a world where, increasingly, we control our own consumption of content, spoilers become trickier and trickier to navigate. What steps do you take to avoid them? Is there anything left from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to spoil? Please outline your thoughts in the comments below.

*If you’re apoplectic about this outrageous (and entirely fake) spoiler, one of us, at least, has had a sense of humor failure.

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8 thoughts on “How Do You Figure Out the Expiration Date for Spoiler Alerts?

  1. I asked all my Facebook friends to give two weeks before posting images, comments, jokes, etc… one month would be spectacular if most people would be willing to accept it.

  2. I agree about Google Now unexpectedly popping up!scores of games that I’m recording to watch later. Happens for US pro and college games as well as English soccer (which I’m more likely to do that with).

    I was glad people were careful not to give away Star Wars spoilers. I was surprised how few I saw. I hate knowing much about a movie I’m going to see, so I avoid a lot, which is harder these days.

  3. How I generally handle spoilers around others: 2 weeks for a theatrical release of a film (Star Wars), 3 days for a weekly TV program (Arrow), 1 week for a streaming program that is released all at once (Jessica Jones), 1 month for books (that new Dark Tower book you didn’t realize was released… kidding), and next day for sports scores. Film or TV adaptations of books I treat as any other film or TV show (I’m not gonna spoil the Red Wedding on HBO’s Game of Thrones just because I’ve read the book).

    How we handle them on a site like this is another matter. I’ll address what happens on an episode of The Flash in the recap, and will try to refrain from spoiling it in other posts, comments, etc not related to the recap, but sometimes things leak out. Sometimes things become a larger pop culture phenomenon than what a recap, post, or comment can encapsulate.

    Movies –particularly box office behemoths– are a different animal. It’s tricky, but I feel like we do a pretty good job around here of remaining spoiler-lite, if not completely spoiler-free.

    1. I’m so far behind on TV shows that spoilers are almost inevitable. Sometimes I’m so far behind, I’ve forgotten the spoiler by the time I get around to watching it. I could never read a recap post when it was published…

      Arguably, really good drama stands up even if you know what’s going to happen. I think that applies to TV, Films and Sport. The Usual Suspects for example was brilliant on first and subsequent viewings.

  4. My worst movie spoiler story: I loved Terminator as a teen. When T2 was going to come out, I meticulously avoided previews, ads, etc. I took off work to see it opening afternoon. While waiting in line for a few minutes for the doors to open, a guy behind me says to his friend “it’s cool that Arnold is the good guy this time”. I felt like punching him. Granted, that wasn’t a big reveal in the movie, but after all my efforts, I was so close to having the initial revelation be a surprise.

  5. I know absolutely nothing about the new Star Wars movie. I haven’t even watched the trailers. I’m really good about avoiding spoilers, and mute Star Wars in TweetDeck. Anything with Star Wars in the title, I avoid like the plague.

    Online, I appreciate spoiler warning but don’t trust people to use them.

    With my friends, we have a rule: There is no expiration on spoilers. We always ask each other first if they’ve been the movie or television show. If they say “no,” then we ask if they care if it’s spoiled. If the answer is “yes” we don’t discuss. If the answer is “no” then it’s fair game.

    With no longer having to watch something when it originally airs, people watch things when they watch it, so I try my best to respect that.

  6. I think there is a statute of limitations, and it does vary from one medium to another, and even within a particular medium; a big tentpole franchise film like Star Wars has a much shorter freshness date than a smaller, more obscure movie that might take time to find its audience.

    For Netflix series, I think there’s a rolling date. A week is reasonable for, say, the first 3-4 episodes, since most people tend to binge-watch, but I’d give another day or two for each subsequent episode, so the spoiler period might extend more than a week.

    For comics, TV series, and series novels, the spoiler date is upon release of the next episode/installment/issue. Maybe 2 issues, if there’s something particularly special.

    For books, spoilers are indefinite, but there is a limit, and it goes by the age of the reader. If a book is a classic that might be assigned as junior high school reading, spoilers are off the table by the time the reader reaches 25. So no, I won’t respect your demand for “no spoilers” on that Victor Hugo book.

    Beyond that, all spoilers are to be regarded in context with their magnitude. The identity of Luke Skywalker’s father is a huge spoiler; the content of the first four words of the opening text crawl of SW:TFA is not.

    1. That’s a really good point about context of the spoiler. It seems these days spoiler = any information at all, rather than a valid turning point or reveal, in whatever it is you’re watching.
      Of course most geek dads have probably have given up the identity of Luke’s Dad by having said ‘I am your father’, in a deep voice, since before their babies can walk. (or am I the only one?)

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