Spoiler Madness

Friends, I support all lifestyles. Like to read Vampire Romances? Go with god. Prefer vodka to whiskey? You mystify and alarm me, but I’ll die defending your right to drink ghastly stuff. Think The Wire was impenetrable and dull? I will work tirelessly to restrain my urge to set your house on fire. Want to avoid even the barest hint of a spoiler for TV shows and movies? Fine by me. Within reason. There is, however, a limit on how long I am supposed to worry about spoiling something for you.

Recently, there’s been a kerfluffle because Wikipedia is now spoiling the endeding Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, a play that’s been running somewhere or other for about 50-60 years now. It’s a murder mystery with a twisty ending, and for decades now each show ends with the performers asking the audience to keep the secret to themselves and not spoil the ending. Now, of course, anyone who read the Wikipedia entry out of basic curiosity for the play can discover the ending, say “Meh,” and move on.

Let me repeat the most important part of that story: THE PLAY HAS BEEN PERFORMED CONTINUOUSLY FOR MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS.

I’m not sure anyone elected me to state when, exactly, the expiration date for spoilers occurs, but I am pretty damn sure it’s somewhere less than fifty goddamn years. Fifty years on, you are firmly on your own, and discussion of the “twist” in Mousetrap falls under the category of revealing to someone that Germany lost World War I in spoiler levels. Which is to say: It is no longer a goddamn spoiler.

Now, I’m notoriously spoiler-friendly. I don’t waste time avoiding twists, and I firmly believe that if I can’t enjoy a story even knowing the ending then it wasn’t very good to begin with. On the other hand, I understand perfectly the desire to enjoy newly released entertainments without the ruinous effect of spoilers – again, I support all lifestyles. but there are limits. Personally, I think that this limit should be pretty brief: Three months or so after initial release. However, I could be persuaded to support a spoiler-ban for up to a year, depending on the circumstances. But there is a point when a book or movie or TV show has been out there so long, if you still haven’t seen it and want to preserve the mystery, well, son, it’s on you to do the heavy lifting. That is to say, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense yet in 2010, and I happen to mention in casual conversation that the doctor is a frickin’ ghost, too bad. I will not cry for you, kid.

Because if you push Spoilerism too far, we’re gonna be protecting spoilers in Shakespeare, in the Bible, in Aesop’s Fables. We’re going to have to regard every twist ending in the history of the universe as a spoiler, and we’re going to have to start entering into contractual agreements when discussing anything. I end up having to pay out enough settlements after conversations with people – I don’t need to have something else to worry about.


  1. ape

    Bible Spoiler: The hippie carpenter guy is the son of God.

    Grimm’s Fairy Tales Spoiler: The Bremen Musicians? Just some animals standing on each other’s shoulders.

    Shakespeare Spoiler: The Shrew is actually a woman. There are no Soricomorpha anywhere in the play.

    Sorry, but since you ruined Agatha Christie for me, I had to give you a taste of your own medicine. And no, I don’t mean alcohol….

  2. Craig

    Although I disagree with you on the idea that spoilers somehow have an expiration date, I will defend YOUR right to believe that they do.

    I’m pretty sure I could convince you otherwise, but that would be telling… and I know how you feel about spoilers. ; )

  3. jsomers (Post author)

    Craig: Fair enough. I don’t force my feelings on spilers on others, and respect their requests for silence on endings et al, so no worries. Thanks!

  4. jsomers (Post author)

    ape: But … alcohol *is* my medicine.

  5. Elisabeth Black

    Yeah, but it’s kinda crappy to spoil a play with that written into it, yes? Talk about pissing on the parade.

  6. jsomers (Post author)

    Elisabeth: SUre, if you walk up to people standing in line for the play and shout the ending, maybe that’s a dick move. But can you really expect a play that’s been published and publicly performed for 50+ years to stay secret?

    I’m not saying one shouldn’t respect a reasonable request for spoilers. If we’re sitting somewhere discussing Mousetrap and you say, hey, don’t tell me the ending I plan to see/read that someday, that’s fine. I’d respect that. But I won’t go around all the time being careful not to reveal an ancient spoiler. If I am writing a blog post and reveal it and you happen to read it and get spoiled, well, that’s life.

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