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When Should Movie News Outlets Refuse to Publish Spoilers?

This post comes about from a bit of a debate that has emerged following the revelation of certain spoilers about Iron Man 2. Given that the movie is just out state side, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone stumbling across this page. I just find it an interesting abstract discussion: Are movie spoilers news? Or should web news outlets simply refuse on principle to publish these sorts of rumours?

Nick Fury has his eye on you...

Of course, all this assumes that such posts are “spoiler tagged”. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest it’s unfair to ruin the film for those who want to go in blind. I have no problem saying that articles spoiling movies either in their headline or the opening paragraph are being reckless. I think it’s safe to take perhaps the biggest spoiler that’s been leaked in the past few years as an example and assume that everyone has seen Iron Man (or, at least, the trailers for Iron Man 2 which also reveal this fact). I don’t think running a headline on a movie news site reading “Samuel L. Jackson cameos as Nick Fury after credits in Iron Man!” a few days before the movie is released is responsible journalism – that headline more than likely appears on a front page and in a few RSS feeds on email accounts, so it’s pretty hard to avoid.

Speaking from personal experience, at the moment I am avoiding spoilers for Inception like the plague. I figure that Christopher Nolan has worked hard enough to keep the project quiet and I ought to respect that (plus I love the fact that I know less about this movie than I do about next year’s blockbusters). It would greatly help me if any posts discussing key elements would include the tag “spoiler warning”, or something similar. In my own case, I try to tag that there may be spoilers in the blurb which appears on my front page and then within the text when I get to the spoiler itself.

However, assuming we take these basic steps to ensure that nobody’s enjoyment of a film is accidently ruined, why shouldn’t news outlets publish these little snippets that they come across?

The wonderful CHUD has an article decrying the widespread spoiling of the Iron Man 2 sequence, suggesting that:

There’s a certain point when spoilers quit being cool and fun and become obsessive compulsive and shitty, and that point is when the secret post-credits tag of a film like Iron Man 2 is ruined. It’s enough to know that there is a secret worth sitting through the credits to see, so why have it ruined in advance?

I have to respectfully disagree, even ignoring the argument that such a policy is impossible to regulate (someone somewhere will spoil it, so why prevent legitimate news sites from running it?). Most of this hinges on the argument that viewers are big kids now – they can make their own choice about what they do or don’t read. As long as you don’t ruin the movie-going experience for somebody who doesn’t want it ruined, what’s the harm?

Are we (whip)lashing out at the wrong people?

I also have a pedantic problem with the argument above. Where do we draw the line with spoilers? In theory, the above few lines spoil the fact that there is a post-credits sequence, which is a spoiler itself – surely? I mean, maybe we expected it to be there, but we didn’t know – so confirming its existence spoils it in a manner, right? The audience should surely be surprised and awed by it, right? Surely anticipating it reduces the suprise significantly, even if we don’t know what it contains? In a way, we’ve already compromised it simply by talking about it even in abstract terms? I accept that such an argument is advanced pedantry, but at what point does something become a spoiler? I’d argue even mentioning a movie has a twist ending is a spoiler – arguably a fundamental one, as it changes the way a person views the film.

Truth be told, I am not sure I’d run that kind of spoiler myself. That said, it’s possible I’ve commented on a similar story before, so I’m not going to play the self-righteous moral card. I can understand why certain sites wouldn’t run with it, and I respect it. On the other hand, I’m more than slightly uncomfortable with the suggestion that such discussion should be marked as inherently off limits. As suggested above, as long as the it’s done in a responsible manner, one which ensures that nobody encounters it without actually wanting to, what’s the harm? Surely the choice is that of the reader? The browser who must decide personally if they want to read the spoiler? Who the hell are we to decide what they should or shouldn’t have access to?

Having inside information does require self-discipline, but self-censorship is perhaps far too extreme a suggestion for a matter as insignificant as this.

6 Responses

  1. have to say, if you told me exactly what happened for the whole of Iron Man 2 it wouldnt have spoiled the movie for me one bit. there is nothing unpredictable in it. post credit teasers are gay.

    • Yep, I think this one was a tad ghey for what it was. Sit through ALL the credits… for that.

      But some post credit teasers are cool. Like the Fury thing. But I’m a comic book nerd.

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  3. Have to agree with Ross on Iron Man 2. It was so predictable so spoiler or not, it wouldn’t have made much difference. I usually avoid spoilers, what’s the point of them really.

    • I suppose – doesn’t really “spoil” anything, given we all know the film is coming anyway.

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