I hate spoilers.
For things you actually care about, once revealed, you can never unhear or unread or unsee. It’s incredibly frustrating to be working your way through some material only to have someone blather important plot points to you or inadvertently reveal that a certain character dies later on. As such, I’ve always taken to seeing movies opening night or reading books the day they come out because otherwise, I don’t feel like I can freely browse the Internet until I do.
A little extreme, maybe, but it’s dangerous being a Harry Potter fan when there are trolls roaming the webz with “***** KILLS **********!” flashing in their forum signatures. I’ve never attended a midnight book release for Harry Potter for the same reason — drive-by spoilers. Some people have nothing better to do. I actually blocked a few friends temporarily on Facebook and AIM for the week leading up the Deathly Hallows‘ release because I had zero tolerance for the various nonsense and fake spoilers they were spouting. Spoilers are serious business! Who are you to deprive someone of an experience?
Spoiler warnings should never really expire either. It doesn’t matter how long something has been out. There is someone that hasn’t seen or read it. Most online communities have spoiler policies lasting several weeks or several months after a release, and that works fine for an contained group where it isn’t completely unreasonable to assume that most members have seen or read something. But for the general populace, it’s not good to assume anything. Case in point: Death Note is a huge franchise and many, many anime/manga fans have experienced it in one form or another by now. I watched the dub with several friends when it aired on [adultswim]. At the beginning of episode 25, one friend commented, “Oh, is this the episode where ******* ****?” Without thinking, she just gave away the biggest spoiler in the entire series ’cause she figured everyone already knew, right? Oh, snap, another friend had not followed Death Note prior to the dub’s broadcast. Experience thwarted! And apologies don’t erase that newfound, unwelcomed knowledge.
Especially with stories that are retold in a variety of medias, it’s impossible to guess who has read or seen what based on the fact that they’re a fan of such and such. The last Harry Potter book came out two years ago. Two years is a sufficient spoiler buffer for people who consider themselves fans, right? The book’s already been released in a majority of other languages too, so there’s no using that as an excuse either, right? No. There are still a ton of fans that only follow the movies (the misguided fools! The books are infinitely better, but movie fans are fans all the same), and the sixth movie doesn’t come out until next month. I can already hear the assholes driving by and yelling the popular spoiler at unsuspecting kids at midnight openings. Some people only read books or manga; some people only watch anime or movies. Don’t spoil something for someone by assuming they read and watch the same version of the series you did.
More recently, I was considering anibloggers who use Twitter to tweet briefly and semi-episodically about series they’re currently following, including myself. The tweets usually consist of vague exclamations in reaction to something that’s happening — presumably nothing spoileristic, but is what you think is a spoiler the same as what everyone else thinks is a spoiler? As noted, I’m currently rewatching Gundam Wing and I’m tweeting about it. Most are relatively harmless no matter how you look at them, but some of them, upon further reflection, could probably be taken as spoilers. Incredibly minor spoilers, but spoilers all the same.
The rest of this post contains minor spoilers of varying degree for Death Note, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Code Geass, and Gundam Wing, though as is the topic of discussion, some of them are debatable in their status as spoilers at all.
Are there universal guidelines for what is to be considered a spoiler? For Death Note, anyone who’s seen or read the series in its entirety can pretty much agree on what the one major spoiler is aside from the ending itself. It’s similar for the Half-Blood Prince. Both cases involve a death, but does that mean all deaths should count as spoilers? (Incidentally, is the fact that I’ve revealed that both cases involve deaths a spoiler in itself?)
Lelouch kills Clovis in the third episode of Code Geass. Clovis is an extremely minor character partially because he dies so early, but his death reveals very little to either Lelouch or the audience. Should Clovis’s death count as a spoiler? Honestly, the very premise of the series can imply Clovis’s death at Lelouch’s hands. Of course Clovis isn’t important enough to be mentioned in general summaries, but if you came into the series knowing that Lelouch intends to destroy Britannia, then you can pretty much guess that Clovis will be a target from the moment he’s introduced in the first episode. So if Clovis’s death isn’t a spoiler then, is it because the event takes place so close to the beginning of the series? Though Clovis is a much less important character, is his death like Yusuke’s death at the beginning of Yu Yu Hakusho or Goku’s death at the beginning of Dragonball Z?
But “close to the beginning” is also a tricky line to draw. Episode 8 of Gurren Lagann is highly spoileristic — is 8 of 27 not close enough to the beginning? Or does it count as a spoiler just because you can’t really see it coming like you could have for Clovis? Perhaps that’s what should define a spoiler then, something that you can’t see coming? In one of my GW tweets, I mention that in episode 7, Treize stages a huge coup de’tat . 7 of 49 is a bit better than 8 of 27 in terms of closeness to the beginning, but I can’t decide if the coup de’tat is something that you can “see coming,” especially considering how haphazardly paced the first dozen episodes in the series are. It’s also debatable as to whether the coup de’tat has a lot of lasting significance since the political factions of the series are also so turbulent.
There’s also the idea that spoilers don’t need to be confined to singular events — should character development and personality details be counted as spoilers too? Sure, if something in a character’s past is a big reveal (if you can’t see if coming), then it should count, but what about things like… the fact that Lady Une has a split personality? In the series, there is no “big reveal,” and even though you may not expect it, it isn’t very surprising. But still, should it count? It isn’t obvious until maybe episode 10, but I already can’t remember since I don’t find it to be that big a deal. Then again, if I hadn’t already seen all of GW, I might consider that a spoiler — I’m usually pretty high-strung about this kind of stuff.
There are many degrees of spoilers, and I’m sure that what one person considers a spoiler might not be for someone else. For my paranoid self, I tend to avoid contact with anything discussing a series I’m interested in and haven’t seen yet. If I inadvertently take a look, I’m the master of skimming things quickly and not picking up more than I need, if anything at all. You can’t be too careful, after all. You only need to be spoiled once.
Note: You can use spoiler tags in the comments with <spoiler></spoiler>. Just kidding! o_O Beware spoilers in the comments! Woo!
(And for the record, this post is actually about 1200 words long. Darn.)