October 10, 2005
Spoiler Rules

Today at lunch we had a big crowd, nine of us, so the discussion topics were broad and we ended up talking about spoilers. A spoiler is a key bit of plot information that can ruin a movie or book if it is learned in advance.

The discussion was about how long should someone expect others to avoid mentioning spoilers around them. Several of us had seen Serenity and were being careful not to reveal the spoiler. (BTW, you shoudl go and see Serenity. It's a great movie and you won't be disappointed.)

None of us could find the heart to support spoiler queens, but a variety of opinions abound.

Several different viewpoints were mentioned:

No Spoiler Freedom - This silly notion was only supported by one truly strange lunch participant. He believes that spoilers shoudl flow freely and makes no effort to conceal spoilers form others. Obviously a fringe belief.

Once a film is out of theaters - Also mentioned as a 'three month rule'. The concept that people be given a chance to see the movie without worry of spoilers. Once it's no longer in theaters, it's open game for discussion. " I mean, you had your chance, right?" Two people held this as correct.

One month after DVD release - A variation on the out of theater viewpoint. The idea here is that it s understandable to miss a film in the theater, but once it's on DVD, you have a month to buy/rent it before the spoilers rain down upon you. Two people thought this true.

No blanket policy - The idea here is that each situation warrants it own spoiler rules. An action film and a who-done-it need different spoiler policies. Three people (including me) felt this to be most reasonable.

That left one person undecided. Our co-worker Jasmin is from Germany and many of our idioms (like spoilers) don't make sense to her. I tried to explain. Here is the rough transcript.

Jasmin: What is the spoiler?
Michael: Well, it's like revealing the secret of a movie before it's time.
Jasmin: Huh?
Michael: It's like finding out that Darth Vader is Luke's father before seeing Empire Strikes back...
Jasmin: Darth Vader is Luke's father?
Michael: You didn't know that?
Jasmin: No...
Others at the table: *gasp*
Michael: But, umm, err. See I just spoiled that for you.

As you can tell, spoilers are a tough thing to deal with in groups. Jasmin's lucky I didn't reveal something important like the fact that soylent green is people...

So loyal Cruft readers, what are the proper spoiler rules in your humble opinon?

Posted by michael at October 10, 2005 09:40 PM


Generally my thinking is after the first weekend the movie is out people should be free to discuss the movie. Take Serenity for example, I didn't see it until this past Friday (I wanted a chance to watch Firefly first). There were a number of times when I had to leave conversations (generally on IRC) when the topic of Serenity came up. Just because I hadn't seen the movie doesn't mean my friends shouldn't be able to talk about it.

However, if my friends go to see a midnight showing of a movie, and I can't see it until later on opening day or even later in the weekend, I expect them to keep quiet about what happens in the movie. This works for me, since I generally see movies on their opening weekend. There are few exceptions, like Serenity, but when they do happen, I feel the responsibility is mine to avoid spoilers, not on the people that have seen the movie to shield me from them.

Posted by: Grant [http://grant.henninger.name/] on October 10, 2005 11:23 PM

If it's online, then use a "spoiler" warning, then spill it.

If it's in person, ask everyone if they've seen it before spilling it.

Blurting it out without asking is stupid.

I guess this qualifies as "none of the above".

Posted by: BillB [http://squidly.com] on October 11, 2005 3:54 AM

Darth Vader is Luke's father?


Posted by: Bribo [] on October 11, 2005 7:01 AM

I think Spoilers should flow freely, in discussion .. and it is up to the person who does not want to be spoiled to not pay attention, or end the discussion, so nothing is given away.

Posted by: Batonga [http://ssredux.blogspot.com] on October 11, 2005 11:07 AM

Here is a situation I was in that started an earlier iteration of this same conversation that throws all the rules out of whack (I was in the one month after DVD group). This concerns a movie based on a book. The release of the book was an event (Harry Potter) and was a few years prior. The movie was not yet released, but was coming out soon. I was having a discussion about the BOOK with a friend who had also read the book. We spoke about a key plot point. Someone sitting near by eavesdropping heard our conversation and blamed me for spoiling the MOVIE. I pleaded innocent because the book had been out for so long, and the statute Of limitations was up.

Posted by: Travis [http://www.guyinasuit.com] on October 12, 2005 3:49 PM

In a conversational setting, I believe it's simple.

I think the burden lies both on the spoiler-er and spoil-ee. The spoilerer must announce the upcoming spoiler with an above-conversational volume- much like that used when calling shotgun. After a short pause, they are free to continue with the spoiler, using a slightly subdued tone.

The spoil-ee, once given the chance, must also be keeping an ear out for potential spoilers. If distracted during the spoiler announcement or simply not paying attention, they are not permitted to take action against a spoilerer who properly announced the upcoming spoiler.

The more sensitive one is to spoilers, the more attentive ear they should have for spoiler announcements.

It's a blast hanging out with me.

Posted by: ed adkins [http://edadkins.com] on October 13, 2005 10:15 AM

I tried a trackback to this post from my blog entry on this subject, but it didn't seem to work. :( Here's my $0.02 on the subject:

I don’t think it’s reasonable to attempt a general spoiler rule, because there are so many variables to the situation — Books versus films, conversation (f2f or on-line) versus posting, genre (Michael’s “action vs whodunit” is a perfect example), familiarity with your friends’ reading/viewing habits, etc. I guess this places me in the “No blanket policy” camp.

The thing that really interests me about this topic is how the spoiler attitude breaks down viz a viz people with/without kids. I’ve got two children, and I’m not going to take them to every movie I want to watch. A current film featuring cannibalism comes to mind. I’ll probably see this on the big screen, but it’ll take me a while to get around to it. (I’m a parent, and parents are either very busy raising their kids, or they’re not very good parents imo.) In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if people would give me a “heads up” if they’re going to discuss current/recent movies so I have a chance to avoid hearing any spoilers.

Posted by: Jim [http://sonicchicken.net/blog/wordpress] on October 13, 2005 1:40 PM

Have you seen this before? It's a number guessing game: http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/mentalmaths/guessthenumber.html. I guessed 57110, and it got it right! Pretty neat.

Posted by: Merideth Carleton [] on November 14, 2005 10:20 AM
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