Can a story based on factual, historical events be subject to spoiling?

Prompted by this –

I’m probably one of the more spoiler-phobic types around. But I think the concept of a spoiler applies only to fiction. I don’t think anyone should expect spoiler-treatment of factual material.

What say ye?

Is the movie a documentary, or a fictional story based on real events?

I’m one of those people for whom the whole spoiler thing is an incomprehensible controversy. Knowing what is going to happen doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of a movie or book in those cases where hearing or reading about it in advance is unavoidable. In most cases, on this message board for example, it is usually avoidable. If I were a person for whom knowing the plot points in advance was likely to spoil my enjoyment of Twelve Years A Slave, I would not read threads about Twelve Years A Slave.

Spoilers are one of those areas where there’s just no hard-and-fast rules, and different folks react differently. My feeling (as poster and as moderator) is that well-known historical facts aren’t “spoilers” in an historical discussion. So, in a discussion about the historic Napoleon, no one will be upset to learn that he is defeated in the end.

However, if the discussion is about some dramatization of historical facts, then there are (to my mind) two different areas where spoiler tags might be necessary: (1) little-known historical facts (e.g., stuff that would NOT be taught in a high school history class) ; and (2) the dramatic way that the movie/play/tvshow reveals the historical facts.

Using the example of Spielberg’s 2012 movie LINCOLN:
(1) the specifics of the debate about slavery are very dramatic in the movie, and although mostly historical, the details of the behind-the-scenes manipulations are fascinating. It would NOT be a spoiler to reveal that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (well-known historical fact) but it would be a spoiler to reveal the dramatic details of the political intrigues (historical facts, but NOT well-known).

(2) It’s not a “spoiler” that Lincoln is assassinated while watching a play at Ford’s Theatre, everyone knows that. But what would be a spoiler is the WAY that Spielberg dramatizes it and plays with our expectations by having us watching a different play at a different theatre

C K Dexter Haven, this is an entirely rational and logical approach. Don’t you realize that, as a moderator, you have a reputation to uphold?

Wow, thanks for ruining the movie for me.


I laughed out loud at the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of the Jesus biopic Son of God, when the critic put “(spoiler alert!)” before the word “resurrection.”

I wish someone would make a Jesus biopic loosely based on the New Testament, just to watch the Christian audience’s jaws drop when they release Jesus instead of Barabbas.

I think it also makes a difference where the thread is located. The one in question is in GQ and uses the movie as an example, so I don’t think spoilers apply as much as if it was in Cafe Society and discussing it as a movie.

  • ::cue the uplifting music:*

It’s interesting that Jesus Christ Superstar ended with the crucifixion and did not include the resurrection.

What? Well then how in the hell are people supposed to know he resurrected?

You had to buy the Director’s Cut.

I think JCS is intentionally ambiguous as to whether Jesus really was divine.

I’d actually put that in reverse. In a thread about the movie, you know what you’re getting into. In a GQ question about slavery, you don’t. I never expect to be spoiled by reading something in GQ.

Sir, there’s no “Wodewick”.

Why would anyone consider an otherwise obscure story so common knowledge as to be spoiler-proof is beyond me.

I’ll give you another one from LINCOLN, to wit:

with whom Congressman Stevens shared his bed at the end.

It may not be a “true story,” but I’ll wager that most folks know the basic plot arc of *Arsenic and Old Lace *before they actually see it on stage or screen. A few months ago, I was privileged to see the reactions of several young women who were NOT so forewarned. They came as close to literally laughing their asses off as I have ever seen; one piece of my furniture almost did not survive. Had they known anything about the show going in, the shock value that generated the humor would have been lost. Since then, I’ve been a converted champion of keeping spoilers secret.

In the production I saw, starring Ted Neeley (the company also had Carl Anderson, but his understudy went on the night we saw it), the cross lit up and Jesus was lifted from it (by wires, of course) floated in the air a moment with his arms outstretched, then went up and out of sight. Basically implying the resurrection and ascension in one swell foop.

Yeah, if the story is that Lincoln dies, no spoilers. If the story is that The Master tricked JWB into thinking Abe was an evil alien, then use spoilers.

What about the fact the movie was released 5.5 months ago? It’s even available on DVD and Blu Ray now.