Spoilers, How Old Is Too Old

This is inspired by the Seinfeld thread. How old or famous do you think something has to be to use spoilers.

For instance if I said

Was a sled


The chick in the * Crying Game
*was a dude

I would say 99% of people would get that spoiler. Because the movies are so famous.

Now when I talk about my favourite soap opera Prisoner (Prisoner: Cell Block H) I do use spoilers because even though the Australian soap opera is so old (it ran from 1979 to 1986) so few people have seen it.

I realize there are no “real” guidlines but what are your guidlines.

I think it’s better to be safe then sorry, after all I’d hate to ruin anyone’s plot, but I think how well known a TV show, book or movie is, is more important than it’s age.

What are your views on how or when to use spoilers? Not only here but in everyday life.

People get overly huffy if things are spoiled, even if they probably would never have watched the thing spoiled.

It’s a good general rule not to spoil movies until after they’ve been out on DVD for at least six months.

For TV shows, I’d do the same – six months after the boxed set of DVDs is released.

But people will complain if you describe how Newhart ended. Part of that is just them getting a chance to rant.

And ultimately, if a spoiler ruins a film for you, then it probably wasn’t all that good a film in the first place. Someone spoiled The Crying Game for me before I saw it; it didn’t matter. I haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, but I know the twist. I’d like to see it sometime.

I had an ex-boyfriend with this philosophy, too. (We broke up for different reasons, don’t worry. :smiley: ) He just truly and genuinely did not understand why anyone would care about learning the plot of a movie or book before getting a chance to see/watch it yourself. His opinion was that if it’s a good movie, it’s still a good movie even if you know what happens at the end. No amount of explanation would convince him that for some other people, learning the plot as the movie unfolds is an important part of the film-going experience. Knowing the end of a movie won’t necessarily ruin the whole movie for me, but it will make it somewhat less enjoyable. For a historical drama where you pretty much know the ending already anyway, this is minimal, but for a suspense thriller with a twist ending, it can be major. I appreciate it when other people respect this even if they don’t really feel strongly about spoilers themselves.

As for the question in the OP, I think that boxed spoilers are appropriate for the first several months that something has been out. Past that point, if something is a particularly big surprise, I might say “spoiler warning ahead” or whatever, but not bother to put it in an actual spoiler box.

If the thread is explicitly about the show or movie in question, then generally no spoilers are needed. I mean, you’d have to be dense to think that you’re going to read a whole thread about a work and not get spoiled.

What annoys me is when people casually drop spoilers into an unrelated thread about a different show/movie. There is no fair warning there, and I think it’s bad form unless the thing being spoiled is several years old. They often still put it in spoiler tags, but it doesn’t help if I think the spoiler is about thread topic, not something completely unrelated.


You gotta use Spoiler Space! I can read that first spoiler on teh pop-up preview of teh thread.

Seriously, I was once berated for giving away the ending of Anna Karenina. No matter how old or “common cultural knowledge” a given story is, there will be someone complaining that you spoilered it. Therefore, to help keep the less stable personalities from going into a catatonic state, I try to avoid mentioning on line how anything ends. Or begins. Or what happens in between.

I had the ending of Crime and Punishment spoiled for me by a Jeopardy! clue. It was annoying, but at least it inspired me to go out and finally read it. I’m generally against spoiling literature, as it can take a month to read a book, as opposed to two hours watching a movie. Thus, I have a much bigger backlog of books I want to finish than movies I haven’t gotten around to watching yet.

Sometimes a story seems so well known that it’s difficult to believe anyone doesn’t know the ending. I read an article about The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in which the writer pointed out that the story has a twist ending - when people originally read it, it was a surprise for them to discover that Dr Jekyll was Mr Hyde. But now everyone knows this even if they’ve never read the original story. (Of course somebody will now feel compelled to make a joke about how I should have spoilered this post. Don’t be that person.)

This is addressed in the forum rules.

twickster, Cafe Society moderator

One of the things I like about going to a movie is being surprised. If it’s something I really want to see then I avoid watching trailers, people talking about the movie, etc. in order to make sure that I’m surprised. When one of my friends started talking about Star Wars episode II he mentioned the Yoda lightsaber fight and I wished he hadn’t. While he didn’t ruin the movie it would have been nice to have been surprised.

Same goes for a movie like The Sixth Sense. The big reveal was genuinely a big surprise to me even though there were many clues throughout the movie. When Bruce Willis was first introduced to Osment I thought it was completely unrealistic that a therapist would approach a minor patient on the street like that but I chalked it up to Hollywood realism. Spoiling the movie would have robbed me of the surprise experience. It would still be a decent movie but I’d still have wanted to be surprised.

That said, I don’t know how long until the expiration date on spoilers. I still don’t know the end of Ransom but I can hardly bitch and moan if someone reveals it to me since that movie came out years ago.


Somewhat. But if the movie is any good, then it won’t complete ruin it. Don’t you rewatch movies with twist endings? Aren’t they ruined for you already?

The silliest moment in the anti-spoiler movement was when a movie came out a couple of decades ago about the Burke and Wills expedition. People complained about reviewers giving spoilers, even though the events are well-known to anyone from Australia. It was sort of like complaining about a movie about Lincoln showing him shot by John Wilkes Booth at the end.

I do enjoy a good plot twist, whether I knew about it (e.g., The Crying Game, The Murder of Roger Ackyroyd), expected it (e.g., The Prestige), or never saw it coming. I can appreciate the skill of the artist as they do it.

Not ruined, but nowhere near as good as the first time through. The pleasure in rewatching a movie is different from the pleasure of watching it the first time through. And anyway, I already said that it won’t completely ruin the movie, but it will often significantly diminish my enjoyment.

You know, I’ve always wondered, is Citizen Kane forever ruined for me? How central is the whole Rosebud thing?

It doesn’t matter, the movie is just that good anyway. It’s a thinly disguised story about William Randolph Hearst.

Knowing who Rosebud was won’t ruin it but it’s a nice surprise. It’s like eating ice cream. Knowing who Rosebud is, is like having whipped cream on the ice cream, it’s nice but plain ice cream is nice too

It’s not at all, actually. He regrets his lost innocent youth? Well… doesn’t everybody?

Cool, thanks. I remember reading the Cracked article about classic movie plots that make no sense and laughing when they ask:

what kind of weirdo names his sled anyway? Does he miss his childhood desk chair too?

I’m with you, RealityChuck. A good movie gets better on repeated viewings. If anything, having it “spoiled” beforehand just gets you up that learning curve all the faster. I’ve found that people who complain about movies being “spoiled” are the ones that only appreciate movies on the most superficial level in the first place. No offense intended to present company, of course.

My favorite spoiler story was when Ian McKellen was criticized for appearing on a talk show and revealing that

Gandalf would return in The Two Towers!

Oh heavens, why would anyone be offended at being called a person who doesn’t appreciate movies except on a superficial level?

Side note, directed in this instance towards Tim R. Mortiss but also generally at large: Why put something in a spoiler box when you have given absolutely no indication of what work it is spoiling? The only person who is going to click a spoiler box like that is someone who doesn’t care about seeing a spoiler anyway.

I think that was the point. Here was Kane, a powerful man who could buy the whole world, and what was this Rosebud? A secret lover, a hidden city, a passcode for a bank account? Minds were racing everywhere thinking it was to be a huge revelation.

But he was simply thinking about his lost youth.

And that seems cheesy by today’s standards because so many other films have played off of that concept.

Seriously. I prefer to avoid spoilers myself, and it’s not because I’m a superficial idiot who only goes to movies for the plot. It’s because, like any narrative work of art, the way the plot unfolds in a movie is one important element of the story. Just like character, set design, acting, or the score.

Screenwriters talk a lot about “arcs,” and while this is often primarily in the context of character development, the overall plot has an arc as well - one that a good screenwriter can use to effectively build and release tension. One of the tools they use to do that is the element of surprise (or uncertainty). Horror films rely on the unexpected jumping out of the shadows to scare the audience. “Will they or won’t they” pairings on sitcoms derive all of their value from uncertainty. Mysteries center around one big question that, if answered well at the end, will be simultaneously surprising and dramatically satisfying.

Ultimately, nobody’s saying that we’ll NEVER watch something if it’s spoiled for us. I’ve known about Rosebud since I was a six-year old reading old “Peanuts” comics, and I still loved “Citizen Kane” once I actually saw it. But I’m also aware that my experience watching “Citizen Kane” for the first time was ever-so-slightly diminished by the fact that I knew what Rosebud was from the first frame. Rather than driving the narrative of the film via its mystery (and then serving as a final, delicious dollop of irony at the end), as intended by Orson Welles, the Rosebud stuff ends up feeling like an obvious, and somewhat silly, framing device.

A similar example is that of “Saving Private Ryan.” If we as the audience know that the old man at the beginning is the titular private, then the rest of the movie loses a whole lot of tension, because we know the damned kid survives. I won’t dispute that, as a framing device, “Old Man Ryan” is clumsier (not to mention pumped full of Spielbergian sentimentality) than “Rosebud,” but you can’t deny that saving the reveal until the end served an important narrative purpose, even if it wasn’t very well executed.

In other words, plot surprises are one of many elements of good movie-making. Their contribution to overall quality varies from film to film (as noted above, a historical film suffers less from being spoiled than, say, an M. Night. Shyamalamadingdong film - say, 10% reduction in enjoyment vs 75%), but it is almost always something.

As for ** Tim R. Mortiss**… don’t worry, just because some of us can enjoy the emotional thrill of surprise while simultaneously appreciating a film at a deeper level doesn’t make you superficial. Just bad at multi-tasking.

I agree with your ex.