Unlike dedc’s post, I won’t include a spoiler alert here because I’m going to show how easy it is to discuss spoilers without actually saying what they are.
This whole argument started because dedc included a Game of Thrones spoiler, albeit a somewhat minor one, in a post. I complained about it, he relented, but then included the pretty well known Soylent Green spoiler in his response. We then had a pretty heated (though, of course, still friendly within our pretty vulgar friendship rules) argument about all sorts of things, and now you have two posts to ignore.
DE’s argument is basically this: “there comes a time when a surprise element of a plotline is fair game to be referenced without any warning to people who didn’t actually know it.” He rightly acknowledges that he can’t give any specific definition of when this happens, so he’s basically just arguing that you can spoil whatever you feel is part of “cultural literacy”. After the jump, a nerdy breakdown of why I disagree:
1) One person’s pop culture is another person’s undiscovered territory: Even in dedc’s original post, he includes a plot point from the end of Moby Dick that I didn’t know. Maybe that makes me culturally ignorant to a degree, but it also means that I had one more little mystery out there to have revealed. Now I don’t. I feel a small loss there.
Every once in a while I meet someone who hasn’t seen the Star Wars trilogy. It blows me away, because it’s so pervasive, but just like an anthropologist meeting a stone age tribe deep in the forest, I immediately want to shelter them and preserve their experience. Dedc includes the well known spoiler from the end of Empire Strikes Back (not “Star Wars”, ahem), which I realize 99.999% of our readers already know, but what if they don’t? So, every time you use a spoiler, remember that you risk taking away a pleasant life experience from someone, which gets us to my second point:
2) Spoilers are entirely unnecessary. Unless you are actually debating the plot itself, you NEVER need to include a spoiler. They are entirely unnecessary! I will go ahead and say this right now, and let it be known as Nick’s Fundamental Law of Movie Discussion: “There is nothing that a spoiler reference conveys that can’t be conveyed by other means.” Unless, of course, you’re discussing the actual plot itself, in which case you’re pretty explicitly opening yourself up to spoilers. And if a person asks you if you would recommend a movie that you thought had a really stupid twist in it, then go ahead and say that “there is a twist to the plot that I thought was unbelievable.” I have done the for years now with Battlestar Galactica, which I consider an amazingly good show except for the very ending of the whole series. I tell people to watch the whole thing and stop before the last episode (which, of course, no one has ever obeyed), but I will never tell someone why that episode ruins itunless they explicitly ask for it, which is an example of my third point:
3) You can easily warn people about spoilers! Not sure if a reference is so pervasive that you can freely reference it? Then just put a note at the top that says “[warning, minor spoilers about Battlestar Galactica]” at the top of your post. There, that’s it, you’re done. DE considers that “tip toeing around”, but I think it’s common internet courtesy. You can’t depend on tags to warn people about a post. You can’t necessarily assume that a reference in the post title is going to do it. Like using “NSFW” tags, don’t assume that your context is sufficient, and just err on the side of caution. It take five seconds to do, and you ensure that you aren’t ruining anything for anyone. Which is good because:
4) You can never be sure that you’re not spoiling it! You will always meet someone who hasn’t seen or heard the reference that you think is so basic, and therefore you’ll eventually ruin something for someone. There are people out there who haven’t seen The Usual Suspects. Part of it is because it was a small release, part of it was because it seemed like a normal gritty caper type movie from the outside. And of course most people who have seen it will tell you that it actually has pretty interesting twists and turns with a pretty good mystery at the heart of it. But of course the movie’s been out for over fifteen years now, and millions of people have seen it. So you have a movie that people won’t watch until they’re older, with a delicate plot secret that is easily ruined, and millions of people out there who consider it a classic movie because they saw it over a decade ago. Recipe for disaster!
Similarly, I feel like every single person I hung out with in high school read Ender’s Game. It’s a good sci-fi read, consider it highly recommended, but I’ll bet most of our readers have never read it and many have never heard of it. If you were talking to a four year old about Santa, you wouldn’t go ruining it. If you were talking to a ten year old about Santa, you’d assume they understood. That’s what’s going on here except that when it comes to movies and books, we’re all four years old. And I think there’s nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution and warning people when you’re potentially going to ruin an experience for them.
All of this is just general argument about spoilers being tossed around freely. With respect to the post that started it all, DE felt that a Game of Thrones reference from the end of the season is fair game because the show (which only airs on HBO of course) finished that season a few weeks ago. Of course, he doesn’t want to know details from the rest of the series, even though the entire second season was published in book form in 1998. This is the whole problem, people assume that something they’ve seen is common to everybody and things they missed aren’t going to be referenced.
So there’s your two arguments, feel free to chime in below, but please keep all comments free of actual spoilers or I WILL delete them. You can put them in DE’s thread though, and feel free to include lots of stuff from A Clash of Kings. It’s cool, that book has been out for well over a few weeks.