Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Snape killed Dumbledore. Dr. Crow was dead for all of “The Sixth Sense.”
Usually, these statements have no impact on any given person, as they are well-known movie endings. Even though they were shocking and had impact when they were first witnessed by audiences, they have circulated throughout pop culture and have become, simply, common knowledge.
Not all surprises in books, movies and TV shows are so universal, however. With many new releases (and some not-so-new, as well), friendships are being torn apart everyday with accidental spoilers uncovered. To some, spoilers are never okay under any circumstance. To others, it is the spoiled one’s fault if something is spoiled, and no apologies are appropriate. The answer lies in between these opposing viewpoints, and that answer is dependent on many factors.
Movie plot twists are usually the most controversial, especially highly-anticipated movies such as the new Star Wars movies, anything to do with Marvel superheroes, and some horror movies (such as “It”). The rule for this is simple: if a person did not see a movie within the first three weeks of it being released, the movie is going to be spoiled, and it is their fault.
When the true, hardcore fans witness magic happen on the screens, it is hard not to express feelings on the matter. While it is important to be respectful to those who have not yet had the chance to see it, after about three weeks, everyone who really wanted to see it should have already.
This is not to say that if you want to see a movie, it is required to go within three weeks of the release date. Obviously, a person can see whatever movie whenever they want. For the experience to be spoiler-free, however, one cannot wait two months and then yell at another person for discussing the movie. It is just plain indecent, and unfair to those who had the mental capacity to see their highly-anticipated movie.
As for TV shows, a good rule of thumb is to wait a week after the release of an episode until assuming that everyone who planned on watching it has already. Netflix or Hulu originals are a different story, because all episodes in a season are released on the same day. While some on this planet may take that day and finish the entire season without getting up to eat or go to the bathroom, others manage their time in a healthy way and will only watch a few, maybe even just one episode at a time.
Waiting a full two weeks is a fair amount of time for both parties involved (those who finish quickly, and those who have lives). It is important to respect other people’s well-thought-out schedules, even if it means keeping all thoughts regarding season four of “Bojack Horseman” to oneself during this time, especially for those who finished in one day. However, if someone is taking more than two weeks to watch something booming in pop culture, like season two of “Stranger Things,” they deserve every spoiler they are going to get.
Books, however, are a different story. Everyone reads at a different pace, during different parts of the day, and these books can be anywhere from one hundred pages to one thousand pages. Waiting a month after completing the book is satisfactory time for others to catch up, no matter how long the book is. Although, the fan-base for a new John Green book is extremely different from the Rick and Morty fan-base, and conflicts do not typically arise in terms of book spoilers.
Not all of these rules are set-in-stone; there are some disclaimers: spoiling anything, (movie, TV show, book, etc.) while aware of the fact that the other person cares about what happens but hasn’t witnessed it yet, is highly unrecommended (regardless of whether or not it was intentional). Another thing to be aware of is the fact that classics are always assumed to be common knowledge, as are finished TV shows like “Lost” or “Breaking Bad.”
With that said, the majority of the time someone is upset about a spoiler, it is their own fault. Of course, there is always that one person who will reveal the most unexpected or devastating outcomes just a day after the content has been released. The best way to deal with people like these is to shun them from society.
Well, not really.
To avoid being “that guy,” try asking people if they have seen that content yet. If the answer is no, then do not talk about any revelations. Common sense is important in social interactions, even if you can not imagine why that person hasn’t seen something so culturally important as Netflix’s “Spirit: Riding Free.”
Being cautious with sensitive information is so important in today’s society where anything can go viral in a matter of seconds. To stay safe from angry people, watch things that are subjectively important as soon as humanly possible, and try to avoid assuming other people have done the same until the amount of time given above. Most importantly, do not ruin someone else’s experience just because you want to talk about yours (I am looking at you, people who are going to watch the new “Star Wars movie on opening night this December).
Photo by Kyle Nelson