In the weeks leading up to Avengers: Endgame, I did what any conscientious fan has to do now – I got off social media, stopped reading any and all articles online, and stopped viewing video clips and interviews with the cast and the Russos. I didn’t want the conclusion of a story I’ve watched unfold for a decade inadvertently spoiled for me. In the days leading up to the film and the days following its release, the hashtag #DontSpoilTheEndgame began to trend as the stars of the film and the Marvel Studios/Disney marketing machine urged people not to ruin anything for the fans who hadn’t seen it yet. Of course people still did. Then Marvel Studios/Disney did. Apparently the whole “don’t spoil it” thing’s cutoff is two weekends. Then the spoilers came fast and they were BIG. It leaves me asking, what is wrong with people?? Why must we publicly discuss twists/the end at all?
For Marvel Studios/Disney, it makes sense. They didn’t want it spoiled…until they did. The new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer (no spoilers to follow) was a direct attempt to weaponize and monetize everyone’s feelings and emotions in the wake of Avengers: Endgame so we’d all run out to buy tickets to this epilogue story. Also, setting the standard spoiler limit at two weekends – co-director Joe Russo told CinemaBlend, “Two weekends feels like enough time for everyone to get to see it…I think after the second weekend it’s okay to share spoilers” – ensures that people who don’t want it needlessly spoiled have to run out and see it quickly. This helps nudge Avengers: Endgame along towards all those box office records it keeps shattering.
So, the spoiler maneuvering on the side of Marvel Studios/Disney makes perfect sense. Use the hype, use the emotional impact of the film, use the deep sense of connection people are feeling to this universe and these characters at this moment in time to get people in the theatre and to move tickets for your next movie. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think the opening of the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer they released was necessary. In fact, if it was up to me, Spider-Man: Far From Home wouldn’t come out until next May. I need time to think through, appreciate, and process all Avengers: Endgame held. That’s part of why I haven’t written about it yet. I can’t begin to express any of what it means to me. Plus, with something this big, I need time for it to just be mine before I start writing. But I digress and it isn’t up to me. Marvel Studios/Disney have done what they’ve done and, while I don’t agree with it, I understand why they’ve done so.
What I don’t understand is why anyone feels the need to talk about spoilers in an open, public forum like Twitter or Instagram yet. THERE IS NO GOOD REASON to talk about any of this in a public forum so soon after the film’s release.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently, well before Avengers: Endgame was on its way. This fear of spoilers as well as the widespread seeming-compulsion to talk about the spoiler-y parts of a film isn’t something I remember before social media. I don’t want to fall into the fallacious-yet-easy “blame social media for everything” trap but I don’t remember this being a worry before all this existed.
As a kid, opening night wasn’t a thing we regularly did for movies. In fact, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Star Wars Special Edition films stand out in my memory because my parents made a point to take us on opening night. It was something extra special! What I do remember as a kid is the fun of figuring out when we were going to see a new movie. It’s out! Yay! When can we go?? The question was enthusiastically considered but the enthusiasm came from being eager to see a movie not from the fear/anxiety that someone would talk about it before I got to see it. Weeks if not a month could regularly pass before we’d see some movies. And that was fine. Nothing was ever ruined for me. I never sweated spoilers. Heck, at that time in my life I didn’t even know the word in that context.
I never heard/knew the word “spoilers” in the context of giving away the ending prematurely until social media came along. I’m not saying it’s the root cause of this problem but I do think it’s safe to say it provides a platform which encourages users to fan the flames of our narcissism while falsely inflating the importance of our own opinions. To be as clear and direct as I can – THERE IS NO REASON WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ANYTHING SPECIFIC TO A BIG FILM PEOPLE ARE EAGER TO SEE OUT IN THE OPEN ON A PUBLIC, GLOBAL PLATFORM LIKE SOCIAL MEDIA AS SOON AS THE FILM COMES OUT. To do so has NOTHING to do with you being a fan who needs to express your love and has EVERYTHING to do with your needing everyone to see you’ve already seen this, as if that somehow makes you a better fan than someone else.
People have busy, full lives of which their fandom is a part. Yes, I love to make opening night something I do. It’s a ritual I enjoy. But it’s not one everyone shares. The genesis of this whole post came in a conversation I had with Jeff who was saying how excited he was to see Avengers: Endgame but hadn’t gotten to see it yet because, you know, he’d just had a baby. His son is amazing and adorable and I loved meeting him when Kalie and I were in D.C.. And, as a new baby, he totally does that thing where he requires all sorts of love, care, and attention :). So Jeff and his wife made their new son a priority over rushing to see Avengers: Endgame opening weekend. Does that mean they’ve missed the chance to see it spoiler free?
Family life, work schedules, trips for business or pleasure, personal finances and obligations – the list goes on and on and on about why someone might not be able to make it to a “big event movie” on the opening weekend or even on the following weekend. The fact I can see a film opening night is a mark of both my privilege and the shape of my life. The fact that someone can’t shouldn’t mean they lose the chance to see a film spoiler-free. I have the disposable income to see a film opening night and I can manage the work from my job in a way which allows me to do so. I have no children, ailing family members who require my care, nor health issues preventing me from going opening night. Not everyone is in the same situation. It is horribly entitled to think they are or that it’s a lack of care which prevents them from going to see a film as soon as it’s out.
What led Jeff to suggest I write this post was my telling him of a conversation I saw play out on Twitter. It was the Sunday after Avengers: Endgame opened and three people were discussing their frustration with those still upset over people posting spoiler-y content. One argued, as the film had already made over one billion dollars, everyone who really cared had seen it already. That is a statement made in ignorance of one’s own privilege. I’ve also seen, again and again, the tired defense, “A good story shouldn’t depend on spoilers! If your enjoyment of the narrative hinges on being surprised, it wasn’t a good narrative.” Yes, there is truth here. This is why I can reread books or rewatch films or TV shows I love again and again and again. I enjoy the story outside of the surprises that come with the first read/view. But it doesn’t mean those surprises aren’t meant to be part of the story the first time you see it. And the fact that a story can still be engrossing when you know what happens doesn’t give anyone the right to force you into that situation because they want to talk about the ending.
There is no reason to post “spoilers without context.” There is no reason to post about the end or twists or big reveals or the things that made you cry or surprised you. There is no reason to post gifs or stills or clips of big moments/reveals. There is no need to post a spoiler warning and then jump down several lines and write a spoiler.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t or can’t discuss all the amazing plot twists and turns and BIG moments of the film with all the people we know who’ve already seen it. We should! Part of the fun of seeing a movie – especially a big, exciting movie everyone’s been waiting for – is talking about it with everyone else! And there’s nothing wrong with writing an article, review, or analysis where you discuss spoiler-y content, as long as you’ve given a warning at the top. But a social media post isn’t an article nor is it a private conversation – it shows up publicly in everyone’s feed. We can talk with people face-to-face, call them on the phone, text them, email them, DM them through Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or our social media of choice, write an ol’ fashioned letter, use Skype or FaceTime or Houseparty, employ WhatsApp or one of dozens of different messaging apps. It’s 2019. We have what feels like an endless array of tools to communicate with each other. With all these avenues open to us, why would we ever discuss spoiler-y things as soon as a film is released out in the spotlight of open, public forums?
It has nothing to do with our love of the film but has everything to do with our wanting to broadcast to the world that we’ve seen it and we have thoughts and feelings and emotions and everyone needs to see them now because we want to share them. But, really, it’s a total dick move. And I really believe it’s born, in large part, through the delusions of grandeur social media has allowed us to develop over our own opinions. Look at this clip from The Simpsons, a flashback to an early date where Homer and Marge went to see The Empire Strikes Back and Homer spoils the ending of the film:
This clip comes from an episode of The Simpsons titled “I Married Marge,” originally airing on 26 December 1991. In it, Marge goes to the doctor to see if she’s pregnant again while Homer tells their children – Bart, Lisa, and Maggie – the story of how he and Marge ended up married. Depending on your age, the importance/tone/dynamic of The Simpsons may be a little fuzzy to you. But, long before South Park and The Family Guy and Rick and Morty, The Simpsons set THE standard for primetime animated humor, appealing to kids as well as adults.
The reason this scene is funny is because of the clear implication, obvious to all the viewers at the time, that only a buffoon like Homer Simpson would EVER talk about the ending/big twist of a movie as soon as it’s come out. It’s funny because, as with so many things Homer does, it’s so outlandish. No one is so rude, so thoughtless, so self-involved, so stupid as to do something like that…except Homer Simpson. Yet now so many of us feel the need to do the exact same thing. Seeing the movie itself isn’t enough. Talking about it privately with our friends and family who’ve seen it isn’t enough. Everyone everywhere needs to know we’ve seen it and needs to know what we think, whether they want to or not. Our need to broadcast our thoughts, feelings, and opinions is more important than respect for another’s life or schedule or priorities. This is not okay.
So yes, I loved Avengers: Endgame. While I thought there were a few serious problems, by and large I thought it was a damn near perfect movie, delivering just about everything I could have wanted from it. And yes, I have been soooooo excited to talk about it with everyone I know who has seen it. And yes, I’ve talked about it a lot :). So I understand the desire to discuss it and the fun that comes with doing so. I just can’t figure out why the need to trumpet our own opinions overrides the right of others to see a film, spoiler-free, on their own time. Nor can I understand what need we’ve created for ourselves that this sort of narcissistic behavior fuels…