#DontSpoilTheEndgame – What Compels Us to Spoil Things?

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?

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You just KNOW Thanos like to spoil movies. He’s that sort of guy. / Photo Credit – Avengers: Infinity War

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.

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“Hey everyone!  Remember how great Endgame was??  I KNOW!  This trailer will remind you you can keep feeling those feels at my movie too!” / Photo Credit – Spider-Man: Far From Home

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.

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You may’ve known one kid who liked to talk about the endings of things before everyone else had seen it but everyone knew that kid was a jerk. / Photo Credit – Avengers: Infinity War

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?

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It is a question that leaves me confused…not as to its answer but as to why we even have to talk about it. / Photo Credit – Avengers: Endgame

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.

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“Hey, I know!  Let’s all go find other people we know who have seen the movie and talk about it with them.  Then we won’t inadvertently ruin it for anyone!” / Photo Credit – Avengers: Endgame

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…

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25 thoughts on “#DontSpoilTheEndgame – What Compels Us to Spoil Things?

  1. But what if none of your friends have seen a specific movie or read a specific book and you have no-one IRL to share your thoughts and excitement with? Why shouldn’t you be able to find people online to discuss it with? Assuming of course normal internet courtesy of not posting spoilers without fair warning and enough blank lines or whatever to protect people from accidentally reading it. I’m not convinced that being spoiled is worse than being really excited about something and having no-one to share it with.

    But of course I’m biased in that regard as I’m rather unbothered by reading spoilers. I even quite like those small chapters summaries you sometimes find at the start of a chapter in older fiction…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I absolutely do think you should find people online to share this sort of stuff with! I’m sorry that didn’t come across right in the post. My thought was more our utilizing DMs – personal or group threads – with the people we know online to geek out about this stuff as opposed to doing so in public posts anyone can see in the weeks immediately following a film’s release. When I think of sharing with “friends” I think of the friends I’ve only ever met online as well as the friends I’ve met in person too.

      And yeah, my bias is (as I’m sure you can tell), anti-spoiler :). I love the process of watching the story unfold and seeing if I can guess where it’s heading. I’m also a heavy rewatcher/rereader though, so knowing the twists doesn’t preclude me from enjoying it. But I love that first time when I have no idea where it’s going to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Finding internet friends with similar interests is of course part of the solution (that’ one of the reasons I started a blog) but with niche interests it seems a bit too ambitious to have to make new friends everytime I want to discuss a new film, tv-series or book. So I’m very glad that there are open forums I can join or listen in on. However, I of course agree that such discussions should only be held in easily avoidable and clearly labelled places, e.g. not twitter and instagram, especially when it is something new.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep, that’s it. The avoidability/clearly labelled part of it is so important and it’s what so many people overlook. The access to forums where we can discuss this stuff with other fans is one of the best parts of the internet!

        Like you said above, I had no idea how many amazing people I’d end up meeting/friends I’d end up making when I started a blog. I was looking at this mainly as an avenue to write but I could never have predicted the fun of the community I’d meet.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve said just about anything I would’ve said on this topic, I think. I agree Marvel has a monetary incentive to try to force people to see if the movie quickly, but two weeks still seems really short, You raise a lot of good reasons that seeing a movie within two weeks after its release simply might not fit into someone’s schedule, nevermind their budget. I also really dislike the implications that fans (and maybe the creators) here that people who “really” care or who are “real” fans would *of course* see the movie absolutely immediately, as if nothing else could be more important.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree – it’s such an ugly movement, this weaponization of fandoms. For some reason now people like to fight about/judge how big a fan others are, using all these arbitrary “requirements” for a “true fan”…as if you need do more than love something. It’s bad enough we do it to each other but you’re right, even the implication the creators/the actors/etc. would participate in this sort of behavior too is both problematic and offensive.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I also hate this idea that you have to see a film opening weekend or have it spoiled. I’ve been conscientiously closing my screens when I see “Avengers” written on it, though, for the most part, it seems like bloggers are just writing, “I loved Avengers!!!” and not doing spoilers, which I think is another reason to love the book blogging community.

    But my real fear of spoilers comes from people in person who, for some reason, don’t see anything wrong with blurting them out or just dropping them into conversation. So my conversations have been going something like this. Person: “I’ve seen Avengers.” Me: “DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW! LALALALA!” Maybe it comes across as rude, but it feels oddly necessary in a way it shouldn’t.

    I just saw Endgame the other night and part of it was because I didn’t think I could last much longer spoiler-free. Generally, I like to wait till films have been out awhile and see them in less crowded theatres, but that didn’t seem like an option here, sadly.

    But I agree. Why can’t people find other people who have seen the film and discuss it privately? Why must they ruin my enjoyment and surprise just to process their feelings about it? It seems a little selfish, frankly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It absolutely feels necessary to do that! When I was younger, there was this kid I knew in school who ALWAYS did that, seemingly without thinking. He’d say things like, “Hey, did you see that ‘Titanic’ movie? You know, the one where the boat sinks at the end?” And I’d wonder WHY he’d need to identify a movie by it’s ending ONE SECOND into the conversation. But it does feel like this has become par for the course. I don’t even see your reaction (something I’ve done myself :)) as rude because it is so necessary now! I wish it wasn’t, but it is.

      And while I obviously can’t make sweeping statements (at least not accurately) about culture, I do think this is an example of us becoming more selfish. It feels like it’s all about us having to talk NOW about how we feel NOW. And that’s not a problem, in and of itself, but it becomes one when we don’t take into account the thoughts and feelings of the people around us.

      I’m glad you were able to see the film without any of it being spoiled (feel free to email if you want to banter about it before the comment thread on some post I write about it :)). But I am sorry you felt the need to go to ensure that :/. That shouldn’t be a thing! I’ve come to love opening night because I enjoy the waves of reactions rippling through a big crowd. But I don’t like feeling like I need to to ensure it’s not spoiled for me. And sometimes things still are! I’ve seen people discussing potential spoilers they saw online in line for the movie on opening night! Why would someone do that?!? It’s all quite frustrating.

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      1. I’ve had people spoil things for me accidentally like it honestly doesn’t occur to them people don’t want to hear, “I saw a movie and here’s the ending!” It’s really…weird. Maybe they don’t care about spoilers so they assume no one else does?

        But there also does seem to be this culture of…everything needing to be instantaneous. If I watch a film, I want to talk about it, of course! But I am also willing to wait until someone I know sees it! I”m not going to throw all my feelings on them immediately! That’s really not fair to them.

        And, oh yes! I should email you. Because, obviously, I have so many feelings about so much that happened!!

        Oh, wow. We are different people. I saw Tolkien right after opening and got caught up in the Detective Pikachu madness and just wanted to run away from all the people. Opening nights are not for me! XD But there were only TWO people in the Tolkien theatre by the time I got in! It was sad! (But I did get a great seat, so.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think you’re absolutely right about the instantaneous thing. I think that’s a huge part of this. As everything in our culture has become faster and faster it hasn’t really given us more leisure time but it has certainly eroded our ability to wait for anything. It’s a growing problem, I think, and this spoiler thing is a perfect symptom of that.

        I’ve experienced the accidental spoilers from people too. I’m sure you’re right, that in many cases they just don’t think about the other’s perspective. But I also then wonder HOW could that be the case?? How could someone not even THINK someone might have qualms with having the ending ruined before they’ve seen it? At least ask the person! I don’t know. It’s confusing and, at times, disheartening. I tell my students (who take any class I teach where we discuss film or novels) I’ll fail them for spoilers :). I’ve never actually done it but I think it’s good that it’s on their radar.

        And please do email me! I’ll be watching for it eager to discuss…unless you already did and I missed it because the end of the school year gets nuts :8. But if that’s the case, you can always resend it and we can discuss it all then :).

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      3. The instantaneous thing seems to be a problem with piracy, as well. I do perfectly find waiting for stuff to come in at the library, even if I need to wait six months after release. But more and more people online seem to be expressing the idea that it is their right to be able to consume things instantaneously. Which…I don’t get. (Unless they’re trying to avoid spoilers!!!) But people who do things like to get paid for it. I woudn’t want to not be paid for what I do!

        I kept thinking I need to email you! But then I got sick and absolutely nothing in my life happened. I will try to email this week!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. YES! A thousand times yes! This drives me crazy too! People spend a lot of time creating these products and they absolutely have the right to be paid for them. But there is a growing culture that feels we have “the right” to take everything for ourselves, for free, as soon as we want it – at least in regard to things like film, TV, and music. And sure, it may not hurt “big” stars but what about the hundreds and hundreds of people who work on those movies and TV shows in “smaller” capacities? Or the young up-and-coming musician who is writing and performing amazing stuff but can’t ever leave their day job because they have no real avenue to make money doing it because they need to give it all away on YouTube or Spotify so people will listen? It makes me sad.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh man, this really hits the spot with me. My partner and I are in Games of Thrones spoiler free zone, hoping we can manage to get to the point we can sit down and watch the show on Blu-ray together with the subtitles on (for my partner who needs them to understand what the rest of us just can listen to).

    Anyway, I’m sitting at the local high school switchboard, waiting for the phone to ring, while clearing out their email inbox (so I can’t move away okay?), when a teacher and a front office staff member start discussing loudly what happened in GOT the previous night…..I was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..I can’t listen to this, I don’t want the event spoiled….I want to keep the suspense alive until we can sit down together…..

    I for one did not want to hear anything they were saying, and I don’t go around spoiling movie endings for folks who haven’t seen them. I was like take the conversation over to the lunch room if you need to talk about it…..So it’s the same on the internet – if you want to have a conversation about a show/movie, do it in private……

    Great post!

    I also agree with your comment about privilege – to assume everyone has the money and the ability to see a movie in the opening week is so frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh yes, ‘Game of Thrones’ is brutal! I’ve never watched the show or read the books but I feel like I know everything important that’s happened – I even recognize character names/relationships – from what I randomly see online or hear people talking about. It’s crazy! I almost think, although I can’t be sure as I don’t watch the show, the GOT spoiling is worse than the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ spoiling. It’s nuts! So I wish you the best of luck in maintaining the suspense around it.

      I always get annoyed when people just chat out in the open without at least a cursory look around too. Come on people! After ‘Endgame’ came out, I put a note on my board telling all my students, if they wanted to talk about it they could find me at lunch, during my prep, or after school when we could talk freely without inadvertently spoiling it for others in the class who hadn’t seen it yet.

      Your point about wanting to watch and enjoy GOT with your partner is an important point too! I didn’t think to put that in the post but a lot of people have traditions with shows or movies and they do like to watch them with special people. Honoring that means you can’t always watch something as soon as it comes out. People shouldn’t have to worry about having things spoiled either just because they want to share it with someone important to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely agree with you…..and yes it’s a tradition that my partner and I have, we sit and watch programs we have followed together, to share the experience. Loved the idea of the note on the board!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My students once yelled at me (when I said I was going to go ahead and watch ‘Stranger Things 2’ without Kalie because she was so busy with school) saying, “Mr. Miller! Netflix cheating is the worst thing you can do! If you have ‘a show’ with someone you can’t forsake that! It might even be worse than *real* cheating!!!” While I’d question their assessment :), it speaks to the importance of the shared ritual of a show with someone. And I do think they are (mostly) right. That’s something special to share and we shouldn’t have to fear the chance of that being ruined the day after something comes out. AND they guilted me enough that I STILL haven’t watched ‘Stranger Things 2’!! I told Kalie, given her life has finally slowed down a little, we need to get on top of this. I’ve been avoiding spoilers for over a year and I don’t know how much longer I can go…

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  5. Hi Michael,

    Yep! I had a boy the day after the movie try and spoil it with a classroom of Marvel fans. That was not pretty, but he hopefully saw the social faux pas. Why ruin anything for anyone? The effect of surprise really adds to the whole experience.

    I haven’t heard back. Hope all is good. Are you ready for another podcast this summer? I had about a 8 Mo black out with my Masters, but I am done. Talk soon?

    Thanks,

    Gary

    On Sat, May 11, 2019 at 11:47 AM My Comic Relief wrote:

    > Michael J. Miller posted: “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” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Life has been exceptionally busy as of late. I’ll hold on the podcast as of now. This summer is shaping up to be busier than they usually are with lots of irons in the fire. I’ll shoot you an email if/when things get a little clearer though.

      And congrats on finishing your Masters! That’s a huge accomplishment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. To be honest bookworms have been doing it so much better all these years. I think they understand why spoiler matter and they stay away from it, at least most of them. Many movies usually get released here in the UAE a day or two before the other parts of the world, including the Endgame, so we were pretty much ready for the movie spoiled by the time we watched.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The book/movie comparison is an interesting one. I wonder if there is a major difference? Could it be something to do with the culture surrounding each experience, book and movie? I don’t know. It’s certainly an interesting issue to consider.

      Liked by 1 person

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