Why We Need Spoiler Alerts

Ever since entertainment began; since William Shakespeare penned Henry IV in 1589, since Thespis of Icaria was decorated for tragedy in 534 BC, and since Neanderthal Man began retelling epic escapades of pre-chivalrous sexist torment the likes of which Andy Gray and Richard Keys would be proud of, there have been spoilers.

Where there are spoilers there must be, for the sake of all sanity:


The spoiler alert is an indispensable tool in modern society. As fundamental as the fire alarm and as requisite as the civil defence siren. It does little to prevent the midnight charring of your children or the annihilation of a nation’s population. What it does do is defend against the digestion of material detrimental to the outcome of dramatic fiction. See? Vital.

The term; spoiler, was coined during the internets adolescence, becoming increasingly common over the years. Netiquette requires that spoilers are avoided, but recognises that this isn’t always practical. For this, humanity provided us with the spoiler alert. When it’s not possible to convey the information you wish without using spoilers, one must alert readers to the advancing dangers.

Here’s an internet example of the kind of spoiler-induced conflict improper use can cause:

Although most civilised people uphold the law, not everyone is playing by the rules. The internet is the domain of both spoiler and spoiler alert. But what happens when spoilers outgrow their habitat and begin infesting every other innocent medium we have? When spoilers appear in magazines? On TV? Or worse, when they inhabit our minds and are manifested through the very words we speak?!?

Unfortunately it seems that as a work ages etiquette is shunned in favour of parody. It becomes acceptable to spoil something provided it has sufficiently aged. Many of the greatest twists and turns in cinematic history were apparent to me long before I had seen them. I knew of Luke Skywalker’s patriarchal heritage long before I had seen Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. I knew of Dr. Malcolm Crowe’s clinical status long before I had seen Sixth Sense. Perhaps most tragically of all, I even knew of the identity of Keyser Söze before I had seen The Usual Suspects.

The international inhalations audible when these works were first screened is a moment that should be long repeated. But thanks to the spoiler menace, our surprise supplies are dwindling. Spoilers can appear anywhere, and without an alert you have no idea what media monstrosities you’re about to uncover.

The journey begins innocuously enough. Rapid assimilation. Pupils flickering from left to right and you eat up the words of your free newspaper. But unbeknown to you you’re perilously approaching sensitive information in direct relation to the conclusion of your current addiction. The surrounding bystanders cling to the tangible jeopardy in the air. Dread fills them as your gaze dips. You’re approaching Spoiler Town at warp speed and all are powerless to stop you. Then it happens. You read it and a look of resentment wipes your face clean of all pleasure. Raising your head you make eye contact with those around you. They offer no comfort. They cannot undo what just happened. Now you know. You’ll always know. Weeks of solid viewing raped, ruined and spoiled in the space of a sentence.

It could happen to any one of us. It happened to me. Since Christmas I’ve been knee deep in the greatest TV drama of all time – The Sopranos. Since embarking on my epic quest I’ve inadvertently come across information destructive to my experience. It’s as if the world is determined to make me aware of how this wonderful show ends before I reach that magical moment.

 Magazines, TV and friends all carelessly mentioning the finale of The Sopranos as if it’s irrelevant. As if it doesn’t matter to me. As if I’m not so hopelessly engaged that I’m forgoing opportunities to sleep to see what’s occurring in New Jersey.

Worse still is that upon assimilation you become hysterical. Your brain panics and immediately tries to forget everything it knows. To dispel all memory, to eradicate everything from your mind. Unfortunately this isn’t possible. One only succeeds in reinforcing the information. Each swiping hand simply deepens the hole in which the memory is buried, embedding it further and further into the muddy depths of your mind. Where it stays, and from where it will return at the the exact moment preceding its relevance.

Despite the fear of a double-dip recession, the fear of terrorism and our fear of hosting the Olympics, it is in fact the spoiler that provides the single largest threat to our country. It is imperative that as a nation we tackle this problem and begin ruthlessly policing spoilers to eradicate them as if they were foreign visitors without the proper paperwork.

Every work of media, every piece of print and every slice of public speech will be put through a rigorous quality control check. Here the MOSC [Ministry of Spoiler Control] omit spoilers where possible and insert alerts where not.

While it may halt narrative fluency and stifle the cohesiveness of speech, it is completely and totally necessary. If Pope Benedict XVI wishes to compare the social situation of humanity with the finale of Lost in an epic Vatican-top monologue, spoiler alerts shall be legally enforced. A major SA consists of fireworks, rolling digital banner-clad blimps, optional ear plugs and a shuttle bus service to ensure citizens escape the area spoiler-free. This is the minimum precaution expected.

If this law enforcement strategy infringes on the delicate democratic nature that made this country what it is today, fine. But I ask you, nay, I implore you; please refrain from using analogical expressions pertaining to the climax of my favourite shows and games simply for the sake of reference.

Until my polite proposals and radical policing ambitions are internationally enforced, please think twice the next time you’re about to relate a predicament to the life and trials of Jesus Christ. Not everyone has read the Bible. Thanks.


Article first published as Why We Need Spoiler Alerts on Technorati.


11 thoughts on “Why We Need Spoiler Alerts

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why We Need Spoiler Alerts « Anti-Bandwagon Propaganda -- Topsy.com

  2. It’s a shame someone spoiled The Usual Suspects for you, Keyser Soze’s identity is one of the best twist’s I’ve ever seen. Made me permanently suspicious of people with limps.

    • It is truly tragic. I don’t even know how I know the things I do. Somewhere along the winding road that is my life I must have encountered large signposts that, rather than informing me how many miles I’d have to travel to reach the nearest service station, simply drew my attention to every major spoiler in movie history. That’s my metaphor and I’m stickin’ to it.

      I don’t think Scary Movie helped either. Although I was probably 10 or 11 when I saw it, and didn’t even know of The Usual Suspects existence back then, it planted a seed that blossomed into a spoiler once I had the brainpower to figure it out.

      Thanks for reading, I’m checking out Dynamic Loading now.


  3. I always thought Scary Movie was a very, very odd place to find a Usual Suspects spoiler. I’m 90% certain that the primary demographic of horror-parody isn’t all that interested in crime thrillers from the mid-nineties.

    Great film though, more so if you watch it after seeing Stephen Baldwin on Big Brother and try to take his tough-guy role seriously.

    • Y’know I had no idea Baldwin even starred in the film. As far as I’m concerned, any middle-aged man that ritually performs the act of lip-pouting, head-tilting, goatee-growing, hair-combing, smouldering psychosis has unfortunately already allowed the brief window of time in which he can possibly be considered ‘tough’, in my mind to completely elapse.

      It’s sad when it happens, but it happened to Baldwin.

  4. So I went back and read my Sopranos post from a while back, nervous that I ruined it for you. Thankfully I found a spoiler alert, which I forget on many occasions. I’m just happy I didn’t ruin The Sopranos for you, since I think it’s one of the best shows ever. I never watched it when it was on and I’m glad; the show’s much more fun on DVD where I can watch however many episodes I want at a given time. I flew through the entire series in a little over a month and unlike most people I loved the ending. If whoever told you how the show ends just gave you surface information you’ll be fine; there’s much more to The Sopranos’ ending than meets the eye.

    I think your plan to suppress the Bible’s conclusion will meet resistance, especially from the cross-making community. Anybody wearing a crucifix will not follow your suggestions and those heavily invested in making little gold crucifixes or Christ-nail’s will tell you to piss off. Personally I’m all for these symbols disappearing from our world, especially America, where the size of the cross determines what kind of Christian you are – the bigger the cross, the shittier a Christian. It’s also hilarious when really fat people (who are not in short supply stateside) wear small crucifixes; it’s a bizarre juxtaposition.

    By the way, I’m going to ruin Titanic for you: the boat sinks =)

  5. Haha. Your concern is appreciated. But fear not, since beginning my quest I’ve skilfully sidestepped any blatantly Soprano-related material. So none of my dismay was at yours hands. But sometimes knife-wielding, albeit metaphorically personified spoilers leap out of the dark and demand all your money, at which point you hand over your wallet and fall to your knees in tears because not only are you penniless, you now know how Fight Club ends.

    As previously mentioned, I bought The Sorapnos box-set at Christmas [I was stood in the aisle with The Wire on my left and The Sopranos on my right, it took my a while to come to a decision] and have watched roughly four episodes a night since. I’m approaching the climax of Season 6, so this time next week I’ll have probably experienced the finale. I’ll be happy to discuss the ending with you then. I don’t know a great deal about it, not enough to damage the experience for me anyway. I hope…

    As for Christianity, dampening that spoiler would mean changing the icon of the religion; Jesus’ crucifixion, so you’re probably right about that. [Spoooooooiler ALERT] It’s the equivalent of Psycho teaser posters featuring Norman Bates in drag. A slight give-away…

    • Whenever I think about a topic like this (Christianity), Bill Hicks always comes to mind. I remember he said something along the lines of, “you think Jesus wants to see a cross when he comes back? It’s like going up to Jackie O with a rifle pendant on.” I personally believe the crucifix is a morbid symbol, regardless of what Jesus died for. It’s like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which solely focuses on the morose aspects of the Gospels and not Jesus’ actual message, which is love and forgiveness (and also a healthy dose of anti-establishment rhetoric). I guess not being a Christian colors my perception of the religion.

      I can’t wait to see what you think of The Sopranos’ finale. I thought it was excellent even though most everybody else disagrees. It’s a very postmodern show and the ending reflects that – that’s all I’m saying. The 6th season is a bummer though; I was depressed after watching episodes and I couldn’t really figure out why. After all, it’s just a show. What’s amazing is that the writing’s so powerful that you end up carrying it with you after you’ve turned off the television.

      Somebody ruined Fight Club for me years ago when it was in theaters, which resulted in a very vehement rant against them. I still think the movie’s pretty good but it sucks when people ruin things for you. I’m guilty of that with my reviews sometimes but I try to focus on the mood or concepts in the film, not the actual events leading up to the finale. Then again, if you’ve never seen Robocop, my thesis will ruin the film for you. I’ve had many films ruined via academic writings, which analyze every aspect of the film.

      I have to finish watching the Super Bowl, which is the most homoerotic thing since Greco-Roman wrestling. I usually hate American football but there’s something fascinating about the Super Bowl; I think it’s that over a third of America’s watching the same thing at the same time, engraving it into our collective consciousness. I just drove home from a Super Bowl party and it’s amusing how the roads are empty right now because everybody’s inside watching sports; the only people I saw on the road were pizza guys. What a weird world. =)

  6. I saw a brief glimpse of the Superbowl. The BBC has broadcast it for the last few years. I try sometimes, but no matter how hard I do, I can’t fathom the timing aspects of the game. Quarters? Time-outs? What the hell? Why not just play straight for 40 minutes? The entire thing’s of interest to me simply for the half-time shows/ads though, as I’m sure it is to many Americans. It just means sitting through an hour or so of confusion first. Anyway, enough ignorant British sporting opinions…

    It’s time for ignorant British religious opinions. I actually am a Christian, in that I was baptised and confirmed. However I defected to Atheism some time back. The Bill Hicks routine is a very funny one. He hits the nail on the head, as he does so often.

    Fight Club, although I love it, I also have no memory of my first time watching it properly. I can’t remember whether I’d previously had the ending ruined or not. Nevertheless, I’m sure I was surprised. I also wrote an academic piece for college based on it too, ha. I believe it was “a study of how mentally disabled are represented in both Fight Club and One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest”, or words to that effect. If I still had the document I’d post it. I’ve no idea where the files are though. I don’t even know what conclusion I came to, if any. It got an A though. I must have done something right.

    As for our friend Tony, literally minutes ago I finished Season 6 and will be moving onto The Final Episodes shortly. I agree in part about Season 6, somewhat depressing. However the first three episodes, particularly episode two; Join The Club, are some of the greatest TV I’ve ever seen. Join The Club, The Test Dream and Pine Barrens rank as my favourite episodes so far.

  7. Pingback: Why We Need Spoiler Alerts | SquabbleBox.co.uk – Entertainment Under Attack

  8. Pingback: THE EDITORIAL: Why We Need Spoiler Alerts | SquabbleBox.co.uk - Entertainment Under Attack

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