Ok, so that title is a lie. I’m not here to spoil any major plot points for you today. However, I do want to talk about spoilers today.
I’ve been thinking about spoilers because I recently finished the audiobook of Allegiant by Veronica Roth. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Allegiant is the third and final book in Roth’s Divergent series. When Allegiant first came out, there was talk around the bookish internet, particularly among those who read and review YA, about the huge spoiler that takes place at the end of the book. Personally, I’m someone who tends to prefer to avoid spoilers of books (and movies and TV shows) I think I’m going to consume at some point (In case you were wondering, I might look up spoilers if it’s not something I think I’ll ever want to invest time in). In the case of Allegiant, however, the ending was spoiled by mistake and without my permission. I was leaving a movie theater after a viewing of Catching Fire, and a young woman was yelling into her phone about Allegiant and the spoiler that occurs. I really wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but the conversation was hard to tune out. So I left the movie theater annoyed that this random stranger had spoiled a book for me. Annoyed because she was loudly yelling into her cell phone (a pet peeve of mine) outside a movie theater that was clearly playing a movie that attracted audiences similar to the book you were spoiling (shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that maybe some of those folks were planning on reading Allegiant and didn’t want to be spoiled…because duh). But you know what? I got over it. She doesn’t/didn’t know me, didn’t know I didn’t want to be spoiled, and didn’t owe me anything.
I take the following attitude towards spoilers:
If I don’t want to be spoiled for something, it’s on me to avoid them.
This might mean staying away areas of the internet where I might accidently come across a spoiler or politely ask those I’m talking to that I don’t want to be spoiled. I think it’s polite of people to ask questions like “have you read this?” and “Do you want to be spoiled?” But, I don’t think anyone is under any obligation to do so.
If a spoiler “ruins” the book/movie/TV show for you, the problem is the book/movie/TV show, not the fact you know the spoiler.
Let’s say you get accidently spoiled for something. I think that if that thing hinges on the spoiler you accidently learned, it probably wasn’t that well written anyway.
There’s a difference between a spoiler and a content/trigger warning.
Some people are survivors of horrible things, such as sexual assault, childhood abuse, etc. For folks like this, certain things (like scene of sexual assault) may be triggering or otherwise harmful. And you don’t always know whether this is true of someone – even someone you consider a close friend may not have disclosed this information to you. If the media you’re talking about contains something you think might trigger someone in certain instances, I think it’s not only ok but incredibly important to say something along the lines of “I wanted to let you know that there’s a rape scene in this book. I wanted to make sure you were aware going in, just in case that’s something that might bother you.” By phrasing it in this way, you’re not “spoiling” which character(s) are involved or under what circumstances while also alerting the person you’re talking to that there’s something potentially harmful in the plot.
I’d like to end this post with a few questions for you: how do you feel about spoilers? Do you intentionally look them up? Avoid them? Do you think people who have a conversation in public have any obligation to the people who might accidently overhear their conversation?