Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Statute of Limitations on Spoilers

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “spoiler alert,” a way to notify readers/viewers/listeners that what follows may reveal something about the ending of a story, novel, movie, etc. that was supposed to be a surprise. A lot of people get very upset when they learn the surprise ending of a book or movie they haven’t experienced yet.

At some point, though, these surprise endings become widely known, even passing into common knowledge. Few people would be irked if you mentioned that Sydney Carton sacrificed his life to save Charles Darnay, even though generations of school kids have yet to be forced to read A Tale of Two Cities.

So what is the statute of limitations on spoilers? And, more importantly, does the limit get extended as new media emerge? If a new movie or, more likely, a Broadway musical of A Tale of Two Cities comes out, do we have to keep Sydney Carton’s secret again until everyone has seen it? What about the DVD? And Netflix? Does every new medium start a new clock ticking on how long we have to keep mum about the endings of stories?

Well, I’m not going to stand for it anymore.

Oedipus blinds himself! Hamlet dies! Macbeth dies! King Lear dies. Romeo and Juliet? Both croak. Frodo wins! Rosebud was his sled. Harry Potter wins! Everyone did it on the Orient Express! The Second Foundation is on Trantor. The planet of the apes is Earth. Piscine is the tiger. The Fight Club is basically Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? In Sixth Sense, … nah, I can’t do it.

Oh, by the way ... spoiler alert!

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