I am an unapologetic fan of most things related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), falling in love—as I suspect many of my fellow diehard fans did—with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man in 2008. I was instantly hooked and, being provided with seventeen additional doses, I found myself mainlining each luxuriant motion picture. Satisfied with each film as I was, I could hardly await the release of the next one. Therefore, it is no understatement when I say that Avengers: Infinity War was the splendiferous climax I waited ten tantalizing years for. It was a numinous experience, to say the least. I must have watched the teaser and first full-length trailer to Infinity War dozens of times—like normal fans, right? I parsed each frame of the footage for clues to how the movie would unfold, often lapsing into bouts of delirium.
This was no less true for Avengers: Endgame. I imbibed the trailers. My friends and I conjectured as to what would happen and how. We bickered about all the fan theories and thumbed through our knowledge of comic books (mine being, admittedly, unworthy) to see if we could divine anything about Endgame.
But that’s all it was: conjecture and speculation.
Leaks from the media and plot details accidentally divulged by the actors are one category of spoilers. “Oops,” we can be heard to utter, or “lol.” Details discovered in this manner are typically innocuous and don’t truly ruin the experience of seeing a movie for the first time. There are exceptions, of course, such as when Tom Holland blurted out—prior to the release of Infinity War, no less—how difficult it was for Benedict Cumberbatch to recite particular lines. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, DO NOT WATCH THAT INTERVIEW. Subtle as Holland’s words are, they are a crucial plot device for Endgame.
Sadistic trolls on social media are the other source of spoilers, the kinds of spoilers which make films lose their luster and emotive potential. I witnessed multiple instances where people on social posted pictures that revealed EVERYTHING about Endgame in a few bullet points. Thankfully, I had already watched the movie on its debut weekend. But what the fuck?! The trolls could have waited until Monday, at the very least.
Everyone should read Jennifer Richler’s article regarding the scientific rationale behind humanity’s general hatred for spoilers. Supplemental materials include Mindy Weisberger’s brief article on more recent researching demonstrating that spoilers “reduce suspense and decrease overall enjoyment,” and Dan Kois’ guidelines to a proper statute of limitations for spoilers.
I’m not against spoilers entirely. Nothing should be spoiled for children and young adults who haven’t had the time to read or watch all the masterpieces, blockbusters, and classical works. Adults I have less sympathy for. If by this time an educated adult of approximately twenty-five years, steeped in popular culture and social media, [SPOILERS AHEAD] doesn’t know that the RMS Titanic sinks and Jack meets an ignominious end because of Rose’s selfishness, or that Musfasa was callously thrown into a gorge of stampeding wildebeest by his evil brother Scar, or that Malcolm in Sixth Sense was, in fact, dead the whole time [SPOILERS END], then one’s experience in earthly pleasures is certainly lacking. Watch these movies, now!
We would do well to acknowledge that some people don’t place a high premium on anticipation and suspense and are, therefore, unaffected by having key details or entire storylines revealed prior to reading or watching them. Some people just need to know at all costs. However, many of us want to enjoy a work of fiction or cinema with virgin eyes and ears. We want to experience the gamut of human emotions without knowing how the story ends or what the plot twist is or who dies. I even go out of my way to explain to acquaintances and familiars alike that I find spoilers unwelcome and I’ll avoid doling them out unless specifically asked to do so.
Trolls operate in the same vein as Alfred admonished in the Dark Knight: “some men want to watch the world burn.” It’s these individuals that don’t share our appreciation for literature, art, and cinema, and don’t care if they ruin our experience of them. Unfortunately, terrible episodes of violence—in Antarctica, Hong Kong, and elsewhere—have resulted because of spoilers, meting out injustice (spoilers) with even worse injustice (violence). Violence should be deplored in all its forms and should never be used as a means to undermine trolls.
Yet, it is important to understand that not all people who spoil stories and movies do it out of malice. As I mentioned above, some people want to know what happens at any cost and hope to share their discoveries with others. These are the same individuals who can’t keep a secret. It must be, therefore, our cultural mission to seek coexistence; to have spoilers and to be free from them. Vulture’s guidelines [link here] seem like a good start. It is incumbent on those of us who wish to live in a world free from spoilers to be open about it, to tell our loved ones (and strangers wherever applicable), and to indulge in a necessary respite from social media when new movies, books, and tv shows arrive.
In the meantime, however: fuck spoilers.