Spoilers: A Moral Question

The dim urge to rant crept up on me today after some casual surfing turned up so many “spoiler alerts” I lost count. What happens to people on the internet that makes them believe it’s okay to spoil something? I mean, spoiling anything isn’t very nice—but stories? What’s more terrible than spoiling a story? Spoiling a child’s birthday, maybe, but that’s about it.

Now, sure, maybe being a writer means I hold a relatively conservative view on the matter, but I tend to think that artlessly recounting crucial details of another person’s narrative is not only deeply disrespectful to the art of storytelling, but also shows a distinct poverty of imagination when it comes to writing an intelligent review of a book.

This leads me to another point. If people generally agree spoiling stories is a bad thing (which must be true since—obviously—we use the word “spoil” to describe the activity), then how does preceding it with the now ubiquitous “SPOILER ALERT” make it okay?

If I decided to cook and eat my neighbour’s dog, but beforehand I put a sign in his window saying, Dear Jonathon, this Saturday, I’m going to stew Montmorency in a borscht and eat him with side of cabbage, it wouldn’t change the fact that I seriously spoiled Jon’s weekend. Also, borscht with a side of cabbage is almost certainly redundant.

In fact, if you warn someone ahead of time that you’re going to do something you know is wrong—like spoil a story, for instance, or cook somebody’s dog—it kinda shows clear premeditation. If that information came out in a court of law, you would sooo go to jail.

So yeah, I don’t like spoilers.

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3 THOUGHTS TO " Spoilers: A Moral Question "

  1. Point taken! I will try to write book reviews in the future that don’t disclose anything important about the story that should be a surprise.

    However, as an occasional spiller of story endings in my online reviews, I want to say this: I don’t use the phrase “spoiler alert” as a way of making story spoiling okay. I use it so that people who haven’t read the book can stop reading, therefore not having the story spoiled for themselves, and people who have can keep reading and then engage in a discussion with me about the details of the story.

    In a culture where everybody texts, nobody calls, and email is passè, online forums are one good way for people who love and read books to connect and discuss the books they love, which obviously means discussing the details. So posting “spoiler alert” isn’t so much evidence of premeditated criminal activity as it is a way of making sure people who don’t want to come to the party don’t accidentally wander through the door. It’s the internet equivalent of stopping mid-conversation and asking the other people at the table, “By the way, before I go on, have any of you not read this yet?”

    So, I don’t mind them so much, but I can see how in a book review they might be annoying to a lot of people. And more thoughtful book reviews can’t be a bad thing.

  2. Yeah, I take you’re point. I don’t really think spoilers are like eating the neighbour’s dog (surely there’re orders of magnitude that render the analogy kinda moot), but I guess one thing that bothers me is that sometimes I’m enjoying a review, reading along, and suddenly—even though there may be pages more to read—I have to stop short for fear of having it all spoiled. Me no likey.

  3. Am I allowed to quote the bit about eating the dog for a TV Tropes page about the spoiler phenomenon? (With you credited for the quote, obviously.) It has exactly the right sense of humor for said site, and encapsulates the danger of spoilers quite nicely. 😀