Today In Pop Culture: A Brief History Of Spoilers

Published on December 18th, 2015 in: Movies, The Internets, Today In Pop Culture |

By Jeffery X Martin


It is 1980, the morning of May 21. School is almost over for the year. I feel the first erratic twitches of puberty grunting through my adrenal glands. More important than any of that, though, more important than girls or grades or how to get better with either of them, is the fact that May 21 is the official release date of The Empire Strikes Back.

And I am ready.

They haven’t invented a number for how many times I’ve seen the original movie. There aren’t enough fathoms for how deeply I love that whole universe, all the characters and the spaceships and the bitchin’ weapons.

It is the morning of May 21. My family also loves Star Wars, and we are all going to get in the Family Truckster the next day and cram into a giant auditorium with the rest of The Great Unwashed and watch the next chapter of the saga and that moment, that exact moment, is when he walks in.

I won’t name him. He is a classmate. Even as fluid as friendships can be in the fifth grade, he is no friend of mine. He stands in the middle of the classroom before the teacher arrives and says, “You’re not going to believe this. Darth Vader is Luke’s father.”

I lower my head to my desk. I know there’s the possibility he’s just messing with me, but I look into my heart and I know it’s true. I am gutted. I am hamstrung. I am powerless. This human turd has stolen my joy with one sentence. I have nothing to look forward to.

Flash forward to today, this very day, December 18, 2015.

Today In Pop Culture, the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga is released. The Force Awakens has already broken the record for pre-sales, according to Fandango.

Things are worse now than they were in 1980. We didn’t have the Internet then. We didn’t have random strangers shoving their way into our newsfeeds and timelines, sharing information we don’t necessarily want. We had to hear things face to face, from people we knew, not from some avatar with a big mouth.

Right now, there are millions of people in my shoes. They have waited a long time for this movie, and the last thing they want is for people to blab about it online. They don’t want spoilers. They don’t want to be gutted. They don’t want to be 11-year-old X, shaking his devastated head over matters of fictional paternity.

Most people seem to understand this and have promised not to ruin the day for everyone. And I haven’t seen anything like this since 1999, when The Sixth Sense came out. After that movie’s opening weekend, there was this strange silent agreement among moviegoers. Nobody gave away the ending.

There wasn’t a campaign to keep quiet about it. There was nothing in the newspapers about staying silent about the ending. We just did it.

I didn’t see The Sixth Sense until it had been out for about a month, and I still didn’t know what was coming.

That was courteous. We were better for it.

Daring people not to ruin the ending has also been used in the marketing of films. In 1960, theater personnel were instructed not to let anyone into a showing of Psycho if the movie had already started. Commercials for The LEGO Movie asked potential audiences not to give away the ending. And as much as I would love to talk to you about Fight Club, the first rule of… well, let’s just say I can’t talk about it.

Heck, as far back as 1926, a movie called The Bat started with a title card that read, “Can you keep a secret? Don’t reveal the identity of The Bat. Future audiences will fully enjoy this mystery play if left to find out for themselves.”

It’s true. Why would anyone go see a new movie if they already knew every single thing that were to happen?

Next year, this date will be listed on many history sites as the day Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. Box office records will be broken. Unknown actors will become superstars.

It would be nice if it were also noted as the day the Internet kept its damned mouth shut about one thing, a thing that millions of people treasure, including little kids in the fifth grade who need heroes, kids who still have a sense of wonder and need surprises.

Y’all be cool.

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