Dear Internet people: PLEASE STOP WITH THE SPOILERS

Adam Fields
4 min readJan 10, 2024
There aren’t actually any spoilers in this post

Folks, if you’re writing about a piece of media, and it has spoilers, just label them and give people opportunity to opt out. This goes triple if you’re writing an actual article or headline about it. Even if the thing is 20 years old. Even if it’s 40 years old. Even if it’s 100 years old. Is this really so hard? I’m going to say “movie” a lot, but this also applies to other kinds of media — TV shows, books, etc…

A spoiler is a piece of information that’s intended to be revealed during the movie and materially affects the plot or overall experience of the movie. Often castings are not spoilers, but they can be in some circumstances (and yes, IMDB can also be a problem here). Generally details that are part of the premise of the movie won’t be spoilers, but parts of the plot may be. Some people may not care, but when you put thoughts out in a public place, they’re probably going to encounter people who will.

There is no statute of limitations on spoilers. There is always a new crop of people coming up who haven’t seen what you’re referencing.

When you make references to spoilers, you’re ruining the first time experience of that media for those people. Twists and dramatic reveals are a very important part of storytelling. The careful crafting of surprise and delight is a very important part of storytelling. Sure, some things do it badly. See the difference between foreshadowing and telegraphing. But still, it’s not your place to make that decision for everyone else.

LET THEM ENJOY THINGS ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

When you spoil important details, you’re disrespecting the art you’re discussing by taking it upon yourself to convey those important details, and disrespecting the people you’re discussing it with by not letting them enjoy those works on their own terms as an interaction with the piece. Whatever you get by making that joke about it… isn’t worth it.

One of my biggest peeves on this is dropping oblique references to important elements that may not seem relevant but become so in retrospect once you’ve seen the movie. This is common in the “spoilers without spoilers” meme format, and… I hate them, because they are spoilers. You may make a reference to the thing, and then someone watches the movie, and wow, there’s that thing in it, which is supposed to be a surprise, but huh, remarkably, it’s not a surprise anymore because someone previously mentioned that thing in the context of the movie. This is deeply ingrained in how surprise works — telling people about a thing ruins the surprise of a thing, and the twist in the movies comes from not having any frame of reference that the thing would appear at all.

The question of spoilers is somewhat more complicated for video games, especially long story games. In most cases when presented with a sequel, I’ll recommend playing the original for a full immersion experience, for really caring about the emotional and story beats that came before. But that may involve 20–80 hours of gameplay to get there, and sometimes the original game is lacking in ways that the sequel isn’t — pacing, game mechanics, graphics, etc… I don’t know if that’s a reasonable ask.

Of course it’s still possible to enjoy and engage with a work if you’ve seen it before- many movies with major twists are still enjoyable after many repeat viewings. But if you saw it once unspoiled, you’ll still have the residual memory of what it felt like to not know those details, and you can layer your subsequent experiences on top of that. Reading or hearing the details before the first viewing still isn’t the same experience.

I’m more or less of the opinion that the less information you get about any movie that’s worth watching before you watch it the better. If I can avoid it, I almost never watch any trailer past the first teaser once I’ve decided to see a movie.

Many of my favorite movies are those I walked into without any idea of what to expect, and I’ve had a number of experiences lessened by the internet just deciding “yeah, we can talk about these details now”. I want these experiences unspoiled, and I think they’re better when they are. I don’t expect that a lot of people are going to change about this, but I still want to raise awareness, and ask that you think about the impact before you share.

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