The Official Internet Spoiler Policy

The main character’s father is the bad guy, whose sled was really dead the whole time.

If you tensed up reading those words, don’t worry.  I won’t be spoiling anything in this post.  But I will be talking about spoilers.

You won’t get far in culture without having some sort of conversation about spoilers; our aversion to them speak a lot to how much we care about experiencing a story as it unfolds, how it’s wired into us.  We have a natural inclination to avoid spoilers, and I don’t think that’s a mistake.

But I talked about the nature of spoilers almost two years ago; this week, I’m laying down the law and providing another official Internet Proclamation.

I present to you…

THE OFFICIAL INTERNET SPOILER POLICY

Section 1: Types of Spoilers

First of all, we need to talk about the different types of spoilers:  We’ll need an example that isn’t a spoiler itself, so I’ll be using classic nursery rhymes.

The most common type of spoiler that people are concerned about is the “major plot spoiler.”  “They BOTH fall down the hill!” would be an major plot spoiler for Jack and Jill.  This sort of spoiler typically pertains to the ending of a work, but it doesn’t have to; plot twists that happen in the middle of stories count as major plot spoilers, as well.  For instance, the fact that the cow jumps over the moon in Hey Diddle Diddle is not a part of the ending, but it is a major plot twist. The Official Internet Spoiler Policy (OISP) states that major plot spoilers cannot be revealed without a spoiler warning.

But there are other types of spoilers.  A common one that can trip people up is the “cameo spoiler.”  If I told you, “the king’s horses make a surprise appearance in Humpty Dumpty!”, for instance, that would be a cameo spoiler.  The OISP prohibits cameo spoilers without a spoiler warning, except in cases where that cameo is being marketed widely by the studio or publisher.

Another type of spoiler is the “thematic spoiler.”  This one is a sneaky little subset of the major plot spoiler, but usually only occurs when discussing the work in a meta sense.  “You’d love It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, because you love tragic stories” would be a thematic spoiler, since there would be no way to know that it was a tragedy unless you had seen the major plot event that is being spoiled.  The OISP prohibits thematic spoilers in most cases.

Finally, there’s the “cool scene spoiler.”  If something incredible, groundbreaking, or particularly interesting happens in a story, revealing it in advance (devoid of context) and building up expectations for the scene will only disappoint the other person in the end.  For instance, telling someone that “there’s this moment in Pop Goes the Weasel where the monkey is chasing the weasel, and he does this amazing flip over the mulberry bush – it’s incredible!” would be a cool scene spoiler and is not permitted under the OISP.

Section 2: Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a fluid concept, and varies wildly in different forms of media, but in broad strokes it tries to limit spoiler protection to a time after which anyone who wants to see it has seen it.  The statute applies as follows:

      • For films:
        • Wide-release, popular films are covered by the OISP until the end of their first run.
        • For indie films, the OISP applies until one month after their home media release.
        • For direct-to-home-media films, the OISP applies until three months after their release.
      • For television shows and podcasts:
        • Popular television shows with long narrative arcs that span episodes enjoy a special protection under the OISP which protects the season as a whole.  While minor and arc-insignificant events may be discussed under the “episodic” provision of this protection, major events are protected until the beginning of the following season.
        • For episodic series, the OISP applies to each episode individually, until the end of the next full weekend following that episode’s release.
        • For direct-to-home-media TV show, the OISP applies until a number of days after the release of the show equal to the number of episodes in the season times two.
      • For books and comic books:
        • All books are covered under the OISP until they have been released on paperback for at least two months.
        • Comic books are covered under the OISP until the series of which it is a part has completed.
      • For video games:
        • Games are covered under the OISP, for both narrative and game mechanics, until the Christmas after the game’s release.

One major exception to the OISP is in how it applies to children.  The OISP prohibits spoiling stories that are culturally important until the child is one year older than the recommended age group for that child, regardless of how old the work is.

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And so, there you go!  If you’re working on anything that is covered under the OISP, please make sure to clearly announce that there are spoilers.  This is the policy we’re going to be using.  And if you have any additions, corrections, exceptions, examples, or concerns, please comment about them below.

Thank you!

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Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture.

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