This week directors Anthony and Joe Russo implored fans not to spoil their newest Marvel installment Avengers: Endgame, but what’s the big deal with spoilers anyway?
On April 16, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo tweeted a photo of a printed statement with the hashtag #DontSpoilTheEndgame. The statement begins by waxing poetic about how Avengers: Endgame is “the end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic.” (This seems somewhat misleading considering the fact that there’s a new Spider-Man movie coming out in just three months.)
After thanking the fans for their love and enthusiasm, the directing duo ask for help: “When you see Endgame in the coming weeks, please don’t spoil it for others, the same way you wouldn’t want it spoiled for you.”
This is the latest attempt — and arguably the most public one — to combat the slippery slope of internet spoilers that threatens to give away the details of a movie before fans can actually see it. If you have been on the internet in any capacity in the last two decades, you’re likely familiar with the feeling of being spoiled; that unique mix of disappointment, frustration, and sometimes even a little satisfaction, is all too familiar for those active in online fandoms.
The endlessly revolving discussion about spoilers is full of different issues, including the extent to which they are permissible, the blame game of who is and is not responsible, and how to most effectively combat or avoid them. While there are some generally understood rules of practice when it comes to giving things away online, we are far from having established a consensus.
An easy way to see just how fractured conversations about spoilers are is to ask simple questions like: Whose responsibility is it not to spoil things? Is there an acceptable length of time after which things are no longer considered spoilers? How much of a film’s plot is considered simply context versus being an actual spoiler?
Frankly, any attempt to get everyone on the same page about spoilers is futile, to say the least. The behemoth of internet fandom makes it impossible to establish any consensus. The sheer number of fandoms, from the massively popular to the weirdly niche, combined with the wide variety of content and viewing habits prevent us from finding a solution to this problem.
All of this is to say that we are officially living in a post-spoiler world where the only person you can hold responsible for spoilers is yourself.
At this point, we’ve all been playing the game long enough to know what it feels like to get spoiled. If someone doesn’t want to get spoiled, they probably know how to avoid it, so it’s really just a question of whether they’re willing to do what it takes: log off.
Another way to look at this is to admit that most spoilers, in and of themselves, are fairly harmless. If a movie is good enough, it shouldn’t really matter if you get spoiled on what happens so long as you don’t know how it happens.
Using Avengers: Endgame as an example, how much could there really be to spoil? After all, we already know the original Avengers are teaming up to defeat Thanos and work to bring back all the heroes lost after he snapped his big purple fingers at the end of the last movie! It seems a safe bet that most if not all of the heroes we lost will return and Thanos will end up dead.
Maybe Marvel is really going to change the game with some surprise ending, but that’s never been their M.O. before and it’s hard to imagine them starting now.
Moreover, given how integral rewatching is to fandom culture, there’s a certain hypocrisy at the heart of spoiler-whining; if you love a movie enough to enjoy rewatching it over and over, is getting spoiled on pieces of the plot before you see it for the first time that much of a hardship to bear?
What makes a movie should not be the narrative beats and plot points. Those make up just the skeleton of the final product, brought to life by the things that really matter, like visual and directorial style, the strength and ingenuity of the action sequences, the writing and characterization, and the more nuanced conflict baked into individual character arcs.
It’s obviously tempting to shift that blame onto others; after all, they are the ones that spoiled it in the first place! But let’s be honest. It’s unfair and unrealistic to demand people not share their reactions — spoilery or otherwise — to something as hotly anticipated as Avengers: Endgame.
In fact, the Russo Brothers’ statement about spoilers feels distinctly anti-fandom. The growth of fandoms in the digital age is built upon sharing — interests, knowledge, enthusiasm, and…yes, spoilers! The very reason fandoms exist is to give fans an outlet to share in the experience of loving something with people who can fully appreciate their enthusiasm.
At the end of the day, it’s futile and frankly unnecessary to try to eradicate spoilers from fandoms; the two are as interlinked as Marvel movies and post-credit scenes. It’s time we accept that spoilers are our personal responsibility and not, as some may have you believe, the end of the world.