If you haven’t noticed, Avengers: Endgame came out last week. If anyone who’s stepped on the internet regularly didn’t notice, it’d be wild. It’s all people talk about. However, nobody is actually talking about it, at the same time. Why?
Ever since Endgame was released, people have been tight-lipped about the entire thing. This is a far cry from The Force Awakens premiere in 2015, where internet trolls gleefully were dropping plot points in completely unrelated posts (looking at you, guy who said Han Solo died in my Doctor Who thread).
While this is a welcome change from ruining others’ fresh experiences, the current “Anti-Spoilers Culture” is almost too excessive.
For example, research writers like myself can have a hard time finding information for their work. Being too busy to see the film the day it came out, I had to look up major plot information to continue my writing. After all, nerd readers don’t stop wanting the newest nerdy content just because I don’t have tickets. Unfortunately, though, I found it nigh impossible to find an article that gave plot information. I had to settle for long-form YouTube reviews after some digging, which took up way more time than speed reading would have. Even when searching, spoilers were almost impossible to find.
Conversely, last night was episode 3 of GoT and I already found a spoiler-filled review only a few hours afterward. All the article had to do was preface that it was full of “spoiler” information and any uninterested party could opt out.
Yet, somehow, Endgame’s spoilers are still being locked up like the goddamn crown jewels.
In only a few short years, spoiler culture has completely changed. Once, people thought they personally had to stay off the internet to avoid errant plot clues. Now, it’s like the internet is learning to do the job for them.
But why did “Anti-Spoilers Culture” come about? And how did it build so quickly? There are several factors.
One of the most obvious is that sci-fi fantasy properties have become all the more popular. Where MASH, Breaking Bad, or House of Cards once dominated, now Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Avengers champion in their stead. While all stories can have spoilers, sci-fi fantasy relies so heavily on lore, twists, and the world built around the characters that conspiracy theories and secrets are a much bigger deal. It can really ruin the catharsis of an episode to know the big emotional moment before it happens.
Then, there’s the internet. As the internet boomed, the information powerhouse now became dangerous whenever someone was “behind” on a show or movie. It led slower fans to become all the more aggressive in avoiding “spoilers” that they felt would ruin their experience. Now, online new sources write their titles deliberately not to spoil anything but still talk about what happened. The internet has evolved around this fear of being “spoiled”.
But, on another level, why is Avengers so locked down while GoT just uses the other tactics?
Well, it’s because they 100% played into spoiler culture. They made actual promotions about not ruining the plot for anyone else. This even led certain multiplayer games (LoL, for instance) to actually ban people if they tried to spoil the movie for others. With Marvel using it as a marketing ploy, other entertainment sources leaned into that. They weren’t going to be the asshole who broke rank.
GoT, on the other hand, just has a tight-knit rule of keeping titles vague, using emoji’s to keep things ambiguous, and a long history of early-leaked episodes. With so much information out there, it becomes a group dance of not being too obvious, but also keeping it on the individuals to monitor their feeds and friends. According to some internet folk, it’s also a real time broadcast experience, so Twitter and more are too ingrained in live-experiencing that to avoid all spoilers ever. The culture around GoT has become complex, but not so Anti-Spoilers that it can make other people uncomfortable.
In the case of Avengers, Endgame took all the agency out of the individual and moved it to the group. The whole of everyone who’s seen the movie is expected to keep the movie’s secrets, not just each person. That makes news outlets wary of saying anything, makes other platforms jump in on the rule, etc. It’s a new level of Anti-Spoilers culture that would be dangerous if it spread to other mediums.
That leads us to what does this whole lack of spoiler information mean?
Well, in some ways it’s good because we now have several pop culture platforms that everyone agrees upon. People enjoy a thing and work together to not ruin it for their friends that maybe were busy. That’s great to bring people together and it’s quite thoughtful. In such a divisive climate, we need something to agree on.
However, the whole spoiler topic also discourages dissonance. Somebody too excited and talks about it without thinking? Cancelled. Tweeting more than just visceral emotional reaction? Troll. It even spreads to entertainment media, people who are meant to expand upon these topics, not gate-keep them. Basically no one, day of, was thinking “oh maybe some people would want a spoiler review”. Everyone just assumed spoiler free would be preferred or someone else would cover it. Anti-Spoilers has become the rule, not just something people do out of respect. And if someone breaks that rule, be it out of ignorance, joy, or any other reason? They are automatically in the wrong. That’s a little aggressive.
It’s like instead of just being respectful and finding specific spaces on the internet to talk about things, everyone’s expected to keep the entire internet Anti-Spoilers safety zone, like spoilers are a plague, not just discussion points. That’s turning everything into a quarantine zone, as if uttering a single “spoiler” could find it’s way to an unsuspecting behind the curve person, which isn’t how anything works. The internet isn’t deliberately out to spoil everything if anyone says anything.
This kind of lack of diversity and openness is bad in any culture. Maybe that’s why the fandoms of these groups have become so aggressive and all-consuming. The more they feel in the right about their adored TV series, movies, video games, etc., the louder their voices become. Eventually the internet becomes their confirmation bias. With writers working so hard to please the masses, we’ve created a cycle of only creating what the majority wants, then the majority believes in themselves more, and then eventually all other options aren’t thought of or silenced. And that’s not to mention the growing, also aggressive and spiteful anti-fandoms. Anti-Spoilers culture is feeding into the madness.
After all, if it wasn’t for this culture phenomenon, why wouldn’t ANYBODY think of doing at least one written spoiler review on day one? Worse, why was it impossible to find one on the first five pages of a Google search? Were there some just being ignored because pro-Spoiler = bad? If it’s labelled a spoiler review, it’s not doing any harm to those avoiding it, right? The GoT people don’t seem to be complaining about day of spaces for spoilers, so why has it become a huge issue with Avengers?
Furthermore, there’s a case to be made about the fact that just giving an emotional reaction can still count as “spoilers”. After all, if everyone’s talking about how they cried, any non-watcher can assume somebody important definitely died. People are trying so hard not to spoil the information part of things, but they forget emotional responses are just as telling. It seems this whole new level of “Anti-Spoilers” is just getting out of hand. If we’re lucky, hopefully it will be the last of it’s kind. Otherwise, the internet might become an uncomfortable, uninformative, hyper-censored place for popular artforms. That’s not the kind of future internet anyone would love.
But seriously, guys, we should be allowed to talk about Endgame. Really talk. Just don’t be a dick about it.